Back in 1986 the City Parks Foundation created Summerstage in the spirt of Central Park’s original purpose — to serve as a free, public resource to help culturally enrich the lives of New Yorkers. The first season of the program had some relatively humble beginnings, as it’s first shows were at the Naumberg Bandshell in Central Park, but with the artists such as the Sun Ra Arkestra and legendary South African act Ladysmith Black Mambazo, among others performing in the first couple of seasons of Summerstage, Summerstage started and has continued a reputation for presenting a diverse array of artists across different cultures and genres. And the great thing about it, is that most, if not all of the shows are free (and/or extremely cheap) to the public. Last year, Summerstage paid homage to hip-hop’s 40th anniversary, as they hosted the likes of Big Daddy Kane; Das EFX; the godfather of hip hop himself, DJ Kool Herc; influential soul and rock musician, Shuggie Otis, the incredible Joshua Nelson, known for what he’s coined Jewish Gospel; Femi Kuti, the son of Afrobeat’s legendary godfather, Fela Kuti; and countless others.
Over 25 years since it’s initial founding, Summerstage has expanded to parks, bandshells and makeshift stages all across the city’s five boroughs and from experience I can tell you that it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or summer evening — especially if you want to catch music you may be familiar with, as well as artists performing in genres that you’d likely not even know (and should know).
Naturally, within the first few week of the New Year, we all feel hopeful about the seemingly endless possibilities of the year; however, over the last few years, the second week of January has also been the week that Summerstage, along with Santa Monica Pier Curators hosts a preview showcase, featuring some of the artists that will be performing at venues across the city through the upcoming summer.
Along with Malaysian singer/songwriter Yuna, the 11 member act Rebel Tumbao will be playing at Summerstage this year, and at this year’s Summerstage Preview Showcase at the Highline Ballroom this upcoming Thursday. Led by Matt Jenson (keys) and Jose Clausell (multi-percussionist), Rebel Tumbao’s sound adeptly mixes Cuban son, a genre popularized in the 1930s that employed elements of Spanish cancion, Spanish guitar and African percussion; contemporary Roots Reggae; soul music, gospel and African folk music. In some way, their sound reminds me a little bit of Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches but naturally with more of an emphasis on reggae.
Check out Rebel Tumbao’s cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up.” it’ll give you a great sense of the band’s sound – and the sort of sound you’ll catch at the Summerstage Preview Showcase and at Summerstage later this year.