2016 marked the fourth consecutive year that Red Bull Music Academy set up shop in New York, presenting a month-long festival that celebrated both the city’s musically distinct past and promising future. With club nights and live performances taking place in unique venues across the city, as well as insightful public conversations with various musical luminaries, it was yet another thrilling month of music in New York. Check out the highlights of the 2016 festival below.
Anohni presents Hopelessness
The musician and activist Anohni, formerly Antony Hegarty of Antony & the Johnsons, appeared at the Park Avenue Armory for the world debut of her Hopelessness performance concept, tackling difficult world issues through transcendent “Trojan horse” pop structures and an understated but stunning visual approach. She also spoke to RBMA Daily for an extensive interview on the Hopelessness LP, with the Daily also exploring Anohni’s early work as part of the Blacklips performance collective.
Dizzee Rascal: Boy in da Corner Live
Grime kingpin Dizzee Rascal turned up in New York to perform his scene-shaping debut LP Boy in da Corner in its entirety for the first time, showcasing not only how far grime has come in the US since 2003, but how much energy it still has left to spare. To celebrate the occasion, RBMA Daily examined Rascal’s individual influences and presented a track-by-track look at Boy in da Corner, as well as creating a comic examining grime’s presence stateside and a photo mixtape of grime from three photographers long embedded in the scene.
Conversations: Madlib, Spike Lee, Glenn Branca & Beatmaker Roundtable
The 2016 RBMA Festival NYC featured four public conversations, each offering unique insight into the subject’s inspirations and creative processes. Spike Lee spoke with Nelson George about the use of music in his iconic films, and Madlib, one of the most prolific and enigmatic figures in hip hop, chopped it up with Jeff “Chairman” Mao on obscure jazz and funk, as well as his collaborations with MF Doom.
New York No Wave maestro Glenn Branca discussed his inimitable guitar symphonies and Metro Boomin, Zaytoven and Sonny Digital – three of contemporary hip hop’s most influential producers - dove in-depth into their early influences and breakout hits. Watch the available lectures by clicking on the images with the play buttons above.
A Night of Spiritual Jazz with Kamasi Washington, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra Arkestra
Saxophonist Kamasi Washington has been hailed as a savior of modern jazz due to the crossover popularity of his triple LP The Epic and notable contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. This event positioned Washington’s current success within the rich lineage and heritage of spiritual jazz, pairing his ferocious band with genre forebearers Pharaoh Sanders and the modern iteration of Sun Ra Arkestra, featuring saxophonist Marshall Allen. The Daily explored this heritage in articles on Anthony Braxton and Pharoah Sanders, as well as features unearthing Alice Coltrane’s distinct musical legacy, a look at the mind-bending art of spiritual jazz and an interview with none other than Kamasi Washington himself.
A youth-driven musical culture that offered a sense of inclusion for many of New York’s young Latinos, freestyle music in the late 1980s was defined by its combination of energetic electro, hip-hop rhythms and sugary pop vocals. The titans of the scene, including “Little” Louie Vega, Jellybean Benitez and vocal divas Shannon, Lisa Lisa and Judy Torres, reunited for a special event that asserted freestyle’s emotional impact years after it first made waves.
The Note is a documentary series that uncovers and examines the vital creative crossroads and engrossing personal journeys that have and continue to shape our sonic landscape in profound ways.
We debuted the first episodes during our time in New York, including a look at New York sound guru Alex Rosner, who designed the soundsystems at some of NYC’s most iconic clubs, Eddie Palmieri and his 1971 LP Harlem River Drive, a politically charged Latin-funk masterpiece so ahead of its time its influence continues to resonate decades later, and E.A.T., the pioneering collaboration in the 1960s between seminal New York visual artists and engineers at Bell Labs. Watch the first episode below.
A volcanic vocalist and longtime activist, Diamanda Galas returned to New York for her first shows in the city in seven years, hosted in the impressive confines of the former St. Thomas Church in Harlem. With a simple piano set-up highlighting the sheer power of her voice, Galas pulled from a vast repertoire of blues, jazz and cabaret pieces that fully showcased her magnetic charisma, still in top form after thirty years of shock-and-awe performances. To accompany the performance, RBMA Daily enlisted artists inspired by Galás to pen tributes to her work, as well as providing a primer for Galás diverse works, an analysis of her inimitable voice and a look at her impressive history of melding politics and art.
The Technopolis party united key faces from the Brooklyn techno scene such as Anthony Naples, Galcher Lustwerk, Aurora Halal, Dust, Umfang, Via App and more, highlighting shared geography while emphasizing their distinct musicality. From jagged-edge techno to brooding afterhours house and pillowy electronics, these producers’ music has already had an impact far beyond the borough of Brooklyn despite the spatial limitations imposed on the local scene.
The music of No Wave icon Glenn Branca encourages the listener to surrender to what can be overwhelming yet ultimately beautiful noise. An inspiration for seminal groups such as Sonic Youth, Glenn Branca sat for a rare public conversation in which he discussed his artistic intentions, while 15 guitarists (and one very hardworking drummer) gathered in the stunning Masonic Temple to offer an intense performance of some of Branca’s most intriguing guitar symphonies.
Kiki – NYC Film Premiere
The festival began with the debut of KIKI, the intimate and inspirational film on New York’s contemporary ballroom subculture. Directed by Sara Jordenö and written in collaboration with Twiggy Pucci Garçon, the screening at El Museo del Barrio included a “Legends, Statements & Stars” performance featuring the likes of Junior Labeija and DJ MikeQ. You can also feast your eyes on a photo mixtape of the ballroom scene.
Last Night A DJ Saved My Soul
Inspired by the RBMA Daily article of the same name, Last Night A DJ Saved My Soul brought together artists saving souls on and off the dancefloor through a unique synthesis of transcendent music and transportive messages. Guests included famed choral group the Joubert Singers, whose “Stand On the Word” was an early gospel-house classic, New Jersey’s “King of Gospel House” Kenny Bobien, DJ Pierre of acid house pioneers Phuture, Ann Nesby of Sounds of Blackness, and Detroit’s Terrence Parker and Robert Hood AKA Floorplan, both of whom are actually ordained ministers.
The Bunker x Dekmantel
Two respected parties and record labels from opposite sides of the world found they have more in common than at first glance at this event, which brought together New York’s long-running Bunker party and Amsterdam’s scene kingpins Dekmantel. With a lineup featuring residents and label family members alike, it was a reminder of the diverse artistic possibilities found in the shared language of house and techno.
Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive Revisited
From Spanish Harlem to the Smithsonian, the career of Grammy-winning pianist Eddie Palmieri has been an assertion of the transportive power to be found in melding Latin rhythms with classic funk and jazz structures. Palmieri, now 79, led a crack band at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park for an uproarious homecoming and 45th anniversary celebration of his seminal 1971 LP Harlem River Drive that had the local crowd dancing in the aisles.
Launched during the festival, Shattered Streams was a web experiment in musical ephemerality, featuring music from 31 artists throughout the month of May. Inspired equally by the fleeting ecstasy of William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops and the modern emphasis on streaming-centric listening, each song was only available for a maximum period of 24 hours, degrading over that period until they simply disappeared.
Participating artists included William Basinski, Fatima Al Qadiri, patten, Fennesz, Aurora Halal, Mumdance, Wolf Eyes, M. Geddes Gengras and more. William Basinski and M. Geddes Gengras also met in Los Angeles for an episode of RBMA Radio’s Encounters series, while RBMA Daily explored the ways unintentional and creative degradation impact our emotional response to music.
Album Art IQ
How well do you know your album covers? Album Art IQ was a collaborative web project between Red Bull Music Academy and Folder Studio. A fun and competitive guessing game, it revealed the history of individual albums and their artwork, in categories ranging from classic NYC to metal and electronic and hip hop.
Mark Pritchard x Jonathan Zawada - Under the Sun A/V Installation
On the occasion of his new album Under The Sun, which featured vocal contributions from artists ranging from Thom Yorke to a (sampled) Julie Andrews, the Australian producer Mark Pritchard collaborated with album artwork designer Jonathan Zawada for an immersive visual installation, bringing foreign landscapes and sounds that both excite and confuse to the Red Bull Studios in New York.
NON: Legacy Systems and Inter-Zone: NON vs N.A.A.F.I
The three co-founders of the NON collective came together for the first time ever at this year’s Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York, bringing their mission of “using sound to disrupt social binaries and examine reverberations of racialized violence” to two different spaces in Manhattan. Their first stop was at the New Museum, where Chino Amobi, Nkisi and Angel-Ho proclaimed the NON State, complete with custom-made passports and boarding passes, startling visuals and a special collaborative performance. The crew later brought their disruptive sounds to Tropical 128, where they joined forces with fellow global-minded collective N.A.A.F.I for a night of revolutionary club mayhem, which included sets and performances by Dedekind Cut, Total Freedom, Scraaatch, Gaika, Rabit and Elysia Crampton.
Red Bull Radio maintained a strong presence at Red Bull Studios throughout the 2016 festival, hosting 12 hours of live radio every day boasting guests such as Vivien Goldman, Mark Pritchard, Kathleen Hanna, Kindness, Federation Sound and many more, while also launching the Counter Intelligence series on record stories and broadcasting the first edition of Dâm-Funk’s Glydezone in conjunction with his DJ-Kicks mix CD.
Once again, we collaborated with Doubleday & Cartwright to commission a series of striking images for each of the 2016 festival events. Check out a selection below, as well as examples of the artwork brought to life on the streets and subways of New York City thanks to Colossal Media.