The soul of Harlem

If ever you go to Harlem, make sure to remove your headphones, because this neighbourhood has its own soundtrack. There seem to be loudspeakers on every corner, playing soul or hip-hop. Add that to the bustle from the street vendors and incense stands. I took the subway up this morning for a music-filled guided tour of Harlem, and I was left wanting more.


The guide was fantastic. As a resident of the district, she not only knows its history but has seen some of it firsthand. A passionate storyteller and a blues and gospel singer herself, she serenade us throughout the short tour. We got to see the famous Apollo theatre, which launched the careers of legends like Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holliday and James Brown, to name a few.


Our guide packed in quite a bit of history and then led us to hear a concert that she herself had designed. Six singers and a piano player sang Gospel for us in powerful harmony and then took us through the history of African American music one performance at a time. Work songs, Blues, Jazz, RbB. Every singer sang their solo with so much heart, you’d think their life depended on it. And as if that wasn’t enough, they brought out a hip-hop dancer to do a dance number. Despite the crowd being made up mostly of rather stiff European tourists, our host managed to get everyone to their feet for at least a couple of songs. I found myself in a Soul Train and had to dance in front of everyone for a few seconds. It was an all around great time and a lesson in performing.


Before and after the show, I chatted up the people who run the theatre and took down the information about their upcoming show. Small victory of the day: I gave out my first business card in NY! The tour ended at a soul food restaurant where I had today’s special. I got through half my plate, luckily they allowed me to take the rest home.


And that’s about all I could handle for today. Spending the rest of the day on the couch. Today’s movie was Glengarry Glen Ross. Didn’t enjoy it as much as Rocky, but really really loved Al Pacino’s performance. Stay tuned!