Archive for June, 2008

Global beat

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Mexican Independence parade 2003Back in 2001, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings issued a double CD called New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs: Music from NYC’s Ethnic & Immigrant Communities. Samples are available on the Folkways site.

It’s great—of course it includes several Latin beats (plena, bomba, bachata, merengue, salsa, and Colombian vallenato) and various Eastern European styles (Albanian folk songs, Gypsy music, Ukrainian dance tunes, a Hasidic holiday melody, klezmer, and mountain Jewish improvisation). The Caribbean region also provides a chauti-style tan sangeet song, a santería ritual song, Trinidadian calypso, excerpts from a Haitian Rara processional, vodou jazz, and gospel.

Asia is represented a little more thinly, with a Cantonese wedding processional and classical Korean. African-American gospel represents North America, and from the Middle East, there’s a contemporary Arab composition and traditional Lebanese songs. Western Europe offers the Italian giglio song they sing at the festival in Williamsburg (July 9–20 this year), Greek rembetika, and a couple of Irish fiddle tunes.

Africa is limited to a Bambara jaliya song from West Africa, but if you love it, they do have a whole CD dedicated to the style: Badenya: Manden Jaliya in New York City.

From the Epirus region of Greece comes a lament for those who leave their homelands: “Oh, how they bury an immigrant in a foreign land, without mother and father and relatives. Oh, you birds, cry for him, especially you nightingale. Oh, mourners, recount his life and good deeds.”

Of course, it’s in Greek, but that’s what the booklet is for.

Euro 2008 final Sunday!

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I watched the Euro 2008 semifinal football match between Germany and Turkey on Wednesday at Sláinte, a pub on the Bowery between Houston and 1st St; the crowd seemed to be about evenly divided in rooting interest, which surprised me.

The only problem with Germany vs. Spain is . . . within New York City, they’re mostly anonymous. Germany was a strong presence once, but they’ve faded into the fabric by now, except for a bunch of people you’ll see prancing about in yellow on Sunday. And I’m unaware of any community of immigrants from Spain at any time.

These days, Spain is focusing on their own influx of foreigners; Ecuadorians make up the largest immigrant group there, according to the Pacific News Service, outnumbering Moroccans now. And the New York Times says Spain has conducted more legalization programs for undocumented workers than any other European country. They also provide free health insurance to all. Emigrating to Spain looks like a great idea, actually! OK, they’re not completely free of xenophobia. But who is?

But back to New York. Does anyone know of a history of U.S. Americans with roots in Spain, outside of renowned individuals such as Plácido Domingo? Maybe it’s time to pay a visit to Instituto Cervantes.

Flags courtesy of Applied Language Solutions.

Prom for new Americans

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

In Sunday’s New York Times City section, Brooke Hauser wrote a really wonderful story about immigrant students at International High School in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and their introduction to the American tradition of prom. I also highly recommend the 10-minute video. I love these kids!

Weekend events: music, flowers, food

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Besides the International Immigrants Day Parade at noon on Avenue of the Americas from 36th to 56th, Saturday offers:

Noshwalks: At 11:30 am Saturday, this tour highlights the history and diversity of the neighborhood known for its hip-hop tradition and roots dating to the Revolutionary War. Among our visits will be a Revolutionary War era graveyard. . . . Tastes include Salvadoran, West Indian, Colombian, Bangladeshi & more! Reservations should be made ahead of time—(718) 526-2422 or (212) 222-2243—but you can call between 8 and 9 am on Saturday to find out if there’s space. $10.

Make Music New York, a day of free outdoor music around the city from 2 to 10 pm Saturday, is vast—there will be 850 free concerts all over town. Here’s a tiny sampling:

  • Kaleidoscope of Polish Song: The Polish Theatre Institute in the USA, now in its 23rd year, presents Polish songs by six singers in costumes, moving between three historically Polish NYC neighborhoods.
  • Music of Bali: Gamelan Dharma Swara performs for the discerning shoppers of the McCarren Park Greenmarket.
  • 3rd Grade Xylophone Group: 3rd graders from PS 180 in Harlem playing marimba music from Zimbabwe under the direction of David Haiman.

And at 11 am on Sunday, the Ecuadorian Flower Parade makes its gorgeous & colorful way down Central Park West from 110th to 96th streets.

Big day at the Tenement Museum

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, is the opening of the first new apartment at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in six years. The Moore family were immigrants from Ireland who occupied an apartment at 97 Orchard Street in 1869. Sadly, their baby daughter died there of marasmus, a form of malnutrition. The exhibit focuses on issues of public health at the time.

I’ll post much more about this in a few weeks.

Swedish summer

Monday, June 16th, 2008

The summer solstice occurs Friday at 7:59 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Sweden, where the solstice is a bit more noticeable than it is here, knows how to celebrate: with a maypole! If you’d like to experience this for yourself, head down to Wagner Park in Battery Park City this Friday from 5 to 8 pm for the Swedish midsummer festival. Paul Dahlin & Friends will provided traditional fiddle music, and they’ll have dancing, children’s games, and crafts. Sponsored by BPC Parks and the Consulate General of Sweden.

International cultures on the street

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

The International Immigrants Foundation kicks off International Cultures Week on Sunday, June 15, with an expo-fest/street fair from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Ave) between 42nd and 56th streets.

Next Saturday, June 21, the International Cultures Parade, also on Avenue of the Americas, starts at noon; it’ll stretch from 37th to 56th streets.

Chicken broccoli

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

I was expecting something more like a thriller: Chinese-food deliveryman has only one day to raise $800! Look at him go! But Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou’s Take Out (currently playing at the Quad Cinema on West 13rd St in Manhattan) offers something else instead: an acutely realistic day in the life of a Chinese takeout place.

In fact, it rings so true that several people took it for a documentary, the New York Times reports. According to Jennifer 8. Lee’s story, “The movie — put together with a $3,000 budget and a lot of personal favors — was filmed in a real Chinese takeout restaurant at 103rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue during working hours. ‘We had to work through whenever they had five minutes, one minute, whenever they had a break,’ Ms. Tsou said.”

Our hero, Ming Ding, is an illegal immigrant paying off a debt for smuggling fees. At one point the kitchen crew discusses strategies for staying in the country. There are people who would be incensed at this conversation (though probably not many who’ll actually see the film), but it’s hard to imagine whose job Ming Ding could be accused of stealing.

Definitely recommended, especially if you order Chinese food.