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Report on De jimbé in New York, 1 /3 /01 - 6 /3 /01

Following an invitation to participate in New York’s only ‘inclusive’ St Patrick’s Day parade in Queens, New York, De jimbé undertook to travel to New York to participate in the historic parade and, while there, to do a number of other performances to introduce the group in America.
The band were aided in their endeavour by the donation of seven ‘Artflights’ from the Irish Arts Council and 1,000 Irish pounds from the Cultural Relations Committee of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.
The whole trip, by any standard of measurement was successful far beyond even the most optimistic expectations of the band.

 

Performances

  • Thursday 1st of March 2001

Brian Fleming and Padhraic Lavin play session in Paddy Reilly’s Irish bar in midtown Manhattan. They meet up with Niall O Leary, chairman of the Manhattan branch of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann. They establish their credentials with local players, spread the word about forthcoming De jimbé gigs and play with excellent bluegrass musicians.

  • Friday 2nd of March 2001

Whole group, except bass player play at Rigo Park primary school in Queens at 11am to 200 students of mixed backgrounds, mostly Hispanic and Russian/ Eastern European. Response from the children is extremely warm and enthusiastic. Two special children are invited to play with the group. All children learn the names of the instruments and a couple of words of Irish. Afterwards, one class stay behind to perform some songs of their own for us. The parents make an unsolicited donation of $200 to the band’s expenses for the weekend.
10.30pm the entire group perform at one of the East village’s most respected venues; ‘The Living Room’. The performance is extremely well received and is broadcast live on the web (liveontheweb.com).

  • Saturday 3rd of March 2001

1pm - 4pm, the band record in the studios of Channel 34, a community access tv station broadcasting daily to Manhattan island. The 15 minutes of music will be broadcast on television on St Patrick’s Day as well as by webcast. While there, they were also filmed for channel 7 News, a network TV station that broadcasts across America. The band appeared on the 7pm and 11pm news programmes that evening. The band were also mentioned in the Saturday edition of the New York Times that day. Radio Free Eire broadcast a song from the band’s live CD.

  • Sunday 4th of March 2001

3am finds the band playing at a private party in the Chameleon in midtown Manhattan with one of New York’s more successful DJs; Pal Joey. In the morning, De jimbé are mentioned again in the Sunday edition of the New York Times.
At 1pm, the St Patrick’s Parade in Queens starts with a blessing from a catholic nun from De jimbé’s float. After all the hype about controversy and protests, the parade is a simple innocent and joyful celebration. The band are the highlight of a parade, playing to happy faces of every imaginable race and creed along the twoor threemiles of the parade route. People line the route with their children and wave out of fifth floor windows.
The protesters, like the big snowstorm that was predicted, fail to show. Of all the people on the entire route, only three old ladies carry a banner ‘SODOMITES STAY AWAY FROM OUR CHILDREN’. The fourth protester who had been widely quoted in the press in the previous weeks was arrested before the parade started for vandalising decorations along the route with a knife. The previous day he had been chased from a school by angry parents for distributing literature about sodomites to children. He is also banned by a restraining order from approaching certain gay people he has assaulted in the past.
Before, during and after the parade, the band pose for photographs for various local , Irish and gay newspapers.
The band are shown on Channel 1; the main News Channel for New York.
11pm, De jimbé play at Arlene’s Grocery, the hottest live venue in the East Village. Other Irish bands to play there in the recent past include Kila, the Frames and Brian Kennedy. The gig is another great success despite storm warnings and is also broadcasted live on the web.

  • Monday 5th of March 2001

DJ Pal Joey invites the band to record with him but time is against us. Provisional plans are made for him to come to Ireland in June to record.
Brian Fleming gives a 2 hour workshop in Flannery’s Irish Bar in midtown Manhattan to members of the Manhattan branch of Comhaltas and the Irish Arts Centre and other bodhran enthusiasts. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Padhraic Lavin provide melodies.
The trio then forms the core group for a session from 9.30 to 11.30 for Comhaltas in Flannery’s bar.
For participants and workshop facilitator alike, the workshop was the best bodhran workshop any of us had attended. In 12 years of workshops, Brian had never come across students so hungry for knowledge and so unabashed and articulate about their questions.
Brian also took time out to do an interview for RTE television who were covering the band’s participation in the parade for a new Arts Magazine show to be screened in April.
To finish the night and the trip, members of the group participated in the legendary Monday night session in Mona’s bar in the East Village. Here some of the top players in Manhattan and members of New York’s ‘Whirligig’ mixed with members of Riverdance and De jimbé. Also present (with his camera) was musician/ journalist Fintan Valelly. The tunes and pints flowed until 8am Tuesday morning.

 

Summary


As well as playing in an historic parade which establishes the new Irish in
New York, the band played at 3 informal sessions, 2 prestigious gigs, one
‘hip’ party with an established DJ/ producer, recorded for one television
show, on channel 34, were played twice on Network News; on Channel 7 and
Channel 1, were also filmed and interviewed for RTE, were mentioned on at
least 2 occasions in the New York Times, will have featured in half a dozen
smaller papers by now, were broadcast on Radio Free Eire and, at home, on
Radio Na Gaelteachta and in full sound and colour on the World Wide Web,
three times. At all performances and in all interviews, the band made a point
of mentioning their sponsors; The Arts Council and The Cultural Relations
Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
While no money was made by the band on this trip, we gained extremely
valuable experience, contacts, exposure and publicity. Thanks to sales of
T-shirts and live CDs, sponsorship from the Arts Council and the CRC and the
generous gift of accommodation by our hosts in America, all this was
achieved at minimal financial cost to individual band members. To this end we
would like to thank the singer Susan Mc Keown, parade organiser, Brendan Fay
(and his partner Tom) and film maker, Lyell Davies.

 

Influence of this trip on De jimbe’s future

The first trip to the States is the hardest for any band and usually results in financial loss. Not only have we survived our first trip, we thoroughly enjoyed it. We have proven there is a market for our group there and we are closer now to having enough contacts to pursue it. We will start planning now for a short tour this time next year.
Moreover, we were extremely impressed by this new parade which aims to celebrate and entertain and to invite other communities to celebrate with the Irish. It may well be that, at some point in the future, this parade will come to be seen as ‘the’ St Patrick’s day parade in New York. We will be using our contacts in the theatre world in Ireland to try and secure a larger Irish contingent for next year, targeting groups such as Macnas, Spraoi, Down to Earth and Calypso. We will also do all we can to help secure commercial sponsorship for the parade and try again to bring the Millennium Drum as a symbol of harmony and reconciliation.

 

The members of De jimbe who travelled to New York were:

Bian Fleming
Brian O Toole
Deasuin O Cathalain
Olabisi Adigun
Padhraic Lavin
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Hugh O Byrne

 
© De Jimbe & Padraic Lavin 2001. Hosted by ForumCo