Sunday, October 18, 2009

A symphony of hip-hop, spoken word and classical violin

Where can you hear hip-hop, classical violin and spoken word, by artists from Venezuela, Pakistan and Hong Kong by way of Brooklyn? The answer: Jackson Heights (Queens) at the 5th. Chili Salon.

22 people braved a surprise October monsoon to crowd into the living room of Anthony Ng and Donna Chin. Awaiting them was a pot of seasoned chili - traditional and veggie – courtesy of Donna Chin; spicy dal and roti from Roy; Selroti from Nepal (courtesy of Luna) and as always, wine and plenty of lively conversation. The clear culinary winner was the humble corn-bread – prepared from a recipe of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY).

Sarah Husain began the evening with vivid poetry about faith, resilience, and the therapeutic power of writing. 'She desires instantaneously to move onto another road. Far from here, away from such rains and lightning.....' she immersed the rapt audience with imagery of violence, bruised souls and lives lived between disconnected signals. With the gentle tugging of her daughter by her side, Sarah left us with the poem, 'Evacuating 3 million people, or in other worlds having technical difficulties' and the question, can she sew memories, her desires digitally? In response to a question, Sarah chatted with the audience about the moment she considered herself a poet. She concluded by sharing how her work is moving into more performance and interdisciplinary realms.

Next up was the talented violinist Gabriela Rengel, whose magical fingers danced across the strings as she rendered the 1st. Movement of Sergei Prokofiev's, Sonata for Solo Violin in D Major, Op. 115. Written to be played by several violins, she told us that this piece is often played as a violin solo. Moved by Gabby's technical prowess, Shajan raised the sheet music from her music stand, and inspired awe from everyone about the dense number of notes that her piece contained. She talked about her intense 8-hour rehearsals, and how yoga and breathing exercises help her prepare and build endurance for her performances. When asked if she looked down on music that was digitally composed, she admitted bashfully, that she does admire Britney Spears and appreciates that the trained and classically untrained both have something to offer to the music world.

Finally, it was the turn of the Hong Kong born, and Brooklyn raised Anthony Ng. Everyone jammed into his DJ room, replete with a priceless collection of nearly 1000 LP's. With a disarming smile, Anthony walked us through the basics of being a DJ, and performed a beat juggling set with A Tribe Called Quest's "Oh My God." Beat juggling involves playing two copies of the same record while going back and forth from each one and backspinning the records to create a new musical pattern.

He also offered a rhythmic history lesson of hip-hop and deejaying, from its origins in the South Bronx, and reminded us of how the DJ paved the way for the creation of most of today's pop and dance music. He concluded with a tribute to MJ and thoughts on digital versus analog music (We don't think he's a Britney fan :)

Artist Bios:

Sarah Husain was born in New York City and grew up in Hong Kong, Sudan and Pakistan. She is the editor of Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War Faith and Sexuality, Seal Press, 2006. Her written and performance poetry is concerned with memory, nation, violence, bioterrorism and the female body. As an activist and artist she has worked with communities of color on issues of immigrant rights, access to public higher education and grassroots anti violence projects in the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. Over the recent years both her writing and activism has made active interventions on current discourses of gender, sexuality, and violence as it relates to “Muslim” women in the US. Her poetry career began on the spoken word stages of Staten Island and Manhattan. She has read and performed her work in venues across the country. From Abrons Arts Center; Henry Street Settlement; the Bowery Poetry Club; Brooklyn Museum;Lincoln Center; the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe; and Queens Museum of Art, among other spaces. She has been supported by the Joyce Foundation, Poets & Writers, the Chicago Guild and South Asian Women’s Creative Collective and was a recipient of Hedgebrook writer’s residency.

Anthony Ng (DJ Ang) was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Brooklyn. Since the early 80s at age 11, he has been a hip-hop fan. He credits hip-hop music and culture for shaping his early influences about community, progressive politics, and the power of music. Anthony first dee-jayed parties in college. He further developed his craft after graduating, when he made the biggest purchase of his life at the time – buying a pair of Technics 1200 turntables. Both his love for spinning, and its ability to bring people together has resonated with Anthony throughout his life. In 2002, he and several friends formed Restless Produxns, a group that hosted the popular Tantrum and Sweet Sessions parties that offered a space for queer folks of color and their allies to connect and get their dance on. While he doesn’t do as many parties as he used to, you can still find him getting on the 1s and 2s in his new pad in Jackson Heights.

Violinist Gabriela Rengel began her musical studies at the Federico Villena Music School in her native Venezuela. As a young violinist she became principal second violinist of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Aragua, one of the satellite orchestras of “El Sistema.” As a young solo artist, she has performed with the Queens Philharmonia, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Aragua, and the Queens College Symphony. She has also performed extensively as a chamber musician, working with such artists as Daniel Phillips and David Jolley. Rengel received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in violin performance from the Aaron Copland School of Music. She has been a member of the Albany Symphony Orchestra since 2005, and has also recently performed a series of duo recitals with pianist Ejona Gjermeni. Ms. Rengel became a member of the Madison String Quartet in 2008. She currently resides in Woodside, Queens. For more information about Gabriela and the Madison String Quartet, visit