Over a dozen steel pan drummers teamed up with a number of salsa Latin jazz musicians to create a magical night of live music and dance with a Caribbean flair, coupled with surprise visits from the NYC Public Advocate and the Ambassador to Dominica at the launch of the Marine Park Summer Concert Series located near the park’s bocce courts on Thursday, June 23rd.
“This is the kickoff for all our summer concert series, so I think it was quite fitting since June is Caribbean Heritage Month to kick it off with a little bit of a different tone — the Salsa/Caribbean tone,” Assemblywoman Jaime Williams said.
The cultural notes, rhythms and salsa beats of Kool Element Latin Jazz Project warming up before the show filled the air, extending an invitation to all who entered the park to take in the Caribbean vibe with a promise that something new and exciting was about to happen.
Both musical groups were invited by Assemblywoman Williams and come from the 59th District that she represents. The band leader and founder of Kool Element, Eddie Martinez, has lived in Canarsie for 32 years. He is a 69th Precinct Community Affairs volunteer and co-founder of the East 88th Street Block Association located by Flatlands Avenue.
The Midwood Steel Band Players kicked off the performances. They worked in unison and artfully maneuvered their rubber-tipped pan sticks around the shiny interior surfaces of the steel pan drums, creating the unique sounds of the Caribbean, which included familiar tunes from well-known performers such as Bob Marley and others who have made this genre of music known around the world.
Williams said that the steel band players came from the Midwood Senior Center, which is under Millennium Development. “That’s where they practice,” she said. “I’ve been there many times and they play very well so I asked them to participate.”
Kool Element delivered a salsa Latin Jazz beat using a variety of conga drums, trumpet, stringed and percussion instruments, and many other types of instruments to make their kind of music that is also known in the Caribbean. Dancers and couples joined in one by one as they danced to the music on the walkway by the band.
In between the performances was a surprise visit by NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams whose mother was playing in the steel band. He was joined by State Senator Roxanne Persaud and Millennium Development Executive Director Paul Curiale.
“I’m happy to be out here today with our state senator and Millennium,” the public advocate said. “Most importantly, I got to hear my Mom play pan one more time.”
Another special guest was Kelver Darroux, Ambassador to Dominica. “Dominica is one of the most beautiful islands in the world — and for those of you who are not familiar with Dominica, we are a nation island in the southern part of the Caribbean between two French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique,” he said. Both he and Dr. Judy Newton of the Newton Foundation donated raffle baskets for the special event.
The evening culminated in a special solo performance by Donald Cranston, former candidate for NYC Council District 46, who added to the fun with his rendition of a Caribbean song he learned on a cruise ship, which people seemed to really enjoy.
Williams gave special thanks to Dawn Simon who represented Kings Plaza, the main sponsor of the event, as well as co-sponsors Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse, District Manager Sue Ann Partnow, District Leader Frank Seddio, NYC Parks, Marine Park Alliance, Millennium Development, Marine Park Community Association and Nick’s Lobster House.
The concert series takes place every other week until the end of August. The Regina Opera will be performing opera and Broadway tunes on Wednesday, July 13th at 7 p.m. Rain date is July 14th.