Nightlife Culture Expo Recap Day 3: Rakim Celebrates the Rise of Hip Hop Music

 

The energy for that night had been building up for 25 years.

In 1987, the Paid in Full Album was released and helped start a new age in hip hop music. Up to that point, hip hop was rarely on the radio. It was an underground sound that filtered down out of the Bronx to dominate block parties and after hours clubs. It was a fad. It wasn’t real music. It wasn’t going to last.

In 2012, hip hop music dominates the pop charts and popular culture on every level. It has altered the American language. It has evolved into different sub genres and migrated around the world. Now there are Egyptian rappers making protest songs as the soundtrack to the Arab Spring. Hip hop artists own fashion houses, liquor companies and multibillion dollar sports franchises. At this point, a significant part of American culture is hip hop culture and artists like Rakim made that possible.

The people at Sutra’s Expo party last Friday grew up with songs like My Melody, Microphone Fiend and I Ain’t No Joke. They knew the words to Rakim songs in the same way that house heads know their anthems, jazz men know their standards and religious people know their scriptures. Even with the abrasive posturing and aggressive attitudes sprinkled into the crowd, the night felt more like a spiritual ritual and less like a musical performance. The crowd surged when he took the stage. They chanted the lyrics with him and strained to capture his image on their iPhones. I just took in the positive energy of the room that had been nurtured in New York City for 25 years.

I only got to talk to Rakim for a moment after his amazing performance. Hip hop groupies are dangerous ladies and I try not to get in their way. I thanked him for performing at the Expo and for everything his music has done for me personally and hip hop in general. He was gracious and cool with his response. He thanked me for remembering him and wanting him to perform. I laughed to myself when he said that. Considering the impact he has had on hip hop culture, nightlife culture and American culture who else would offer a better performance?

Have fun.
G

   

 

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.

G

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

 

Nightlife Culture Expo Update: NCI Is Now Offering Free Entry into the Finale Event!

The 2012 Nightlife Culture Expo already had great line up.. Now because of the strong reaction we are getting, we are opening up the finale to everyone. To get your name on the list, visit http://d7.eventbrite.com/

The finale combines one of New York’s celebrated artists with one of the most exclusive lounges in the city. Double Seven was one of the first major lounges in the Meatpacking District. It reopened last year to rave reviews and it is still one of the most coveted spots in New York. DJ Rob Swift is a legendary DJ for the X-Men who is returning from his performance tour of Asia to play for the Expo.

Because the overall Expo has received such strong responses, we are in a position to waive the ticket donations for the last party. We want everyone to be able to enjoy the best music in the city in one of the best settings anywhere.

The finale is this Saturday, April 7th from 7-10pm. Space is limited, get your name on the list now. http://d7.eventbrite.com/

Have fun.

Pleasure Palaces: Bars and Clubs as the Cradles of Nightlife Culture

Environment plays a huge role in the way we play. You can’t look at nightlife culture without looking at the physical space that nightlife occupies. It is the spaces that influence what you can do when you are inside. It is the spaces that help create the image and the atmosphere that the patrons are looking for. It is the spaces that bars and clubs inhabit that become the frame and canvas for every other aspect of the nightlife experience.

As we were selecting venues for the first annual Nightlife Culture Expo, we were very aware of how the venue sets the tone for the experience. The history, vibe and style of each venue fit perfectly with the celebration we had in mind. 

Cielo was a natural choice for a house music party because it is a dance destination that has been home to house icons like Jellybean Benitez and Little Louie Vega as well as famous dance parties like Roots and Dance. Here. Now. 

Stonewall is synonymous with both the LGBT rights movement and queer culture serving as the launch pad for what would become Pride Weekend in cities around the US and countries around the world. 

Sutra is a beacon of East Coast hip hop that regularly offers intimate shows with some of the most well known artists in the genre like Q-Tip, the Roots and Rakim. 

Affaire is a new venue, but it continues established nightlife traditions of adopting French epicurean flair and offering a home to the art of burlesque. 

Finally, the double seven is a reinvention of the venue that anchored the development of the Meatpacking District. It established the nightlife that helped attract companies like Apple and Hugo Boss as well as public works projects like the Highline Park to a forgotten strip of Manhattan.

The operators of each one of these venues understands the importance of nightlife cultures. They have built their businesses by offering their individual groups the space to express themselves. At the same time, they have improved nightlife and the quality of life in the city.  Your choice of venue plays a huge role in the quality of your experience.  In their own way, each of the Expo venues offers New York a unique taste of what nightlife is.

For more information and tickets, visit /events/

Have fun.
Gamal

 

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 (http://www.maormusic.com/home/ ) 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 (http://bit.ly/Hh2UWh ) 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 /

From Nashville to New York: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Shonali Bhowmik

 

by Gamal Hennessy

Vital Statistics 

Name: Shonali Bhowmik

Group Affiliation: Tigers & Monkeys, Variety Shac

Hometown: New York, New York via Nashville, TN

Website: www.shonalibhowmik.com  

Latest Project: 100 Oak Revival


Shonali Bhowmik has spent years in New York’s music and comedy scenes. As part of our ongoing focus on the panelists at our upcoming Nightlife Culture Expo, NCI caught up to her to talk about her latest album, the benefits of the internet to the music industry and being a Southern Belle…

NCI: You have your own band (Tigers and Monkeys), an ongoing comedy show (Variety Shac), a pilot for a TV series and a day job. When did you find the time to record a new album? How long did it take you to finish this with everything else you have going on?

SB: I recorded this album in a way that I haven’t done in the past. It’s taken me a few years to complete this release because I flew down to my hometown of Nashville, TN on various weekends to lay down the basic tracks in the home studio of the enormously talented Paul Burch.

My intention was to just go for a sparse live recording and immediately release the “Shonali Basement Tapes” album. But instead, I returned to New York and just started hearing additional musical layers which absolutely had to be added to the recordings in order for me to feel satisfied. So over time, I scheduled sessions with Matt Gill in his Manhattan studio, Key Room where after work he and other musicians helped me add piano, cello, guitar, vocals late at night. I just couldn’t stop recording, and then there were technical issues with converting the tape to digital format which meant we had to rerecord instruments. So the short answer to your question is this album took forever. Ha.

NCI: You have had other albums with other groups in the past. How is this record artistically different from the previous releases? What were the inspirations for this CD?

SB: This new album includes a backlog of music that I had written over the years since I moved to NYC in 2002. For the most part, they are representative of a moodier, bluesier, more country Shonali. I grew up in Nashville, TN and although I had always believed that my country roots didn’t impact my music that much. It took reading music reviews about my music and the specifics on my singing drawl to realize that I actually sing like a Southern belle. And then it came to me that I sing like that because I AM a Southern belle. This album is certainly not as hard rocking as songs found in my Tigers and Monkeys repertoire (of which we are currently recording another release).

NCI: There have been a lot of changes to the business and technology of music during your career. How does that affect the way you create an album now and how you sell it once it has been released?

SB: Honestly, the myth is that Napster and ITunes killed the music industry. The reality for me is that the internet is a direct way for me to share my music with the entire world. Due to the advances in recording technology, I don’t need to spend $100,000 making an album anymore, which believe it or not I did at one point. So now artists can spend a whole lot less money to make great music. This is an exciting time for musicians. As a business person, I think that artists have to be proactive and dictate where the industry goes. We should be forcing the direction. Big labels aren’t the experts anymore. So we can load up our music and sell it directly to the people. I find that “Pay what you Want” is the way to go. You want folks to have your music, but let them decide what it’s worth to them. Everyone has a different scale – be it they are broke, or they are rich, or they are somewhat fond of heavy metal, or somewhat fond of country music.

NCI: You perform a lot of your music in Brooklyn now because a lot of live music has migrated from downtown Manhattan over the past few years. How has that affected the way you and your friends create and perform music? Do you see musicians coming back to the city or do you feel that it will move farther into Brooklyn and Queens?

SB: Honestly, although I love NYC, I wonder how good it is for a rock band to live and pay bills here. I started playing music in Atlanta, Georgia where the rent was cheap, rehearsal spaces were cheap and jobs were everywhere. It was the perfect place to live as a member of a touring rock band.

In Manhattan, rock clubs will always be a mainstay, but I think the question regarding where the music will go has more to do with the viable living options available to artists. It’s been a long, long time since living in the East Village was an inexpensive place for rock n’ roll and artist types. Brooklyn and Queens have taken on those titles but those boroughs are getting more and more expensive day by day. I just read that Austin was where all the young artist types are moving. New York and the entire United States needs to do more to preserve its artistic culture especially if everyone is just ripping music off the web. (Yeah, and I was saying that this was a good thing in my response to your earlier question - yup, contradictory that’s me.)

Have fun.

Gamal