Saturday, June 23, 2012
A Tale if Two Bronx Neighborhoods
Two Bronx neighborhoods I have studied through a research project I direct, the Bronx African American History Project ( www.fordham.edu/baahp) havve produced more varieties of popular music than any neighborhood in the world. From the 1940's through the 1970's these two neighborhoods, Morrisania and Hunts Point, were the home to musicians, and students in the public schools, who helped create Mambo, Be-Bop, Rock and Roll,Doo Wop, Salss, Funk,and Latin Soul.. Some of the key artists who lived , performed in those communities were Tito Puete, Arsenio Rodriguez, Thelonious Monk,Mongo Santamaria, Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock, the Chords, the Chantels, Lou Donaldson, Nancy Wilson, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, and Ashford and Simpson. Later, from the 1970's to the present, when Grandmaster Flash was living and performing in Morrisania, these same neighborhoods helped spawn hip hop, and more recently Bachata, Cumbia, and Hip Life, the music of Dominican, Mexioan and Ghanaian immigrants. The key to the musical creativity of these communities was their unique ethnic mix. In the 1940's and 1950's, African Americans, West Indians, and Puerto Ricans moved into these neighborhoods which were largely populated by Jews and Italians. The Jews and Italians didn't move out right away, creating communities which were more racially and culturally diverse than any other neighborhoood in New York City, quite possibly the country. The result, people shared their music and created hybrid musical traditions, and the schools, which had great music programs, helped nurture them. When people discover how many great artists and great musical genres came out of these neighborhoods, they get very excited. Today, I hold musical walking tours of these communities for people from all over the country and all over the world!