World Music Central’s Guide to New York City

This guide was contributed by Angel Romero with help from Inna Barmash (Romashka), Christian Frey, Carol Freeman, Matthew "Max" Fass (Zagnut Cirkus Orkestar), Fabian Asultany (GlobeSonic) and April Centrone.

New York City is the largest city in the United States and the options for visitors interested in world music are numerous. To set things in context, one needs to know that New York City is comprised of 5 boroughs (districts). Manhattan is the better known one. The rest are Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

Many important entities in the international world music scene are based in the New York city area: the World Music Institute (WMI), Global Rhythm magazine, and Worldlink TV (a satellite channel with world music video programming). There are also many influential record labels located there: Putumayo, Luaka Bop, Times Square, Nonesuch, Island, Lyrichord, Traditional Crossroads, Stern’s, Palm Pictures, Sony Classical, Global Village Music, Tzadik, Universal Classics Group, and several more. Check World Music Central’s Resource area for further information about record labels.

Listing all the famous and influential musicians living in the New York City area would require a lot of space. Just as an example, a few names can give a good idea of the thriving scene: Pat Metheny, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, Seamus Egan, Glen Velez, Susan McKeown, Jamshied Sharifi, The Klezmatics, Antibalas, Abdoulaye Diabate, Alessandra Belloni, Layne Redmond, Karsh Kale, Yossi Fine (Ex-Centric Sound System), Lila Downs, Yerba Buena, Haale, Kaissa, the GlobeSonic DJ collective. and a long etcetera.

 

To find out what’s happening in town, the Village Voice and the New York Times are good starting places. Specifically for world music, there are several great sources. Rob Weisberg, at WFMU radio, publishes an online guide. Afropop has a section that lists New York City African and World music events here. For African music concerts in New York City and vicinity, Africasounds.com is a great point of reference. If you are interested in bluegrass, Celtic and singer-songwriters, check FolkMusicNY. The GlobeSonic website has a GlobeSonic endorsed concert listing.

For transportation information, including subway, bus or commuter trains, visit the Tribal Soundz on E 6th Street., # 340, New York City. Phone: +1 212-673-5992. E-mail: tribalsoundz@hotmail.com.

Rashid Music Sales is a gold mine for Arabic music. Address: 155 Court St., Brooklyn, NY 11201. Phone: +1 718 852-3295.

Rincón Musical is a retailer and distributor for Latin music, salsa, etc. Address: 698 10th Ave, New York, NY 10019. Phone: +1 212-397-4201. Fax: +1 212-397-4205.

125th St. Record Shop in Harlem sells music from the African Diaspora in the Americas. Address: 274 W. 125th St. (Between 7th & 8th Aves.). Phone: +1 212-866-1600.

Carosello Pentagramo Italiano specializes in Italian recordings and operas, but also services as a bookstore, imports store, and gift shop. Address: 119 Mulberry St. Phone: +1 212-925-7253

Casa Latina sells Latin pop and salsa, mambo music; bongos and congas are also sold. Address: 151 E. 116th St. Phone: +1 212-427-6062.

El Barrio Music Center sells Latin music and salsa. Address: 2102 Third Ave. Phone: +1 212-876-3409.

La Bomba Records sells Latin music. Address: 2111 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10029 (Spanish Harlem).

Record Mart sells calypso, salsa, samba, and reggae. Address: 1470 Broadway. Phone: +1 212-840-0580.

Superpower has a large reggae collection. Address: 4905 Church St. Phone: +1 718-282-7746.

Nivel Musical sells Latin pop, rock en español CDs, and Colombian vallenato and cumbia. Address: 76-12 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372.

Fernandez Records, also in Jackson Heights, sells Latin pop, rock en español CDs, and Colombian vallenato and cumbia. Address: Address: 83-19 Roosevelt Avenue, Jackson Heights, NY 11372. Phone: (718) 565-6174.

Venues:

You can find performances by international acts in many different locations. However, some clubs specialize in one form or another of world music:

  • S. O. B.’s, stands for sounds of Brazil. It features world music on a regular basis, with a special emphasis on African music and reggae. Address: 204 Varick Street at West Houston lower Manhattan. Phone: 212.243.4940. Fax: 212.645.1703.
  • Copacabana is one of the most prestigious New York salsa music clubs where you can watch live performances by top Puerto Rican and other Latin artists. Copacabana. Address: 560 West 34th Street (11th Avenue), New York, NY 10001. Phone: +1 212 239-2672.
  • Barbes has great world music and Gypsy jazz. Address: 376 9th St. (corner of 6th Ave.) Park Slope, Brooklyn.
  • Chibcha is a Colombian restaurant and club.
  • Address: 7905 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, NY 11372-6716. Phone: +1 718 429-9033
  • There is live Balkan music with folk dancing at least once a month at the Hungarian House on the Upper East Side.
  • Cafe Moto has flamenco Sundays and Klezmer Tuesdays. Address: 394 Broadway, Brooklyn.
  • There is live Greek music every Tuesday, Turkish music every Wednesday and Balkan music every Friday at Maia in the East Village. Address: 98 Avenue B (between 6th and 7th)
  • Tonic features avant garde world-influenced jazz and electronica. 107 Norfolk Street between Delancey and Rivington Streets in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. You can take the F train to Delancey Street or the J/M/Z trains to Essex Street. Once you exit the station walk east (towards the Williamsburg bridge) on Delancey Street and take your first left onto Norfolk. You will see Tonic about half up the block on your left. Phone: +1 212-358-7501, Fax: 212-358-1237.
  • Kush Lounge presents live Middle Eastern music some nights. Address: 191 Chrystie St., New York, NY 10002. Phone: +1 (212) 677-7328. E-mail: info at kushlounge.com.
  • Mehanata is a Bulgarian Bar which features Balkan, Gypsy, Flamenco and Middle Eastern music, mostly DJs. Address: 416 Broadway (Chinatown/Lower Manhattan) at Canal St. Phone: +1 212-625-0981.
  • La Belle Epoque features live Cuban salsa Thursdays and Tango Fridays. Address: 827 Broadway at 12th Street, New York. Phone: +1 212-254-6436. East Village. Subway: 1, 9 to 14th St.
  • Layla has live Middle Eastern music with a dancer and excellent Mediterranean cuisine. Address: 211 W Broadway, corner of Franklin St. Reservations: +1 212-431-0700.
  • Cupping Room Cafe has live Mediterranean music with Avram Pengas and guest artists. Continental cuisine. Address: 359 W. Broadway (bet. Broome & Grand Sts.), SoHo. Reservations: +1 212-925-2898.
  • Cafe Mogadur presents live Middle Eastern music with a dancer. Moroccan food. Address: 101 St. Marks Pl. (bet. Ave. A & 1st Ave.), East Village. Phone: +1 (212) 677-2226.
  • Lafayette Grill and Bar has live Mediterranean music and dancing with Avram Pengas, Sudan Baronian, Lefteris Bournias and other guests. Greek food. Address: 54-56 Franklin St, 3 blocks below Canal between Broadway and Lafayette.
  • CafĂ© Figaro has music for belly dancing with Scott Wilson (ud), Raquy Danziger (percussion), George Stathos (clarinet) and other guests. Address: 184 Bleecker Street. The musical landscape is mostly Turkish with visits to Greece and Israel and side-trips to Egypt and Lebanon. There are 3 dance shows as well as general free-style dancing. $10 minimum, no cover.
  • Paddy Reillys music bar features traditional Irish music, bluegrass and folk concerts. Address: 519 2nd Ave, corner of 29th. Phone: +1 (212) 686-1210.
  • World Music DJ collective GlobeSonic stage monthly events at club NuBlu 62 Ave. C (4th & 5th St), New York City.
  • Other world music venues:

    There are some well known venues that are not specialized in world music and feature other types of eclectic music. However, they do program world music acts frequently so it’s worth checking out their calendars.

    • At Joe’s Pub in the Public Theater, you’ll get to see a lot of world music acts, although you can also listen to jazz, pop and other genres. Address: 425 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003. Phone: +1 (212) 539-8770. Cross Street: Astor. Subway: 6 to Astor Place.
    • BAM Cafe is located directly above the main lobby of the Brooklyn academy of Music (BAM) is the place to go for dinner and drinks on performance nights, and is Brooklyn’s hot spot for live eclectic music, including African, Latin and spoken word on the weekends. Address: 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Phone: +1 718 636-4100.
    • At Symphony Space you can go the theatre, watch a film or listen to live music. It is one of the venues used by the World Music Institute so, naturally, you will get to see a lot of high quality world music performances. Address: 2537 Broadway New York, NY 10025-6990. Phone: +1 212 864-1414, Fax: +1 212 932-3228.
    • The Knitting Factory is primarily an avant-garde jazz club. Occasionally, it programs world music. Address: 74 Leonard Street, New York City, NY 10013. Phone: +1 212 219-3132.
    • Beacon Theater presents some jazz and world music. Address: 74th Street & Broadway. New York City. Phone: +1 (212) 496-7070.
    • Queens Theatre in the Park presents some world music, including the JPMorgan Chase Latino Cultural Festival. Address: just off the Grand Central Parkway in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, on the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs. Adjacent to the Queens Museum of Art, Skating Rink and The Unisphere.
    • The famous Blue Note jazz club sometimes features Latin jazz. Address: 131 W. Third St. Phone: +1 (212) 475-8592.
    • The Cathedral of St. John the Divine occasionally some really interesting events. Paul Winter celebrates the Summer and Winter Solstices there. On the day of St. Francis, Winter also performs the Earth Mass, which he composed. Paul Winter and his various ensembles usually include prestigious world music guests. The Cathedral is located at 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, one block east of Broadway. Subway #1 or #9 train to the 110th Street and Broadway. By Bus #M 4 to Amsterdam and 110th Street, #M 104 and #M60 to Broadway and 112th Street, #11 to Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street.

    The famous Madison Square Garden and Lincoln Center occasionally feature world music acts.

    World Music dance clubs:

    Kilimanjaro plays the best of African sounds. Two floors of dancing. Customers are required to wear upscale clothing. No jeans or baseball caps. Address: 95 Leonard Street (Broadway & Church (4 blocks below Canal). Phone: +1 212 343-0957.

    Festivals:

    There is a new world music festival called Globefest. The Cervantes Institute sponsors a Flamenco festival. The Irish Arts Center holds and Irish dance festival. There are various Hispanic festivals (Dominican, Puerto Rican, Colombian) and many large seasonal events feature world music of some kind: Celebrate Brooklyn and Central Park Summer Stage.

    Music Jams

    Sound Revelation NYC! is produced by Great Drum Foundation. It presents musicians from many cultures exploring the world’s traditions of spiritual music. It brings together musicians of various spiritual traditions to make music that proclaims peace and freedom. This performance series is a meeting ground for the variety of New York’s many cultures. Every Sunday from 4pm to 7pm . the Fourth Universalist Society, 160 Central Park West at 76th Street, New York City. 212-595-1658.

    Blaggards Pub has Weekly Irish Music Session (Seisiún) every Sunday 5 to 8 p.m. Address: 8 West 38th Street (at 5th Avenue), Manhattan. Phone: +1 212-382-2611.

    The Bull McCabe, 714 11th Ave. at 51st St. (across from the Irish Arts Center) encourages participants to sing any folk song they like.

    Cultural Centers

    The World Music Institute has a store that is a unique source for world music, hosted by the leading presenter of traditional music and dance in the
    United States. Its special collection focuses on traditional music from around the world. Individuals can also peruse our more than 5000
    titles in person at the Chelsea office, where they may also purchase tickets to its concerts. Address: 49 West 27th Street, Suite 930, New York, NY, 10001. Office hours are Monday through Friday 11am to 5pm.

    Center for Traditional Music & Dance, Address: 200 Church Street, Room 303, New York, NY 10013-3831 (Between Duane & Thomas Streets). Phone: 212-571-1555, Fax: 212-571-9052.

    The Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute is a multi-disciplinary cultural arts organization that disseminates information on the creative expressions and rich cultural contributions of people of African descent, internationally. The Center continues to document, promulgate and promote the global impact of African cultures through its programming that includes: concerts, exhibitions, lectures, cultural arts in education school programs, international festivals and conferences. They started the First Annual Latin/Tropical Music Collectors Festival. Center: Caribbean Cultural Center , 408 W. 58th Street, New York, NY 10019. Phone:+1 (212) 307-7420, Fax: +1 (212) 315-1086.

    Instituto Cervantes is a worldwide non-profit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. It is the largest organization in the world concerned with the teaching of Spanish, and it maintains a presence in over twenty different countries throughout 37 centers devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American culture and Spanish Language. The mission of Instituto Cervantes is to promote the teaching, study, and use of Spanish as a second language and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures throughout non-Spanish speaking countries. The Institute is named after Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), the most important figure in the history of Spanish literature. In New York City, Instituto Cervantes works in collaboration with other institutions in organizing cultural activities such as lectures, book presentations, concerts, art exhibitions, The Spain Film Festival and Festival of Flamenco. Instituto Cervantes at Amster Yard, 211-215 East 49th Street, New York, NY 10017. Phone: +1 212 308 77 20, Fax: +1 212 308 77 21.

    The Irish Arts Center promotes Irish Arts and Culture. Address: 553 West 51st Street, New York, NY 10019. Phone: +1 (212) 757-3318, Fax: (212) 247-0930. E-mail: info@irishartscenter.org.

    The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s French Cultural Center. FIAF is a private American not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing the knowledge and appreciation of French and Francophone culture; to increase the knowledge of the French language; to encourage interaction and understanding among French, Francophone, and American people through programs in the arts and understanding.

    The Mexican Cultural Institute of New York showcases Mexican arts in New York. 27 East 39 Street -2nd. Floor, NY, NY 10016

    The Asia Society is the United States’ leading institution dedicated to fostering under-standing of Asia and communication between Americans and the peoples of Asia and the Pacific. The Society provides a forum for building awareness of the more than thirty countries broadly defined as the Asia-Pacific region – the area from Japan to Iran, and from Central Asia to New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. Through art exhibitions and performances, films, lectures, seminars and conferences, publications and assistance to the media, and materials and programs for students and teachers, the Asia Society presents the uniqueness and diversity of Asia to the American people. Address: 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street), New York, NY 10021. Tel 212-288-6400, Fax: 212-517-8315. Email: boxoffice@asiasoc.org, Bus: M1, M2, M3, M4 to Madison and 70th; M101, M102 to Lexington and 70th; M30 to Park and 72nd; M66 to Park and 68th. Subway: 6 to 68th Street/Hunter College, F to 63rd Street/Lexington Ave.

    The Center for Jewish History sometimes presents Jewish music and dance events. Forchheimer Auditorium. Center for Jewish History. 15 W 16th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave’s). Phone: +1 917-606-8200. Fax: +1 917-606-8201. E-mail: boxoffice@cjh.org.

    Musical instruments:

    Tribal Soundz, mentioned earlier under record stores,sells jembes, dumbeks, tabla, Native American drums & flutes, African & Brazilian percussion, didjeridu, mbira, xylophones, bells, wind chimes, gongs, ethnic flutes, rain sticks, etc. It also holds workshops in the store. There are music classes for jembe, dumbek, tabla, mbira, didjeridu, African guitar, throat singing and more. Address: E. 6th Str, # 340.

    Luthier Music Corp carries a wide range selection of Classical, Flamenco guitars and requintos. It has the East Coast’s largest selection of sheet music, CDs, videos and accessories all related to the Classical and Flamenco Guitar

    Keshav Music Imports sells high-quality instruments and does repairs of all Indian instruments. They also have live music with many wonderful musicians from India, Afghanistan, Iran etc. Keshav has the biggest selection of Indian classical, folk and Sufi CDs in New York City. Phone: (212) 228-7864 E-mail: lallangoti@earthlink.net.

    Casa Latina sells bongos and congas. Address: 151 E. 116th St. Phone: +1 212-427-6062.

    Music and Dance Schools

    Fazil’s has Middle Eastern, Flamenco, Kathak, dance classes. Address: 743 8th Avenue 743 8th Avenue betw. 46 & 47 St. New York, NY 10036 ( Between 46 and 47th. streets). Phone: +1 212 541-4455.

    Melisma Arts in Greenwich Village is a school of Balkan, Greek, Judaic, and World Music Vocal Instruction. Specializing in traditional village and urban: Bulgarian song and vocal technique; Balkan (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, Bosnian, Sephardic Jewish, Croatian, Serbian, Albanian, Rom [Gypsy]) song and vocal technique; Greek song and vocal technique; Asia Minor Greek Rebetika and Smyrneika; Yiddish song and vocal technique; Sephardic Jewish song and vocal technique of the Ottoman Empire; alternative vocal instruction based on the techniques of world music singers; traditional American song and vocal technique; and vocal Instruction for shy singers. There are also special workshops with guest instructors from Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, The Caucasus, Uzbekistan, Scotland, Appalachia, and other lands. Address: Melisma Arts, Carol Freeman, 53 Downing Street #2R, New York, NY 10014, USA. Phone: +1 212-255-7890, 917-647-2450.

    Middle Eastern teachers, music and online lessons in the New York area:

    A&M Studios has a dance and music school on 86th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which includes Cumbia classes. Jackson Heights, Queens.

    Museums and archives

    The Metropolitan Museum has a Department of Musical Instruments, which includes indigenous instruments from various parts of the world.
    The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue
    Lomax Collection

    The Alan Lomax Archive and The Association for Cultural Equity have an office in New York City, although the famous Alan Lomax Collection was acquired by the The American Folklife Center and is now housed in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. Address: 450 W. 41st St, Rm 606, New York, NY 10036. Phone: +1 212 268-4623, Fax: +1 212 279-3710.

    Raices Latin Music Museum. Address: The Harbor Conservatory. 5th Avenue between 104th and 105th Street. For More information call 212-427-2244 ext. 578

    Neighborhoods

    Spanish Harlem lies from E. 96th Street to E. 125th Street between Fifth Avenue and FDR Drive. It is the home of many Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. Great Latin music is available there. Check Mercado Musical, Rincón Musical, La Bomba Records 2111 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10029. Main Phone: 212-426-0500, Casa Latina has records and musical instruments, 151 E 116th St, New York, NY 10029. Phone: 212-427-6062
    Fax: 212-289-6950 and El Barrio.

    Roosevelt Avenue, in Jackson Heights, Queens, is a large street lined with many kinds of Hispanic businesses. There are restaurants, banks, clothing stores, music stores, and schools. There is a large a large Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Mexican population. Two record stores in the area, Nivel Musical and Fernandez Records, mentioned earlier in the Record Stores section, sell Latin pop, rock en español, and Colombian vallenato and cumbias.

    [Photos: 1 – Statue of Liberty,  2 – Brooklyn Bridge].

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