Sunday, June 7, 2009

Brooklyn Museum's First Saturdays

Every first Saturday of the month The Brooklyn Museum of Art throws a huge FREE party for all of New York, and I gotta tell ya, it is a party. There's cash bars on multiple levels serving Brooklyn Lager and plastic cups of wine. There's usually live music on different floors competing with DJs. And people dance. I mean, this is Brooklyn we're talking about. The dance floor is packed whether there's a live salsa band or a DJ spinnin old school jams. When my brother was in town he flipped when he saw how crazy people went when the DJ closed out the night by playing "No Sleep Til Brooklyn." You know, I think the Beasties lied to me, I moved to Brooklyn and I still don't get any sleep.

"First Saturdays" are sponsored by one of those huge union-busting "big box" stores, you know the kind that are destroying everything that is unique about New York, putting small mom and pops, bodegas and other independent businesses out of business and turning the City landscape into one big strip mall that could be Anywhere, USA. Indianapolis. Minneapolis. Chicago. Terre Haute. But at least they are giving something back by throwing us the craziest f***ing party you'll ever see in an art museum.

If you haven't been you should really go. I'm serious, they are fun, and it seems like everyone in Brooklyn and their momma shows up.

The theme this time around was Islamic art and culture.

Sufi-inspired Soul Jazz band Brooklyn Qawwali Party rocked the first floor pavilion with their funky tribute to the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, aka "The Emperor of Qawwali." Pakastani musician Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who came from a long line of Qawwali performers (dating back 600 years), was responsible for blending modern sounds with the ancient art of Qawwali, the devotional music of the Sufis (a mystical tradition within Islam). The Brooklyn Qawwali Party plays mainly instrumental versions of his Qawwalis on conventional Jazz instruments rather than traditional instruments associated with Qawwali.

The free tickets for the screening of "I Love Hip Hop in Morocco" went fast (all 340 of them). I would have loved to have seen that. The documentary on the first Hop Hop concert in Morocco would probably make a good double feature with "Slingshot Hip Hop", which is about Palestinian Hip Hop, and features my favorite bilingual Arabic/English Hip Hop emcees, DAM (Da Arabian MCs). In fact I wish the BK Museum got DAM to play the event, that would've been the shit. But I have no complaints, the BMoA throws a hell of a party every month and it doesn't cost a thing.

From 9:00 pm til 11:00 pm DJs Fabian Alsultany and DJ Pepe spun Arabic dance music in the parking lot of the museum and it was so packed people were spilling out into the grass and up the hill. At one point some of the kids from the breakdancing crew that were performing earlier out in front of the museum climbed up on top of a really tall truck and started dancing on top of it. The crowd went nuts. It was so cool. There were some belly dancers winding through the crowd, full on belly dancing costumes. They had the moves.

The vibe was all kinds of Brooklyn. Everyone just dancing, having a good time. People of all races, gender expressions, sexualities, class backgrounds, religions. It was so cool seeing so many Heredi Orthodox Jews chillin at an event celebrating Islamic culture. But that's what Brooklyn is all about to me. Yeah, I know there's all the different tensions, and the old saying goes that "Brooklyn has people from every country on the face of the planet, and none of them can get along" but there are spaces like the Brooklyn Museum First Saturday Parties, the African Dance Festival, Atlantic Antic and Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park where people do all come together to party, to play, and to celebrate our shared human-ness.

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