HarlemGuy and Harlemista spent a few hours at Harlem Pop-Up ‘Holiday Bazaar’ today. We loved the huge Christmas tree out front, the cavernous interior space, the aura creativity that permeated the space, and the passion of the people representing the products and services on display. Highlights included learning about the new community bank Spring Bank, learning about artist Garry Grant, meeting the force behind artist AFineLyne and her great cards and paintings, catching up with the founder of Harlem Tavern and the folks from Lido, meeting Ebony of mikomyco and seeing their beautiful scarves in person, seeing the amazing artwork in the form of cards by Willie Mitchell, and the wonderful wares from bebenoir.
We love these Harlem Pop-Up events and look forward to the next one. Hoping they continue at least once a month. If you missed the first one check out our post here; Harlem Pop-Up ‘Green Market.’
Whether you love or hate rap, you cannot deny its influence on our popular music and lives today. And Friday, rap lost a true pioneer in Sylvia Robinson, a singer, songwriter and record producer who formed and oversaw the seminal hip-hop group Sugarhill Gang and made the first commercially successful rap recording with them.
Ms Robinson, who had hits as part of 1950’s R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia, and alone in 1973 (the song ” Pillow Talk”) and who owned a record label with her husband, was celebrating her birthday in 1979 in the famous Harlem World nightclub on 116th and Lenox (now the Conway discount store) when she heard MC Lovebug Starski rapping over disco breaks in instrumental songs and thought it would be a good idea to make a rap record. Employing her son as a talent scout, they found three young workers in a Jersey pizza parlor and persuaded them to improvise rhymes over a 15 minute Chic disco track.
That song, “Rapper’s Delight” reached No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 36 on Billboard’s Hot 100, opening the flood gates for other hip-hop artists. Ms. Robinson later signed Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and in 1982 she was a producer of their ground shattering social awareness song, “The Message.”, arguably the greatest rap song ever recorded.
In an all-too-often male dominated genre, the influence of this woman cannot be denied. RIP Sylvia Robinson.
Today was that melange of music, color, energy and celebration that is the African American Day Parade.
The changing face of 125th street moves forward. In 2008, the city rezoned Harlem’s main thoroughfare with a goal of replacing the many small-scale buildings along it with office towers, residential high-rises and cultural institutions. The Victoria Theater is the latest in a string of redevelopment projects.
In 2005, the Empire State Development Corporation started the process of turning the Victoria Theatre into a mixed-use hotel, condominium and art complex, but fell onto financial hard times and was shelved in the real estate crash.
But now the $100 million dollar project is back on and will start in the second half of next year. The main buliding of the theatre (built in 1917 by Thomas W. Lamb) will remain and will become the new home of the Classical Theater of Harlem, Jazzmobile, the Harlem Arts Alliance and the Apollo Theater Foundation, but the current design, by Aufgang & Subotovsky Architecture and Planning, are to build two towers above: 140-unit rental building and a separate 175-room hotel.
According to the NY Times, the theater’s facade will be preserved, as will several historic elements including gilded chandeliers, a fountain and a grand staircase. While the cultural center’s plans are not complete, it now calls for two performance spaces: a 199-seat theater and a 99-seat theater in which seats can be removed to create a multitude of configurations. In addition, the four-story theater building will house a scenery shop, costume shop, administrative offices, dressing rooms and a gallery.
Apologies for the low quality photo, but last night, the new CBS TV police show, The 2-2, was filming on corner of 120th St and Lenox. The cop drama, produced by A list actor/director Robert DeNiro, focuses on six rookies balancing their personal lives with their work on the streets of Manhattan and stars Leelee Sobieski, Adam Goldberg and Terry Kinney.
Did anyone else see it?
R & B Music legend Nick Ashford will be laid to rest later today at Abyssinian Baptist Church here in Harlem. He passed away last Monday from throat cancer.
Mr. Ashford and his equally talented songwriting partner-wife Valerie Simpson wrote some of their biggest pop classics for other stars, like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“Ain’t no Mountan High Enough”, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”), Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”) and Chaka Khan (“I’m Every Woman”), but also scored a major hit for themselves in 1984 with “Solid (As a Rock)”.
Michigan-raised Ashford met Simpson in 1964 at White Rock Baptist Church on 127th St in Harlem. The rest is musical history. The couple, who married in 1974, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002, and were known to sometimes perform energetic, electric shows at their NYC restaurant/music venue Sugar Bar. Their last album, 1996’s Been Found, was a collaboration with poet Maya Angelou.
Rest in peace, Nick Ashford, your music lives on.
Abyssinian Baptist Church on 132 W 138 St., (bet., Lenox and Seventh Avenues)
After a tense Saturday night, New York City dodged a bullet with Hurricane Irene, and we in Harlem thankfully sustained little permanent damage.
Today, the backside of the Hurricane brought quite strong winds sweeping through the streets. A walk through the neighborhood turned up a few downed trees and displaced signs, but also the sight of tenacious Harlemites getting back to business and making the best of existing circumstances.
With the unprecedented MTA system shut down, Harlemites are doing last minute emergency shopping in preparation of Hurricane Irene. To all our readers, please be prepared and be careful.