Because It’s New York City: The Nightlife Culture Interview with Amanda Bantug


It is common knowledge that online marketing and digital distribution gives artists and musicians the ability to create and release music from any where on the planet. The cliché of coming to New York with your guitar to make a name for yourself isn’t as universal as it once was. But even in the era of iTunes Youtube and Reverbnation there are still many artists yearning to perform in the City. In the first interview of its kind, NCI talked to Amanda Bantug an alternative musician from Georgia who is planning her New York debut.  

NCI: When you imagine playing your music live in New York, what do you see in your mind’s eye? What do you think that first experience will be like?

AB: Since I’m not from New York, of course I imagine thousands of people singing my songs back to me a MSG, but realistically, that is not going to happen right off the bat. I know I’ll probably be at a more intimate venue, which is wonderful because I really get to interact with the audience. I hope the audience will give me a lot of their attention and really get to know me through my music. It’ll be really exciting for me because I love New York so much and it’ll be a dream come true to even play up there. Even if it’s just me and a guitar.  

NCI: Tell me about the last song you wrote. What inspired it, how did you develop that idea and what kind of emotions did it bring out of you when you knew it was done?

AB: I literally just a wrote a song yesterday. I have a very close friend who actually inspires me to write a ton of songs. They’re just in the phase of doing anything they want to do and take anything they are handed. It sucks because they have such a great talent that could take them wherever they want, but their heart just isn’t in the right place. So that is what the song is kind of about. After writing it, I just feel like a weight lifted off of me, because sometimes I can’t express myself best verbally, so I put in song. But songs can’t fix things, so the emotions I still feel towards my friend haven’t changed.  

NCI: What inspiration do you think you will get from being in New York City to perform? 

AB: I’ve read somewhere that being in different surroundings can help your mind open up to creating different ideas and what not compared to what someone would usually create in their day to day setting. With that being said, I would definitely be inspired to write about different concepts with a different type of genre. I am always up for experimenting with sounds, lyrics, and structure.

NCI: Why do think a lot of musicians still want to come to New York to perform? In an era of digital distribution and independent music, what still draws artists like you to want to perform here?

AB: Cause it’s New York City! What else is there to say? There are only a few cities in the US that are as diverse as NYC. I feel like you can always run into someone up there who can pull a couple of strings for you. Because of all this digital distribution, there is so much going on, it’s hard to listen to all of the bands that deserve a chance. That is why us artists need to play live in so many places, including New York :)





YouTube: Amanda Bantug Videos

A Life Behind the Decks: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Kamala

by Gamal Hennessy

When I began my professional exploration of nightlife culture one of the first DJ groups that inspired me was a trio of ladies that went by the name InJoy. I followed them from APT to SubMercer to Cielo. They captured everything about nightlife culture because they were soulful, sexy and they made beautiful music. All three ladies are still spinning in various venues and one of them, DJ Kamala sat down with me to talk about the life and inspiration of a New York DJ.

                Vital Statistics

  • Genre: Dance Music, House
  • Inspirations: Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, Osunlade
  • Recent Performances: MOMA
  • Latest Project: Original Production due to be released July 2012
  • Next Local Performance: Thursday at Bath Tub Gin
  • Twitter: @DJkamala

NCI: Tell me about the first time you spun in front of a crowd.

KJ: My first time was in the spring of 1998, at one of my favorite legendary New York City night clubs, Nell’s. Even though it was passed it's hey day, it was still monumental in my mind for me to spin there. It was a short set but I got the crowd going with Manu Dibango's "New Bell" and it felt great!

NCI: Wow. You remember the first major song you dropped almost 15 years ago? That’s deep. What inspired you to become a DJ in the first place?

KJ: I was always a music aficionado so at age 11, it became a hobby to collect music and record my own compilations. Being from downtown Manhattan, night clubbing became the thing to do very early on. Going out, dancing, listening to DJs, making friends and finding community. I fell in love with nightlife culture and history, how it related to my own story. I was already a night owl and 9-5 was a routine I struggled to flow with. Djing seemed to me the most fun way to earn a living that I felt I had a talent for and which could potentially become a career. Thanks to it, I've opened up to music production and it's a whole new world.

NCI: Nice. Who are your favorite people to play with? Where are your favorite places to play?

KJ: As a DJ, I've gotten to get to know a lot of DJs and it's always great to come together with talented friends musically. It’s a special treat whenever I get to spin with someone who I perceive as a legend in the business. In terms of places, I love spinning all kinds of environments because I get to feel my range and adaptability to spaces. I get a special kick out of spinning outdoors in public venues and of course anywhere with a big audience. The more the merrier.

NCI: What kind of mood do you try to create when you play?

KJ: My whole purpose as a DJ is to create a mood that evolves through out the course of the night, ideally complementary to the venue and occasion. Personal expression comes across heavily in my selections and I really want to touch the audience on a variety of levels subliminally and outright. I am always looking to turn people "on" with the music. As a woman, there's a natural sexiness that easily comes across which I am happy to exploit if it will open ears but mainly, depending on the occasion, I want to trigger an insatiable urge to respond physically to the music, i.e. dance!

NCI: Where are you playing these days? Do you have a residency?

KJ: It varies month to month the engagements that I play which is fine with me because I enjoy the novelty inherent in the work. A few recurring outlets lately have been Thursday nights at Bath Tub Gin, and the last Friday of every month at the Rubin Museum. I also spin every Wednesday 5:30 - 7PM via a mobile and internet radio site

NCI: Where do you find new music and the inspiration to DJ?

KJ: Music is the fuel for my DJing, if there were not so many amazing sounds to share, I'd be doing something else. Because of the music that I adore, sharing it, is a pure joy and thrill. I also get into the process of mastery. Of becoming ever greater at the craft I've chosen to express myself thru. Every time is a learning experience that I come away with enriched and it's inspiring to witness my own growth.

I get a good portion of my favorite house beats from sites like Traxsource and Afrodesiamp3. I am forever sourcing for music.  I'll look under any rock to find more songs that excite me.

Have fun.


Hip Hop Love from Tokyo to New York: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Mika

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a DJ in New York isn’t easy. In addition to learning the technical skills, you have to navigate your way though bar owners, promoters and patrons who often don’t appreciate you. It takes a lot of passion and confidence to thrive in this world. Many people want to DJ but can’t deal with that kind of stress.

Now imagine adding a move to the other side of the planet and learning another language to the obstacles between you and pursuing your dream of spinning behind the decks. How many of us would be willing to face all those challenges to reach our goals? That is what DJ Mika has been able to accomplish. NCI caught up with this old school DJ fresh from her performance at Hot 97 Summer Jam to talk to her about hip hop and living in nightlife culture.

Vital Statistics

  • Name: DJ Mika
  • Hometown: Ibaraki, Japan
  • Inspirations: DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Muro, DJ Mitsuru, DJ Maru and DJ JUNE
  • Last Performance: Hot 97 Summer Jam Interscope booth
  • Next Local Performance: Resident DJ Tues to Saturdays at bOb bar (235 Eldridge St.)

NCI: How were you first introduced to hip hop music growing up in Japan? What is the first artist you remember listening to?

Mika: My older brother has always loved hip hop music. Growing up with him and the music he listened to made me hip hop fan! LL Cool J probably had the biggest impact on me. The first songs I remember hearing were “Jinglin’ Baby” and “Round the Way Girl”.

NCI: What made you decide to start DJing? How did you learn to mix?

Mika: My brother and I spent a lot of time listening to CD mixed from other DJs. At a certain point, I wanted to make my own CDs. I didn’t know how to make them, but I knew I wanted to learn. So, I bought equipment and I started to learn by my self at first. After I came to NYC, I learned DJing from artists who taught me what they knew especially DJ C2. I always appreciated the time they took to help me.

NCI: What made you decide to come to New York? Was it difficult getting a DJ job here?

Mika: After I made my first mix CD, I didn’t think it was very good but I loved it because it gave me the confidence to become more involved in hip hop music. I started to dream about DJing for more and more people.  That’s when I decided to learn more about real hip hop culture and come to NYC.  I’m lucky because the friends I met here helped me a lot to get DJ job and always supported me.  I really appreciate that.

NCI: How did hip hop fans treat you when you began to DJ in New York?

Mika: Most people showed me a lot of respect, but sometimes it’s twice as hard because I’m Japanese and a girl.  It took a long time for me to establish myself. But, I think now I finally get respect for my set and not just because I’m a female DJ. J

NCI: What is the best part of being a DJ in New York? 

Mika: When I decided I wanted to become a street DJ, I knew the best place to do that was in New York. That’s where it all began. Now that I’m here and spinning on a regular basis, I am living my dream. What is better than that?

NCI: Is there anyone you want to shout out?

Mika: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. I want everyone to know how much I love being a NYC DJ.

I also want to give special thanks to DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Starshell, DJ JUNE, DJ Smooth, Taq , Mitsuki, and all my friends!

Also, thanks to General, Nadia, from It’s Done Promotions, Rome from Badboy Records, Daniel from Drity  Magazine, DJ Emmo, Harmen, DJ Fortune, Espinoza from Cajo communications, Powaradio crew, ATS from the Rock Steady Crew, DJ Technic, Dreatraxx from Hoodstarz, my Japan Crew, identity bar crew, Rock and soul crew, Jemiho , DJ CHURCH, DJ Rawbetaz, DJ Krazie Charlez, DJ Max Carnage, Malik, George, Greg from bOb bar, Eli, Fred The Godson, Beats by Dre and DUB. (I can’t write everyone’s name but I want to say THANK YOU for everyone who supports me!!!)

Have fun.


Must Be the Music: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Herbert Holler


By Gamal Hennessy

Music is the heart of nightlife culture and DJs are the people who keep that heart beating every night in New York City. This week, NCI is proud to present three interviews with unique DJ’s filling clubs and dance floors all over the city. We begin with a pioneer of nightlife culture and the creator of the Freedom Party, DJ Herbert Holler.

NCI: You have been involved with nightlife culture for almost 10 years now. What do you see as the biggest difference between the environment you found in 2004 and what you see now?

HH: I’ve actually been involved with nightlife culture for 18 years now, if you can believe it. I started in 1994 promoting Giant Step parties. I was one of those dudes standing outside near the Cube on Astor Place, handing out flyers. (Ahh…The good ol’ days!) The main difference in the culture between then and now is that today, the culture itself has been turned into big business—molded, processed, and mass produced. There are “parties” everywhere. There are individuals calling themselves “DJs” and “promoters” everywhere. They’re pumped off the assembly line like bags of chips, so of course quality of the nightlife suffers. There’s still a culture, though, just not one with as much significance as before.

NCI: You told me that it is harder to figure out why people come to a party than to figure out why they stay away. What are some of the reasons people won't go out to a party and how have you learned to deal with those factors?

HH: There’re lots of reasons why someone may not come out. It could be location of the party, costs associated with attending (admission, drinks, food, transportation, etc.), what they’ve heard or not heard about the party, the kind of music played, maybe they’re tired, maybe they have to get up the next morning for whatever reason…The list goes on. I never know what’s going on in the minds of potential patrons, so I just try to make it as enticing as possible by taking away these obstacles. I choose venues that are easy to find and get to, I don’t charge a lot of money to walk in the door nor do I fuck with venues that hit you over the head at the bar. I make sure the music played is the BEST music in town (of course). I do my events on weekend nights so everyone can come out. I make sure I get the word out as much as possible, build as much buzz as I can, so people get excited and everyone’s talking about it. Etc., etc..

NCI: Explain the philosophy behind the Freedom party. What were you trying to create when you started and what have you learned about people and music as the party has developed?

HH: Freedom was created to, basically, help preserve NYC nightlife culture. Marc Smooth, DJ Cosi and I felt the BEST way to do this was to bring music back to the forefront. Make it about the music and the dance floor, and that in turn would work everything else out, from vibe to price. (Music is the answer!) Parties were mostly about attendees and how much money was spent. Freedom is about what’s being played. We completely flipped it around when we started in 2003. Today, we’re learning that a “classic” record’s excitement depends on what age group you have on your dance floor. “Funkin’ For Jamaica” was a big record for us when we started 9 years ago, and now, we barely play it. Most of our big records are from the later 80s, early 90s, and that has everything to do with how old the people dancing are.

NCI: You described the music that you play as music that has stood the test of time or will stand that test. What do you hear in a song today that tells you that song will last? Where do you find your new music or your musical inspirations now?

HH: For me, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not a song will stand the test of time: Does it have soul? It’s that simple. Does the record have a soul? A heart? A spirit? Melodies help, but melodies alone don’t make classics. The song has to have an identity, tell a story, DO something other than pull out pop devices and clichés. Most people think Isaac Hayes or Al Green or James Brown when they think of soul. But I think soul can be in anything. Dubstep, electro, commercial dance music, pop…All these things CAN have soul, and I find when they do, they stick around a lot longer. (Adele, Gotye, etc.)

NCI: Where do you see nightlife culture in the next 10 years? What will social entertainment look like in 2022 and will you still be a part of it?

HH: That’s too big of a question to answer on just one page. Shit…You can do a whole thesis paper on the future of nightlife culture. In brief, I guess…Nightlife culture will still be here, and perhaps it will find new breath, a new raison d’etre. Cycles play a big role in lots of different things. Perhaps we’ll enter a new cycle and see a revival in the respect and preservation of the culture. Maybe we’re entering one now. Regardless of where it will be, I will most likely be there with it. After all these years of spinning records and putting together parties (soon-to-be operating/owning), it’s safe to say that this is my calling.








Have fun


Where is the 21st Century Protest Music?

By Gamal Hennessy

I was recently having a drink with a veteran rock musician, discussing the changes in nightlife and music over the past two decades. At one point, she asked me “Is this generation of musicians protesting anything with their songs?” She said it as a rhetorical question but I think it’s a question that deserves attention from a cultural standpoint, especially since there are several factors that influence the music we listen to when we go out.

20th Century Protest Music

Modern social movements are identified with music that captures the spirit of that protest.

  • Various artists including James Brown, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone and Bob Dylan supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
  • Musicians like Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez and The Doors wrote songs protesting the Vietnam War in the 1970s
  • In the 80’s, the Police, U2, Prince and Bruce Springsteen released protest songs concerning various issues while rap music grew out of protest songs from artists like Grandmaster Flash and developed with groups like Public Enemy, NWA, and the Beastie Boys.
  • Rage Against the Machine, Living Color and the Fugees were three of the most prominent protest groups of the 90’s.

There have been a few other established artists using their music as a platform since then, but the end of the 20th century saw a decline in the socially conscious popular mainstream songs that were present in every other decade.

Reasons to Sing…or Not Sing

It’s not as if American musicians can’t find social and political issues to fuel their music. Ten years of war in two countries, the struggle over same sex rights, bank bailouts, Occupy Wall Street, Trayvon Martin, online privacy invasions, right wing fundamentalism, sexual identity debates…there seems to be plenty of inspiration for protest music.

But does modern culture discourage that type of expression? When many musicians have to be their own PR and marketing department, can they deal with the backlash that might come from a protest song? When so many artists are struggling to get a deal or utilize corporate distribution, can they afford to stick it to the Man? When militant political sensitivity in the media is combined with a 24 news cycle and social media, can any musician or artist afford to hold any strong political or social position? Have we created an environment where every artist has to behave like a politician running for office if they want to sell music on iTunes?

To Sell…or Not Sell

There is still plenty of protest music being made around the world. The Arab Spring, political developments in African countries and drug related terrorism coming out of South America are all the subject of protest music. There is also a strong element of American protest music in underground rap, rock and alternative music. But outside of a few isolated cases, mainstream American music seems to have fully embraced escapism to the detriment of the protest song. Since several social movements once grew out of nightlife culture, does this lack of protest music mean there will be a lack of social change emerging from bars and clubs in the future? If so, nightlife culture can’t be a strong catalyst for social change until the next wave of protest music fills the bars.

Have fun.

21 Essential Websites for New York Nightlife Culture


There are so many blogs and websites for New York nightlife that if you tried to read them all you’d never have time to go out. This list collects some of the best and most up to date writing online. This isn’t a list of sites about the industry side, venue reviews or a list of purely self promotional sites. There are plenty of good ones in both those categories, but this list focuses on the sites with a cultural focus. Some of them will be familiar, others will be new. I hope all of them will help learn more about New York nightlife culture go out and have fun.


Music/ DJing

Ear Drum NYC


New Music Daily

Village Voice Music 


Nightlife Tastemakers

Elite Daily

Good Night Mr. Lewis

Guest of a Guest

NY Nightlife: @NYNightlife (on Twitter)  

Societe Perrier


Bartending/ Drinking

New York Barfly

Shake and Strain

The Truth about Bartending


Restaurants/ Eating

Eater New York

Grub Street New York

Zagat New York


Fashion/ Style/ Photography

The Dandy Project

I Rock the Shot

Paper Magazine

Young, Rich and Faking It  






The Beer Friends


Nightlife changes over time, so this list will change with it. If you think I left someone out that needs to be here, or you think someone is here who shouldn’t be, let me know.

Have fun.


Nightlife Icon Danny Tenaglia Steps Away from the DJ Booth

Legendary DJ Danny Tenaglia wrote his fans a long resignation letter  on his Facebook wall earlier this week. The DJ who has played at the Winter Music Conference 26 years in a row and performed sets in Ibiza every year since 2000 is now looking to stop grueling schedule that has taken him around the world for the better part of three decades.

From the time Tenaglia started going to spots like Paradise Garage in 1979 until this week, he has been responsible for dozens of albums, hundreds of remixes and thousands of performances. His name is mentioned in the same breath as iconic DJs like Tiesto and Little Louie Vega. They were superstar DJ’s before everyone with an iPad could claim to be a DJ. He helped raise the act of driving a party through music to an art form.

Danny outlined much of his longevity and work in the letter to his fans, but house heads don’t need to be told what he has done for house music and nightlife culture. After his final party at Pacha on April 28th, we can only hope that one of his fans is inspired by his work to create new music and leave their own mark on New York nightlife.

If you have any memories of music or performances from Danny’s long career, please feel free to share them with us.

Have fun.


How to be a DJ


One of the current clichés in modern nightlife culture is the idea that anyone can be a DJ. Digital technology has taken an arcane and underground art and opened it up to the masses, leading to very mixed results.

There is a heated debate within the DJ world about technology, skill, celebrity and other sensitive topics. I’m not here to push a particular aspect of those battles. I want to offer some advice on how a novice can actually become a DJ and contribute to the creative aspects of nightlife culture. Whether you use Technics turntables or Numark CD-J’s, Serato or Abelton and whether you carry crates or computers here are some tips to get yourself started.

  • Love Your Music: Being a DJ is very similar to being a musician in the fact that very few of either group ever makes it to the level of Tiesto or Grandmaster Flash. In the beginning at least, you’re going to need something besides fame and fortune to get you through the sometimes frustrating world of nightlife performance. If you don’t love your music you’re going to burn out fast.
  • Learn Your Craft: There are two main ways to learn DJing; classical and formal. The classical method involves learning on your own or under a professional DJ who is willing to work with you. While this method use to take 5-10 years, now with online tutorials,  YouTube videos and books like How to DJ Right you can cut down that time considerably. This can be a stressful way to learn, but if you want to follow in the footsteps of the masters, this is the way to go.

The formal method involves learning DJ skills in a structured classroom workshop setting. There are several DJ schools currently in operation, including Scratch Academy and Dubspot. Because the skills have been synthesized into a curriculum, what used to take years can now take 6-8 months. While it doesn’t have the rebel cache of the classical method, it saves a lot of time and frustration.

No matter which method you use to learn, keep in mind that you will still need to practice to master the art form. You can try to fake it with an app, or software or other shortcuts, but there is no substitute for technique and professionalism.

  • Get Experience: At some point, you’ll have to get out of your apartment, go out in public and play. This could mean playing an open turntable night at a local bar for you, the bartender and a few friends. It could mean being the warm up DJ at a lounge, department store or house party. There is a skill to dealing with unfamiliar equipment and unfamiliar people that you can’t get by making mix tapes at home. Go. Out. and Play.
  • Develop a Sound: If you play the same songs that every other DJ plays, then you can be replaced by any other DJ. Unless you create your own party, most of us will have to deal with the musical styles of the venue, promoter or event organizer. However, you need to be known for something other than just a generic, cookie cutter vanilla DJ. This goes back to loving your music. The key is to be able to play everything but be known for something.
  • Grow: Being a DJ means being an artist. To be an artist, you have to expand your horizons in terms of the music you play, the people you play for and the things you are able to do. It also means not being left behind as the art evolves. Your collection of music, whether analog or digital needs to grow. Your relationship with venues, promoters and other DJ’s needs to grow. Your abilities not just to play music but to promote yourself and express yourself needs to grow. If you can do that, then your interest and love for the art form will give you back far more than you put into it.

This isn’t a comprehensive article, so if any DJ’s out there think I left anything out, or if anyone has a specific question, leave a comment and let me know.

Notice I left out discussions about buying equipment, industry practices and the pros and cons of one type of DJing over another. There are a lot of other people out there with more experience, knowledge and perspective than me if you want to read stuff like that. All I want to do is show you that there is an art and science to being a DJ and that if you put in the effort to become one you can have some fun, try something new and listen to some good music in the process.

Have fun






Tastemaker Spotlight: Vivian Sessoms


NCI is proud to announce a new program that spotlights the people who bring creative energy to New York Nightlife

Vivian is a New York gem who has performed with a wide range of A-List talent including Diddy, Michael Jackson, Cher, Joe Cocker, Chris Botti and Pink. Her previous albums as part of the group Albright have gained critical acclaim in independent music circles and her voice has been heard live around the world. She’s bringing her sound back to New York in 2012 with live performances and a new album, so she definitely needs to be on your music discovery radar.

  • Genre: Jazz/ Soul
  • Hometown: Harlem, New York
  • Inspirations: Roberta Flack, Barbara Streisand, Chaka Khan, Patti Labelle, Alison Krauss, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole
  • Previous Performances: BAM, Village Underground, Rockwood Music Hall, Jazz Standard, Blue Note and Radio City Music Hall.
  • Latest Project: Heart (scheduled for release Summer 2012)
  • Next Local Performance: Sunday April 22, 2012 at Feinstein’s




Vivian at CDBaby

Vivian on Youtube

Vivians Blog


Have fun.


Nightlife Culture Expo Day 1 Recap: Little Louie Vega Provides a Soulful Start to the Four Day Celebration


By Gamal Hennessy

The first night of the Expo started the way many Roots nights start at Cielo. The drinkers hover near the bar to try and coax free vodka from the stoic and aloof bartenders before the open bar runs out. Hard core dancers take over the dance floor for a communal ritual that is part battle, part education and part experimentation. A ring of spectators circle the sunken dance floor looking for inspiration and drinking in courage to get their dance on.

This was when Roots manager and all around happy soul Katerina invited me into the DJ booth to meet Vega for the first time. I’ve been coming to Cielo for years and I wondered what the booth was like ever since I started to DJ myself, but I never had a chance to see it before last night. The little set ups I’ve played in various clubs couldn’t compare to the multi-leveled monster I saw. There were half a dozen interconnected decks, sound enhancers and machines that I didn’t even recognize. I admired the way Louie worked it all like a maestro manipulates an orchestra while Katerina whispered secrets about the origin of each song and where they all came from.

I talked to Louie for a few minutes and thanked him for supporting the Expo before heading back to our party. By then, the dance floor had a good sized crowd. Liquor had washed away the shyness from the more casual dancers and Vega’s beats have lured them onto the dance floor to express themselves. Smoke from the visual system was in the air and baby powder from the dancers was on the ground. We all got lost in the dancing, grinding and heat that comes when several hundred people all move to the same beat. Most of the dancers didn’t know they were celebrating the Nightlife Culture Expo and I had no problem with that. They were too busy living it and creating it to stop and think about it. That is exactly the way it should be.

If you’d like to join us for the rest of the Expo events around Manhattan this week, just click onto the events page and find the party that is right for you.

Have fun.


Special thanks to Katerina and Sabrina for making this night possible.


The House DJ as a Marathon Man

New EDM magazine Elektro and the New York Post ran a story today on A-List DJ Tiesto . This man regularly plays sets that run 14-18 hours at a time in places like Berlin, Ibiza and of course New York. When asked how he can maintain this epic pace, he credited exercise, diet and vitamins.

Tiesto isn’t the only DJ who has the stamina to spin all day and all night. I’ve been to Danny Tenaglia shows that were very similar. I went to the party, hung out for a few hours, went home slept, got up, got breakfast and went back to the club. Danny was still there. It was surreal, especially when you consider the fact that there were several hundred people in the club who never left. I love house and I love dancing, but I have never had that kind of stamina even when I was a much younger man. As a DJ in New York I never performed longer than 6 hours. Guys like Tiesto are just getting warmed up.

Is exercise and vitamins the only thing that keeps Tiesto going? Maybe…maybe not. I’m sure the estimated twenty million dollars he makes per year doesn’t hurt his motivation. Are his hundreds of followers able to keep up with him purely from their love of house music? Maybe…maybe not. One thing is certain. The popularity and dedication that fans have for a DJ like Tiesto isn’t part of the EDM fad currently dominating pop music. This movement in nightlife culture is long, strong and won’t be dying down any time soon.

Have fun.


Expo Update: Maor and Paul Seres Add Their Support to the Nightlife Culture Expo

The Nightlife Culture Initiative is adding two more names to its impressive line up for the first Nightlife Culture Expo, running April 4th to the 7th in New York City.

Maor ( ) is an independent artist who has a long performance history in New York City. He has performed live at well known venues including Joe's Pub, Knitting Factory, CBGB, Don Hills, and The Bitter End. His newest single “Long Way Home” is a timely message about gay bullying and discrimination that needs to be heard in these turbulent times. Maor has agreed to bring his message and his music to Stonewall Inn as a part of the LGBT Appreciation Event on April 5th.

Paul Seres ( ) is one of the most influential operators in New York nightlife. As president of the New York Nightlife Association, he works with all levels of state and local government to ensure that nightlife is part of the political agenda. As a member of Community Board 4, Paul ensures good operators can open venues and poor operators are dealt with fairly. As an experienced operator himself, he has managed several venues and has recently taken over day to day operations of the new LES lounge DL . Paul has agreed to talk about the importance of nightlife culture from an operator’s perspective at the Nightlife Culture Panel at Affaire on April 7th.  

The Nightlife Culture Expo is a charity event created to help elevate the perception of nightlife culture. The inaugural Expo will have five events, four days at venues including Double Seven, Cielo, Sutra and Affaire. In addition to Maor and Mr. Seres, the line up of special guests already includes nightlife luminaries like Rakim, Little Louie Vega, Kevin Hedge and Steven Lewis.

For tickets information please visit /events/  for more information about the Nightlife Culture Initiative go to /

My Heart in Focus: An Interview with Meleni Smith


Creativity and connection are the heart of nightlife culture. The artists who perform and celebrate our experience are the foundation of that intimacy. As a fundamental part of our look at New York nightlife, we are going to take time to talk to the artists who bring life to connection. The first conversation in this series is with the singer songwriter Meleni Smith.

Vital Statistics

Name: Meleni Smith

Group Affiliation: solo

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Latest Project: My Heart in Focus

Next New York Performance: 2.1.12

GH: How did your musical journey start? What was your first motivation? What was your first performance like?

MS: I started singing when I was six. The expression of music always moved me. It was the only art form, besides acting, that had the ability to make me feel extreme emotions.  I always felt very connected to it. My first performance was when I was in the 3rd grade for the entire school when I was chosen to sing the lead to "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love." I was terrified. I wasn't even trying out for the lead but one of the student teachers overheard me singing to myself and told me to sing for my teacher.  I didn't even think I was doing anything special, but they chose me.  

GH: What is it about performing, especially performing in New York that you enjoy the most?

MS:  Performing is a rush.  You literally feel the adrenaline, the anxiety, the excitement… so many different emotions are experienced no matter the size of the audience.  I have such a love/fear relationship with it because the moment right before I begin, it's like looking down from the top of a cliff and everyone is telling you to jump.  But once you jump the relief and realization that you can do it and its ok feels so great.  Especially when the crowd is there with you and showing love and appreciation for what it is you're sharing. It's amazing.  I think some of the best crowds are in New York because New Yorkers really appreciate art and they love the experience of the live displays... but on the flip side New Yorkers are so spoiled.  They literally have seen and done it all so they can be tough crowds at times too.. haha.. But I love the energy always.  New Yorkers know what they like so if they're into it, they're REALLY into it. 

GH: How have your travels to places like Egypt and Thailand affected your writing and performing?

MS: Being exposed to different forms and styles always affects my art even if only on a subconscious level. I absorb it all and all sounds somehow find their way in my music whether it be new melodies that I pick up or rhythmic patterns.  Egyptian music, in general, uses more notes than American music so it was amazing to hear all the in between notes that I wasn't used to hearing on this side.  The entire experience of traveling by myself to these countries made me fearless and that fearlessness has definitely affected my performing.  I learned that life is really just about sharing your gifts with the people you meet and inspiring as many people as possible along the way. 

GH: What have you learned the most from working with artists like Alicia Keys and other superstars?

MS: I actually never got the opportunity to work with Alicia Keys but hearing her voice on one of my songs was awesome.  I guess from working with more well-known artists, I've learned that at the end of the day, we're all the same. We're all just artists yearning to express what we feel we need to channel into this world.  

GH: Tell me about the creative relationship between your music and your videos? Are they conceived and created at the same time or does one give rise to the other?

MS:  Everything begins with the music. The music is the fuel for all other art forms.

GH: Is there a driving message or focus in your new album?

MS: Well the record is called 'My Heart in Focus' and it basically chronicles falling in love, then falling from love or whatever happens when things change... what we all go through during this human experience. What reminds us that yes! We are alive!! It takes you on a journey of a heart. I have a song for every stage of love from the beginning to the very end. 

GH: What performances do you have planned for the new album in 2012? Are you planning a tour?

MS:  I'm just going with the flow.  I believe 2012 will be all about the flow... But definitely visit my pages for updates!!

Have fun.


Sutra Celebrates Seven Years as a Hip Hop Icon

By GamalHennessy

Most clubsin New York City do not last very long. Normally, a club can go from thehottest place on Earth to closed in 3-5 years. For a club to last more than 5years and still be relevant is a rare and wonderful thing.

Clubs thatstay opened the longest rely on good management and a reputation for particulartype of music. There is a club on the corner of 1st Street and 1stAvenue that is still going strong after 7 years.  Its owner has been a strong supporter ofnightlife culture who has built a haven for both underground and mainstream hiphop at a club called Sutra. I sat down with Ms. Ariel Palitz on the seventhanniversary of the space to discuss the impact that it has had on the LowerEast Side, nightlife and the culture of New York City.

GH: What was the goal when you firstopened Sutra? How close have you come to achieving that goal seven years later?

AP: I spenta lot of time in Bar 16 as a patron before I bought it and opened Sutra. Iloved spending time there because of the type of people I met and the vibe ofthe place. When I became the owner, I wanted to keep that spirit. I wanted aplace where different types of people could come and have a good time. I wantedto have different types of parties and different types of music. I wanted Sutrato represent underground New York. We had that vibe from day 1. It didn’tmatter if we did bhangra parties, soulful house sets or hip hop parties. Thegoal was to always to celebrate the diversity of New York and we were always ableto pull that off.

GH: I know you have a lot ofdifferent types of parties, but I’ve always seen Sutra as a hip hop spot. A lotof that has to do with the people who perform here. It’s a long list thatincludes Funkmaster Flex, Questlove, Mos Def, Slick Rick, DMC, Just Blaze and alot of others. When did you first realize that the hip hop industry embracedSutra?

AP: Therewas a night early on when Questlove was in the DJ Booth spinning and BlackThought and Mos Def just jumped in there and started freestyling.  We had no warning but everyone in the roomloved it. It has such a raw energy about it. It felt very natural. There was nohype, no drama no problems. Everyone was just flowing with them. I sat back atthe owners table and knew it was special.

GH: Were there a lot of nights likethat?

AP: Yes. Alot of artists come to Sutra to experiment on a live crowd. You can put outmusic on the internet, but nothing beats getting the reaction of people in theclub. Artists like Just Blaze and Tony Touchknow that. They’ll come and drop new beats and hooks and samples all the timeand then we’ll hear those same elements in top 40 songs 6 months later. Sutrahas been the birthplace for a lot of new music.

GH: What has been the most successfulparty Sutra has had over the years?

AP: We’vehad quite a few long running parties, but Toca Tuesday has to be the crownjewel. Tony is truly a professional artist and it is people like him that keeppeople coming back week after week. He is one of the reasons Sutra has been sosuccessful.

GH: What are the other things thathave helped Sutra last so long when so many other clubs don’t?

AP: We nevertried to make people feel like they didn’t belong or they couldn’t come in. Wewon’t turn your friends away because of their race or anything else. We don’ttry to force bottles on everyone. We throw parties that people enjoy. We’vealways been able to attract talent that people wanted to see. We have a goodrelationship with people on the block and in the neighborhood. All those thingshelp keep the doors opened.

GH:  So what’s next for Sutra? Do you plan to keepit opened for another 7 years?

AP: Iactually put Sutra on the market for sale this week, partially to coincide withthe anniversary. I had a goal in mind when I opened Sutra and I’ve achieved it.I love Sutra and the impact it has had on my life and the life of the communityand culture, but I have other goals, new businesses and new ideas for the Sutrabrand. Once I find the right buyer, it will be time to move on.

GH: How do you think Sutra willchange once you sell it?

AP: Ideally,the new owner would inject new energy into the place but still keep theinclusive spirit I inherited from Bar 16 and developed in Sutra. Ultimately Idon’t know what the new incarnation will be, but I will do everything in mypower to make sure that it will be a benefit to the quality of life forneighborhood, the people and New York.

GH: Do you think artists who havestrong ties to the spot might buy it? Rappers have bought venues before…

AP: Owning anightclub is a very different business than being a rapper or a DJ, but ifsomeone in the industry would want to take it over that would be great because hopefullythey would be able to infuse the same great talent and great vibe that has keptSutra alive this long

Have fun.

Rakim at the Blue Note Celebrating the Birth of Modern Hip Hop

by Gamal Hennessy

When I was in high school in 1986, I rode the A train from Queens into Brooklyn to get to class. I would listen to my mixtapes (real mixtapes with an actual cassette player, not an iTunes download) on the long ride of all the hip hop songs I patiently stayed up late to record off the radio. Late night radio was one of the few places you could hear hip hop back then. At the time, older people and people who thought they knew music decided hip hop was a fad. They wouldn’t support it on mainstream radio. If it was going to die out in a few months, why bother with it?

Hip hop has clearly lasted longer than a few months.

Last week Rakim and the Roots did a show at the legendary Blue Note to celebrate 25 years since Paid in Full album ushered in the era of modern hip hop. Paid in Full was different from other hip hop albums at the time because its songs had a format that was radio friendly and a structure that was more musically complex. Rakim lead the way for other rap artists like to move into the mainstream in radio, music videos, TV, movies, fashion and other staples of American culture.

During the show, Rakim explained how he grew up as a saxophone player who translated John Coltrane‘s musical flow into his lyrics. His revelation went against the prevailing myth that hip hop artists didn‘t have any musical training. QuestLove, the drummer for the Roots, described his experience in music school when Rakim’s album showed him that rap wasn’t an alternative to music or a rebellion against music. It was music. Even stars like Dave Chappelle came out of self imposed exile to testify about the huge impact Paid in Full had on him while he was growing up.

Hip hop has had a huge impact on world music over the past 25 years, but when the show was over, I wondered who people would be remembering in 2036. Will artists like Drake, Kanye, and Lil Wayne be seen as pioneers opening up new elements of modern music or will someone else release a Paid in Full for the next generation?

Have fun.