Photos by Ryan Muir
In its third year and counting, the Emerging Music Festival, hosted by Bryant Park Corporation, had yet another success featuring an all-star, two-day lineup of new music, diversified in style from Afro-beat to rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately, several groups did not appear because of weather. Bryant Park, an historic site behind the world-famous New York Public Library (the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 42nd Street), is an ideal location for this event.
Landlady kicked off the first night, transforming Bryant Park’s lawn into a condensed Woodstock with their manic energy and distorted rock ballads. The local, Brooklyn-based Super Yamba Band switched it up the second night, introducing the Afro-beat funk reminiscent to the ’70s combined with traditional instrumentation and lyrics such as ‘tibiti’ from West Africa. Featuring Kaleta singing lead and playing a traditional instrument whose name means ‘drum that stops war,’ the group’s music references ancient griot traditions of North and West African culture.
The festival shifted gears once again with crooner Cassandra Jenkins taking the stage with her love ballads reminiscent of the ’50s greats, a fitting mood for summer on a beautiful park lawn. Space Captain, fronted by vocalist Maralisa Simmons-Cook, makes neo-soul fusion their own in their original songs and unique configuration, substituting a typical brass section with just one trumpet, along with keyboards, drums, and guitar.
To end the festival, Maybird literally swooped in. A palette of slide guitar, pedal distortion, the band features overhand guitar playing by member Sam Snyder. The group’s sound is a thick and rich fabric woven with drums and crisp vocals that lend a whole new perspective on the dialogue among two or three guitars. Shifting between tonality and improvisation, they then ground the audience with deliberate lyrics: ‘It’s so fine to call you mine.’ Maybird begins a residency at the Knitting Factory in September, and the Super Yamba Band will be performing as part of the World Music Institute’s Africa Series: these artists truly are emerging, so stay tuned to catch these groups in their upcoming performances.