Make Music New York @ Cornelia Street Café, Pt. I – Xylopholks
June 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
On Tuesday, June 21st, CSC and vocalist-curator Jean Rohe will present a troupe of spectacular musicians from throughout forms and genres on the tiny street just outside the Café. It’s our humble addition to Make Music New York, the all-day outdoors concert-giving extravaganza that grips New York City every year on the summer solstice. Among our performers: Xylopholks, costumed ragtime musicians led by composer-xlyophonist Jonathan Singer.
Biggest question first: There’s a lot going on here. There’s the ragtime, and the xylophone, and the costume. What led or inspired you to each of these aspects? What led or inspired you to combine them as you have?
Now, the costumes is another story. I wanted something as visually stimulating as the music. I also love animals and fuzzy creatures. It started with a big dog mascot and now my closet looks like a circus dressing room of sorts.
The Voice article on you guys refers to you as ‘buskers’. Are you not in the habit of doing paid-type indoor gigs? Is there something about using the street as a venue that seems especially well-suited (no pun intended) to your style of performance.
I love playing on the subway because we reach a huge audience and can really have an immediate impact on people. I see so many people who look like they haven’t smiled in ages break out in laughter. Kids love us, and they might not make it to the 1 AM bar gig! People dance, people cry, it’s really a beautiful experience playing underground.
Thanks! The purpose of my Fulbright was to do intensive study in mridangam and accompaniment of Carnatic music. MriWHAT? you might ask. That’s a drum from South India. I’ve been interested in Indian music and Indian percussion for the last decade or so. Carnatic music is the “classical” form of South Indian music. It’s really a life’s study and I’d say two lives for a foreigner. I found out I got the Fulbright at the same time the Xylopholks started doing a lot in New York. I decided to do some additional fundraising and bring the group to tour India while I was there. It was an amazing experience and we should have our tour documentary available soon (Martha, are you reading this?). The lessons I brought back were many in number. As a street performer I would say a lot of what I do is specifically informed by the streets of New York. I thought we could just drop into villages here and there and people would love it all the same. I think I might have been wrong, although for the most part things went well.
Do you guys do birthday parties? And, on a related note: Do you think giant furry creatures are an asset to music education for children? I think there may be a place for you on PBS (or possibly public access), if that’s a direction you’ve any interest in.
I got to check out the set on Sesame Street a couple weeks ago. It would be a dream to appear as an artist on that program. They seem to get people who are extremely popular artists though, which makes sense. Who knows though – I would love to do one of those shows. I didn’t set out to have a kids group, but what we do does appeal to children. Kids are generally interested in what giant furry creatures are doing. If they happen to be playing music or teaching music, all the better!