If you are looking for some fun, you shouldn’t have to look far. There are many places to go in New York to hear the latest reggae, dancehall, Jamaican hip-hop; eat curry goat, jerk chicken and mackerel, run-down, Jesus Christ! and drink rum punch, magnum, tan-pon-it-long!, sorrel. Lawd a mercy, Jamaica dey right yah so! Due to the extensive amount of Jamaican influence in New York, I will give you a little synopsis of what can be enjoyed in each area noted.
Culture – Every year the Jamaica Dance Theatre comes to New York, to perform at Brooklyn College or The Brooklyn Academy of Music. I have watched them perform more than once and it is something to be seen. Through various private organizations, other Jamaican plays come to New York several times throughout the year. They are seen at campus sites such as: Brooklyn College, Queens College and Lehman College in the Bronx. To give example, Oliver Samuels and his theater performers come at least twice a year, usually around Mother’s Day and during September. His plays also would be featured at the three venues listed. Jamaican pantomine also comes usually once a year. New York has “Reggae Caribfest” annually, featuring a host of Jamaican singers, dj’s and also American artists. Held at Sunken Meadows, (formally Downing Stadium), this concert is over 5 years old. In addition, during Jamaica’s Independence each year, the Jamaican consulate devotes a week of celebration featuring speakers and featured artwork of various artists as well as entertainment. The Jamaica Tourist Board also hosts a series of events during this week.
For Jamaican Gospel fans, the Grace Thrillers choir has performed here on gospel boat rides, and at Brooklyn College. Other Jamaican artists such as Papa San and Carlene Davis come periodically as well.
Music – Now haul and pull up my selector. Or as Sizzla says, “Faward, Faward, pull up dat!” This is my forte. I don’t get to take advantage of some of these events anymore but when it comes to my reggae artists, mi nuh play! If you are into seeing entertainers, such as Beres Hammond, Sanchez, Luciano, Burning Spear and Damian Marley, just to name a few, you will not be disappointed, they give 150% to every performance.
Starting with the free stuff: During the Summer – Central Park in Manhattan, the “Summer Stage” at Rumsey Playfield features at least one reggae artist during the concert series. Over the last few years, it has been Beres Hammond and Freddie McGregor. In Brooklyn, Prospect Park has free annual events as well, featuring Jamaican artists and other artists from the Caribbean. This past August, Damian Marley along with soca frenzy artists such as Kevin Little, Allison Hinds, etc. performed for a crowd of over 5,000 people. This concert had major sponsorship by the Jamaica Tourist Board.
In regards to regular concerts, Beres Hammond, Luciano, and Burning Spear come to New York at least once a year. They showcase at various locales such as: Hammerstein Ballroom, Madison Square Garden Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Brooklyn College. Sanchez, (a my bway dat!) comes at least 3-4 times a year. I have seen him perform at major venues and also local clubs. For the culture lovers, Burning Spear, The Marley Clan, Capleton, Morgan Heritage or newer artists such as Warrior King, Junior Kelly and Bushman have also performed in New York. Club S.O.B. (Sounds of Brazil) on Varick Street in Manhattan has featured many of these artists. For the fans of the classics, now referred to as “old skool” many artists such as: Toots Hibbert, Dobbie Dobson, Phyllis Dillon and the like, headline memory lane events accompanied by early selectors such as Winston Blake and Merritone Sounds.
When it comes to Dancehall, almost all of the dancehall artists, famous and upcoming, have performed here. Among them: Beenie Man, Yellowman, Elephant Man, Cobra, Lexus, Sean Paul, TOK, Spragga Benz, Lady Saw, Bounty Killa, just to name a few. Many of them also perform at local clubs. I will break down a few clubs based on longevity, ambiance and wicked, wicked, dj’s spinning the turntables.
Manhattan – Club Pulse, It’s been around well over 5 years. It has a nice after work Caribbean crowd, nice ambiance and in house dj’s change periodically. Friday and Saturday are the main nights. Last time I checked it was DJ Chris the dub master, from the Irie-Fm station. He’s a crisp dj!
The Shadow – Also been around over 5 years. It is bi-level, with two dance floors on the first level and a lounge on the second floor playing soothing music. The main floor plays a mixture of R& B and Hip-Hop and the little dance floor is devoted to Reggae. Each time I went, they have had different dj’s but the reggae music always left me feeling like all my troubles were over. It is that good! Crowd is 25 & over, well behaved except that the men follow you around a lot. Keep the ones who can dance and bring a fly swatter for the rest.
Long Island – Club/Restaurant Nakisaki and its offspring Jamroc. Jamroc was originally designated for the 30 and over crowd. I don’t think that really applies anymore but they often feature reggae artists, live stage shows, comedy showcases and dj competitions. One very popular English veteran dj – David Rodigan comes at least once a year to battle various killer sounds such as Tony Matterhorn. Nice ambiance and music by the resident dj is alright. During the day and evening, Nakisaki features Chinese/Jamaican cuisine at reasonable prices and has a cozy and elegant atmosphere. The food is tasty.
Queens – The Q club off of Liberty and Archer Ave. – This club is over 10 years old. Once dubbed one of the best clubs in New York, by me, it has changed somewhat. It no longer has the original owners and now caters to the local youthful crowd. It is bi-level, featuring various selectors on a week to week basis and often features various artists. I have seen many stage shows here. Nice ambiance. However, the current crowd is very young and casual.
Club Amazura – Off of Merrick Blvd. Although I haven’t heard anything recently regarding this club, it is huge! It is also nicely set up with big screens, a big stage and at least two bars. I really liked this place. I have also seen artists such as Junior Kelly and Frankie Sly perform here.
Brooklyn – Caribbean City on Empire Blvd. This club has undergone a few name changes through the years. It has been around over 15 years. It has been Caribbean City for over 5 years. It features a lot of various selectors, some of them veterans, i.e. dj Carlton and dj Paul, (wicked star!) Currently it has Sunday night venues with local radio station bigwigs, Bobby Konders and Jabba. Personally, Saturday night was a favorite because the crowd was more mixed and I usually had to work on Monday. The music is always good and the crowd is always hype! Age range 23 and over.
Bronx – Famous for a lot of little places. Some common places to go, were Act III, this club is over 15 years old. It has also featured a lot of selectors. I haven’t been there in years so I am not sure what it is like now.
New Rochelle – Club Caribe – Home of the Ms. Jamaica Beauty Pageant. It features music on Friday and Saturday nights. It is also bi-level, has a beautiful ambiance but gets too crowded. Features a large Bronx crowd also. Music is pretty good and many stage shows are held here as well.
Although, I didn’t mention security, all of these clubs have pretty good security or else they wouldn’t be listed. I guess you can tell I love music. Let it be known that I have seen almost every artist listed here perform at least once. Except for Mr. Kevin Jackson aka Sanchez, who I have seen at least 10 times. What can I say, we all have a weakness. (P.S. Mr. Murphy pass on the word, he’s “living up, living up” in your neck of the woods now.) Anyway, you know what they say about New Yorkers, we know how to party. Bear in mind this is only a small microcosm of what is out there in the big city. The city that never sleeps. Faward, Faward, Pull up dat!!