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Thursday, March 22 • 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Conference Opening Keynote: The Artist in the City
with Angelique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Santigold, and Heems

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Writing about how jazz in the mid-20th century reflected lived experience in New York city’s tenements, the scholar Shane Vogel quoted Duke Ellington’s description of his swing symphony, Harlem Air Shaft

“So much goes on in a Harlem air shaft...You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love. You hear intimate gossip floating down. You hear the radio. An air shaft is one great big loudspeaker.” In the crowded city, the musician-composer becomes a living receiver, distilling a static field of sounds and sensations into an evocative whole."

This keynote event gathers together four prominent artists whose work reflects a cosmopolitan worldview, with each artist rooted in his or her particular urban home.

Grammy winning Beninoise singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo has truly had a global career, having recorded albums in a staggering array of languages, styles, genres and cities. Her recently-released live album Spirit Rising is a career retrospective featuring diverse guests like Ezra Koenig, Josh Groban and the Kuumba Singers.

Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding is about to release her third album, Radio Music Society, a border-crossing blend of jazz, soul, funk and pop that reflects the cities she loves: New York, Barcelona, and her birthplace of Portland, Oregon.

Philadelphia-bred, Brooklyn-based Santigold (Santi White) is one of the brightest lights of the East Coast bohemian underground; her upcoming second album, Master of My Make Believe, takes her incendiary blend of hip hop, indie rock and dance music to a new level.

On his recent mixtape Nehru Jackets, Himanshu Suri (Heems) of the Queens-identified hip hop group Das Racist drops wit and wisdom about the ups and downs of life in Gotham’s five boroughs. Discussing their new work and how they’ve formed their own sound and vision in relationship to the urban spaces where they thrive, these artists consider what’s changed and what remains consistent in the half-century plus since the Duke found heaven in the clanging multiplicity of the air shaft.

Moderated by: Ann Powers







avatar for Santigold


Santigold is Santi White: an artist whose perseverance relies on invention, a champion who survives off her own skill and faith. She is a major muse watched by the inspired world, an in categorical performer who collapses time and genre with one hand guided by tradition, while the other hand carves out a shining future. Santigold is neither calm nor mayhem, but from her lungs burst every color in between. After four years of hide and seek... Read More →
avatar for Himanshu Suri aka Heems

Himanshu Suri aka Heems

Himanshu Suri (aka Heems) grew up in Queens, New York, a borough that still figures strongly in his creative palette. After studying economics and South Asian studies at Wesleyan University, he formed the hip hop group Das Racist with fellow rapper Victor Vazquez and hype man Ashok Kondabolu. Das Racist has gained critical and popular attention with its mixtapes Shut Up,Dude, and Sit Down, Man, and released its official debut album, Relax, in... Read More →
avatar for Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo offers a banquet of rare musical treats in her new Razor & Tie album, Spirit Rising.  Recorded in Boston during a PBS concert at station WGBH, it showcases Kidjo amid a line of special guests that includes Josh Groban, Dianne Reeves, Branford Marsalis and Ezra Koenig.  Angelique’s prior associations with Groban, Reeves and Marsalis have already produced some memorable results.  And the presence of... Read More →

Ann Powers

Ann Powers is a critic for NPR Music and author of the books Tori Amos: Piece by Piece (with the artist) and Weird Like Us: My Bohemian America.   Abstract: | | "'Free Your Head': Psychedelic Rock's Erotic Cities" Between 1967 and 1969, the youth of America created a floating polis that reshaped the rules of conventional society. Much has been written about the counterculture’s politics, its fashions, its music and its mores... Read More →
avatar for Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding, a bassist/vocalist/composer, was one of the biggest breakout stars of 2011—not just in jazz, but in all genres of music. Her receipt of the 2011 Grammy for Best New Artist was unprecedented—the first time a jazz musician had won the award. Her albums include Junjo, Esperanza, and Chamber Music Society. Spalding’s latest release, Radio Music Society, includes, among many others, jazz legends Joe Lovano, Jack... Read More →

Thursday March 22, 2012 7:00pm - 8:30pm
NYU’s Helen and Martin Kimmel Center for University Life (KC) 60 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012

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