on De jimbé in New York, 1 /3 /01 - 6 /3 /01
an invitation to participate in New Yorks only inclusive
St Patricks 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.
1st of March 2001
Fleming and Padhraic Lavin play session in Paddy Reillys
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.
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
bands expenses for the weekend.
10.30pm the entire group perform at one of the East villages
most respected venues; The Living Room. The performance
is extremely well received and is broadcast live on the web
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 Patricks
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
broadcast a song from the bands live CD.
3am finds the band playing at a private party
in the Chameleon
in midtown Manhattan with one of New Yorks more successful
DJs; Pal Joey. In
the morning, De jimbé are mentioned again in the Sunday
edition of the New
At 1pm, the St Patricks Parade in Queens starts with
a blessing from a catholic nun from De jimbés
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
11pm, De jimbé play at Arlenes 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.
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 Flannerys 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 Flannerys 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
Brian also took time out to do an interview for RTE television
who were covering the bands 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 Monas bar in
the East Village. Here some of the top players in Manhattan
and members of New Yorks 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.
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
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
three times. At all performances and in all interviews, the
band made a point
of mentioning their sponsors; The Arts Council and The Cultural
Committee of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
While no money was made by the band on this trip, we gained
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
achieved at minimal financial cost to individual band members.
To this end we
would like to thank the singer Susan Mc Keown, parade organiser,
(and his partner Tom) and film maker, Lyell Davies.
of this trip on De jimbes future
The first trip to the States is the hardest for any band and
in financial loss. Not only have we survived our first trip,
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
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
come to be seen as the St Patricks 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,
to Earth and Calypso. We will also do all we can to help secure
sponsorship for the parade and try again to bring the Millennium
Drum as a
symbol of harmony and reconciliation.
members of De jimbe who travelled to New York were:
Brian O Toole
Deasuin O Cathalain
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Hugh O Byrne