The staff of Pavement Pieces, traveled to Baltimore for a 3-day multimedia project. The students covered multiple issues that showed the struggles and promise of the city.
View the project here
The staff of Pavement Pieces, traveled to Baltimore for a 3-day multimedia project. The students covered multiple issues that showed the struggles and promise of the city.
View the project here
Meet Kennedy the lead singer of Kennedy Administration, a New York-based groove band out of Greenwich Village.
The Pretty Reckless, a New York City based band. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
by Stacey Kilpatrick
Through a mop of blonde curly hair, silhouetted by blue, yellow, and purple lights, front woman Taylor Momsen and band mates of The Pretty Reckless kicked off the night’s iHeartRadio Live concert in New York City on Monday evening.
Thrashing, hair flipping and dancing began with the show’s opener, “Follow Me Down,” the band’s first track off their sophomore album Going to Hell. It was a good choice, with Momsen, guitarist Ben Phillips, drummer Jamie Perkins and bassist Mark Damon walking on stage into darkness. The song slowly grew heavier with a rush of drums, guitar and bass, leading into Momsen’s vocals as the lights shined. And this girl has pipes – loud, gritty, throaty ones.
After a hundred or so fans rocked out in the intimate space, iHeartRadio’s host, Jonathan Clarke, introduced the band and asked a few questions before “Sweet Things,” which Momsen and Phillips said was influenced by David Bowie and Little Red Riding Hood.
“I think rock needs a revival and I hope that we can be a part of that,” Momsen answered when asked whether she thought the band was influential, especially to young girls. “And, you know, by meeting fans and things I definitely see a lot of people coming up and saying … ‘I heard your song and now I’m playing guitar’ or ‘now I’ve started a band’ or whatever, so that’s great if we can inspire anything inside of anyone, that’s a goal.”
Clarke also asked if the Reckless plan on releasing an acoustic version of Going to Hell, to which Momsen said yes, and that it’s currently in the process.
“We are doing an acoustic Going to Hell, which kind of gives the listener an inside look as to how the songs were originally written,” Momsen said to high applause and cheers. “So it’s kind of like the songwriter demo version of all the songs before we brought the band in. Because we write everything on acoustic when it starts and then we bring these guys in and it develops into what you’re hearing now.”
““There’s not much production,” Momsen added about Going to Hell. “It’s just guitar, bass, drums and vocals.”
“Well speaking of hearing things,” Clarke said, “How about we hear ‘Heaven Knows’?
The first single off Going to Hell, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs in March, a feat extra special since it was just the second No. 1 on Mainstream Rock Songs in the last 24 years to feature a female lead. Opening with quiet guitar riffs by Phillips, a light drumbeat, and a soft crowd-clap, Momsen sang the opening verse before leading into a ramped-up vocal of the entire song. “Go!” she yelled throughout, pointing the microphone at the crowd, playing on stage and interacting with the fans.
“Dear Sister” followed, the band’s slower, soft-sung 56-second tune, streaming seamlessly into its followed-up “Absolution.” Momsen throated through energized lyrics and held long notes while playing off of Phillips, showcasing her true vocal strength.
The band’s first single we ever heard from them, as Momsen said, was next. “Make Me Wanna Die” was a crowd favorite that led into title track “Going To Hell” and the closer, “F*cked Up World.”
“I’m gonna need you guys to get real loud on this next one, ‘cause New York City, you’re at iHeartRadio, but you’re still going to hell,” Momsen said. Feeding off the audience, she held her mic out and asked the crowd to scream.
“Not loud enough,” she belted. “I see you in the back.”
They tried again.
“You can do better than that. Scream it!”
Scream they did.
Ending on a high note, the Reckless performed “F*cked Up World,” the group’s second No. 1 song, which peaked in September on Mainstream Rock Songs, making it the band’s second straight No. 1 and making the group just the second band to reach the top of the charts with a female vocalist since 1990.
About halfway through, Momsen, Phillips and Damon ran off stage, leaving Perkins to drum solo with mixed trippy techno beats blaring from speakers for almost six straight minutes. The mates came back for the remainder of the song – Momsen with a tambourine, dancing in circles – as they hung on every note and riff until continued applause, which really never stopped during the hour-long set.
“New York City thank you so much,” Momsen said, shaking her tambourine to all sides of the room in appreciation. “Thank you iHeartRadio, we’re The Pretty Reckless, we love you, thank you, we will see you next time, have a great f*cking night.”
by Raz Robinson and Megan Jamerson
Vinyl records are making a comeback.
Laulo Senbanjo is a Nigerian-born singer and artist. He focuses his artwork on political and social justice issues. His music combines his love for American R&B and hip-hop and traditional African rhythms.
by Nidhi Prakash
It’s not quite an art gallery, not quite a language school, and not quite a music venue.
But El Taller Latino-Americano is a little bit of all those things, and most of all it has become a cultural institution on the Upper West Side over the last two decades. With rising rents, it’s about to be driven out of the area.
“Despite the fact that we are a not-for-profit educational organization, the rent which we engage in with the landlord is commercial,” said Bernardo Palombo, a founder of El Taller.
It’s expected to rise from $8000to $22,000 per month next year.
“What for us is human space is for others mathematics and numbers,” said Palombo.
This is not the first time Manhattan’s property market has forced them to move.
They started out on 19th Street and 7th Avenue almost 35 years ago, before moving a little further uptown, then across to the basement of a Russian cathedral in the Lower East Side. They’ve been in their current space on 104th Street and Broadway for the last 22 years.
“Now we are here, and probably next year we will be in Canada, because the whole history of gentrification pushes people to el norte, so we are going to el norte again,” said Palombo.
He has a plan for El Taller – to develop an urban garden, community kitchen, centre for immigrants’ rights and a three-penny university – if he can find a way to stay in the building.
The three-penny university would include workshops from current and former Columbia University professors and community members.
“Dona Maria, a Puerto Rican woman who lives next to my house, will teach handy 22 point crochet,” said Palombo, “And the younger characters that are selling drugs in the avenue will teach texting to the old farts like me.”
El Taller has submitted the proposal to two different arts foundations, suggesting they buy the building and help expand the organization.
But if the rent rises as expected, it is likely Palombo and El Taller will have to find a new home for these big ideas to unfold.
On the narrow streets of Kathmandu, the name “Phiroj Shyangden” is more recognizable than that of Bob Seger or Cat Stevens, legendary rockers who’ve both written songs about this exotic city less than 100 miles from Mount Everest.
As lead guitarist and vocalist of 1974 A.D., the popular band whose concerts have packed stadiums and caused traffic nightmares throughout Nepal since the mid-1990s, Shyangden – with his pierced eyebrow and patented dark sunglasses obscured by wavy black bangs – could rarely surface in public without being hounded for autographs or irritated by gossip-like whispers.
But such hassles no longer plague Shyangden, who continues to sing his hits, albeit from a less glamorous platform: The Himalayan Yak, a restaurant in Queens whose website proudly declares, “Good news for all yak meat lovers: We now have yak meat on our menu.”
Three years ago, Shyangden sang and played guitar to the roars of thousands; these days, the closest thing to a roar during his performances is when the “7” train, just outside the Jackson Heights eatery, thunders across the elevated tracks above Roosevelt Avenue.
“To be honest, sometimes I feel very embarrassed playing here,” admitted Shyangden, in his customary soft, deliberate tone that would be a whisper if any quieter. “Sometimes I have to play in front of two tables, in front of three people, instead of playing in front of 50,000 people. But I have to do it. This is for my bread and butter.”
Shyangden, 45, is one of several household names in Nepal who have traded the limelight for better financial opportunities in America.
It’s an immigrant narrative with a peculiar twist: celebrity musicians and actors from a faraway land abandoning their fame and ending up among their fans and fellow countrymen in a neighborhood in Queens. The dynamic, however, often leaves “regular” Nepalese-New Yorkers surprised to find such well-known artists living, working, and in many cases struggling, right alongside of them.
Samir Shahi, a Jackson Heights resident and fan of Shyangden, said that back in Nepal it would’ve been “nearly impossible” to cross paths with the rock star.
“But in New York, I see [Shyangden] every week,” said Shahi, 25, whose iPod includes numerous Shyangden tunes. “Here I’ll bump into him.”
According to Shahi, Nepalese celebrity sightings are not infrequent. He said he recently spotted Gauri Mulla, the famous Kollywood (Nepal’s film industry) actress, on the subway.
Ang Chhiring Sherpa, the Editor in Chief of The Everest Times, a Nepali language newspaper in Woodside, put it this way:
“In Nepal, people like Shyangden, they cannot meet in a public area. It’s impossible,” said Sherpa, the first South Asian journalist to climb Mount Everest, according to his business card. “But when they came here, everybody is busy, and nobody cares who he is.”
In Nepal, an underdeveloped, landlocked country scrunched between China and India, Shyangden said he would typically earn just 20,000 rupees (approximately $244) for large concerts and as little as 2,000 rupees, or $24, for small shows. He also worked as a grammar school music teacher, although that job similarly paid “very little.”
“It was very hard to support my family in Nepal,” said Shyangden, who departed for New York in 2009 while his wife and teenage daughter remained in Kathmandu.
Shyangden acquired permanent U.S. residency as an “alien of extraordinary ability,” a special category of American immigration law that allows foreign citizens who possess a “record of sustained national or international acclaim” to bypass standard bureaucratic procedures and automatically obtain a green card.
Once in New York, which Shyangden describes as “a very fast city” and “vastly different from Kathmandu,” he met two Nepalese immigrants who had been playing a regular gig at The Himalayan Yak: Rajesh Khadgi, 38, an eccentric, eternally-headbanging former drummer of Robin and the New Revolution, one of Nepal’s best-known bands, and Prazwal Bajracharya, a pony-tailed, soft-spoken 30-year-old computer networker who had belonged to an underground Kathmandu band called Lithium.
Blending traditional Nepali folk music with modern genres of rock and roll, blues and jazz, the trio performs several nights a week at the restaurant, which draws a predominantly Nepalese crowd.
Dr. Tara Niraula, an expert on the Nepalese community and an administrator at Bankstreet Graduate School of Education in Manhattan, said that he has spoken with a number of Nepalese celebrities about their transitions from fame to obscurity.
“In Nepal, they were primetime, they had all the attention and prestige,” said Dr. Niraula, who noted that several Nepalese movie stars also reside in Baltimore. “Then all of a sudden, [the fame] is gone and that’s a difficult thing, because in their heart they are different.”
Each morning, Shyangden awakes at 8 a.m. and calls his wife and 14-year-old daughter in Kathmandu. He spends his days practicing guitar, composing songs, and discussing music and life with his band-mates over tea at a Bangladeshi café. To supplement his income from The Himalayan Yak, Shyangden also gives private guitar lessons to Nepalese children.
Shyangden hopes for his family to join him “in the near future,” but “it is a very long process,” he laments, one that “requires a lot of money.” Still, his combined wages from singing and teaching are far greater than what he earned in Nepal, which helps his family.
The Himalayan Yak is at the heart of Queens’ South Asian cultural hub, with the colorful commercial strip of “Little India” just around the corner. Its spacious, rectangular upper floor is outfitted with gold and brick walls, multiple paintings of Buddha, a photograph of the Dalai Llama, and two miniature stuffed representations of the restaurant’s mascot and namesake.
Against this backdrop on a recent Thursday night, Shyangden and his band played an acoustic show in front of about 15 people. Shyangden said he “loves playing” at the restaurant, even if, at times, the miniscule crowds challenge his ego.
At around 11 p.m., the band broke into a cover version of the Eagles’ Hotel California, with Khadgi, the greasy-haired drummer, head-banging and flailing away at his drum set like “Animal” from The Muppets. Once Bajracharya, who’d assumed lead vocals, belted out the famous line, “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave,” Shyangden erupted into a guitar solo that whipped the tiny audience into delight.
“Every time I hear him play, my energy, my vibe, gets better,” beamed one of the few spectators, Xlabia Khadka from Kathmandu, who now lives in Jackson Heights. “Whenever I come here, half of my stress just goes away.”
It was almost midnight, and up on stage, Shyangden showed no evidence of tiring. His eyes half-closed as if in a trance, Shyangden sang “Gurans Phulyo,” his original composition that once dominated the radio airwaves of Kathmandu.
Across a two-person table, Khadka’s friend, Mohan Poudel, 23, sang and clapped along.
At the song’s conclusion, Poudel smiled and shrugged, as if trying to communicate how surreal he found the scene before him.
“When I first came to New York, I said, ‘What the hell is Phiroj Shyangden doing here, playing in this restaurant?’” said Poudel. “I knew him as a star.”
“But that’s the New York life. He’s trying to survive, just like us.”
My Dead Ponies needed a place to play. The band’s lead singer Angela Salazar thought the neglected Haggerty Building on the corner of Montrose and Graham Avenues might be the ideal rehearsal space.
Owned by Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary’s Church, the building—once a residence hall for the friars and later an institution for mentally challenged adults—had been shuttered for several years. But after Salazar contacted parish directors, the two parties created a venue to help other Brooklyn-based artists find a cheap place to perform their craft.
The Trinity Project, an East Williamsburg-based art collective offering local bands an affordable rehearsal space, joined forces with Saints Joseph and Dominic parish school at Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary’s Church. The goal was to develop an exchange of space and service to save what neither group could afford: the arts.
“We are essentially squatting with permission here, through the benevolence of the church,” said Salazar, 31, of Brooklyn, a founding member of The Trinity Project. “And the exchange is that the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn gets free arts education that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
To Jason Andrew, owner of Storefront Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the union of charity, volunteerism and young artists made perfect sense.
“Artists and low income families are exactly the same,” Andrew said. “They are both trying to fight for their space and their time and they are both trying to make a living.”
According to Salazar, studio rental rates in Brooklyn can reach $1,000 per month; Trinity Project artists pay just $70 per month to use the facilities, helping out with building maintenance and classroom education in exchange for low rent.
“When I tell people it’s a private, Catholic school, they all assume, ‘Oh, a really nice school,’ said Megan Tefft, co-founder of The Trinity project. “But this school has as little or less funding than any public school in the city.”
Depleted funding has left the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn cutting corners to keep its schools open.
“Many neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn schools had to close, mainly because of a drop in enrollment and the cost of running a parish school,” said Friar Timothy Dore, a minister at Most Holy Trinity-St. Mary’s. The funding crisis also left the school with little flexibility in their budget, which meant zero dollars for the arts.
Tefft worked with Principal Evette Ngadi to incorporate arts education at the school, and some even artists work one-on-one with students.
“Last semester it was ‘Whatever it is that you do, teach that to the kids,’” Tefft said. “We want this semester to be more curriculum-based.”
The art initiative is selective in accepting artists, who must reapply each year for a maximum two-year residence and commit to volunteer service.
“We are looking for a certain level of artistry, a quality of art,” Salazar said, “But also a commitment to community involvement.”
Trinity Project’s April Spring Clean Up, scheduled for Saturdays throughout the month of April, will give volunteers who don’t work in the classroom an opportunity to contribute. The event will include assisting with building repairs and community fundraising efforts to buy school art supplies.
For the chance at some cheap, collaborative space to create their work, neighborhood artists seem willing to put in a little elbow grease.
“The more entrenched we become with that space, the more the community is just as important as my time in the studio,” said Kerry Cox, a 26-year old visual artist from Brooklyn. “And I think it has really nurtured my work.”
For two years, the 16-member Cuban band Los Munequitos de Matanza has planned a nation-wide U.S. tour, hoping to end in New York City for the Si Cuba festival this month.
But the Cuban government must first approve their departure from the island and issue them visas, which could put their travel plans on hold.
“It’s a pretty nail biting experience,” said Ann Rosenthal, the executive director and producer for MAPP International Productions, a nonprofit performing arts organization that staged the Los Munequitos de Matanza concert. “We have obviously made the arrangements and still don’t know for sure that they will get on a plane on April 1.”
Roadblocks to U.S. travel are not new for Cuban artists. Yet some Cubans and Cuban-Americans in New York are now facing an internal struggle between celebrating the country’s culture and condemning travel regulations imposed by its political dictatorship.
Nick Schwartz-Hall, the project line producer for Brooklyn Academy of Music, which helped organize the Si Cuba event, said between 125 and 150 Cubans will travel to New York. They will participate in music and dance performances as well as exhibits, discussions and film screenings.
“There is a rich, vibrant, diverse, contemporary culture… that has valuable contributions to make to the New York cultural world, ” Schwartz-Hall said in an e-mail. “So far, we are unaware of anyone being prevented from coming to the U.S.”
But Iraida Iturralda, vice president of the Cuban Cultural Center of New York, a non-profit organization that strives to preserve and promote Cuban and Cuban-American culture, said government restrictions will prevent some artists from attending.
“I love it. I think anything that celebrates culture is enriching,” Iturralda said. Apart from a few Cuban performers such as Telmary Diaz, one music genre Iturralda hasn’t seen in the Si Cuba line-up is hip-hop, whose artists “are very critical of the government and aren’t allowed to leave,” she said. “There is a huge hip-hop underground movement that deals with topics that are taboo.”
Carmen Pelaez, of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a Cuban-American writer and actor who may participate in the Si Cuba festival, said she doesn’t think the festival will be lined up with “little pawns for Castro.”
“I think the intent is in the right place and I think the artists coming will reflect that,” she said, adding that events like the festival are great ways to connect the cultures but will not solve all political issues.
“The best way to break away the embargo is by getting to know each other,” Carmen said, referring to the long-time U.S. commercial blockade on the island. “It’s by getting to see your country and by them getting to see you.”
Si Cuba will be the first large-scale Cuban cultural festival in New York. The idea for the festival blossomed two years ago when several New York institutions independently planned Cuban themed events, Rosenthal said. When word spread, the venues and organizations decided to collaborate to create a citywide celebration.
“Its just amazing that it lined up in such a beautiful way that we could work together,” he said. “Its interesting that independently we were interested in taking risks to reengage with Cuban artists at the very moment we were able to,” crediting Obama’s eased travel restrictions in 2009 as the driving force behind interest in the island.
Since then, the number of artists at another celebration—the Havana Film Festival in New York—has nearly doubled, said Diana Vargas, the festival’s artistic director who will also perform in Si Cuba.
“During the Bush Administration, none of them were coming in,” she said. “It was so sad to produce a festival where the honorees were usually Cuban and we couldn’t bring any of them here.”
Paquito D’Rivera, a musician and composer of traditional Cuban music and jazz, said he’s against the Cuban dictatorship, not the artists who will perform in New York.
“You cannot leave Cuba if they do not authorize you,” said D’Rivera, a nine-time Grammy winner who moved to the United States from Cuba in 1990. “Every person that comes here is sent by the Cuban government and they are from the dictatorship.”
D’Rivera added he was disappointed that the country has seen 52 years of dictatorship and that U.S. festivals are celebrating artists approved by the Cuban government.
“We should do the same with thing with Qaddafi and ask him to organize the Libya festival with belly-dancers and shish kebob,” D’Rivera said. “I don’t see the difference.”