If you were to use one word to describe what underscores the music and ambiance of a typical evening at the David Rubenstein Atrium, that word might be: community. The shared experience that unfolds at a typical Atrium performance stirs a magical energy within all those who enter on any particular evening. Remarkable for its sheer variety, the Atrium might offer anything from a Puerto Rican trumpeter who keeps audiences on the dance floor to the immersive experience of contemporary composer Michael Pisaro.
In August and September, the most colorful of voices and melodies will shake the foundations of the Atrium. A multitude of international artists—all bringing unique translations of their relationships to community, celebration, and varying cultural influences—takes the stage. And all of these performances are free!
Equal parts entertaining and enlightening, the Atrium hosts its own set of musical guests and co-presents events that are part of other Lincoln Center series. Artists-in-residence for the Mostly Mozart Festival, the International Contemporary Ensemble stops by on August 9 for a 100-person performance titled A wave and waves. The show will be as much a vocal performance as a collection of the microscopic soundscapes woven into our everyday lives. These seemingly quotidian sensations swell into the voices of a massive chorus while carving out space for intimacy and meditation.
Jordana Leigh, director of the Atrium, invites patrons to take a curated journey to various cultural backdrops. This year, the spotlight shines on a notably international demographic. Leigh explains: “The Latino, Latina, Latinx community is about a third of the population in New York City, and that representation is important to us as a programming priority. So, we are looking at how we can celebrate, honor, and showcase a variety of Latin artists.”
The Atrium takes an extensive tour of the music of Latin America. Energized by the plentiful population in New York City as well the bountiful styles originated throughout the diaspora, there is much to be discovered through each performance. Over the course of the next few months, the musical influence of different Latin regions goes beyond the expected bossa or samba rhythms. Such is the case with Negro Leo, an artist visiting New York by way of Rio de Janeiro on August 2. Leo’s work offers a contemporary exploration of Brazilian music, pairing his signature percussion styles with dreamy and distorted vocal parts, to create a contemporary flair that marries the past and present. Two Thursdays later, on August 16, Grammy-nominated musical prodigy Jorge Glem stops by for an evening of Venezuelan folk music. The cuatro virtuoso serenades audiences with the distinct influences of jazz, salsa, bluegrass, and pop.
There is certainly no better way to celebrate the arts and culture of indigenous traditions than by witnessing a new generation’s interpretations, created by the people who hold the original inspiration most dear. The Atrium has provided a platform for the Contemporary African music movement over the years and so it is fitting to have a performance that speaks to the African and African-diaspora communities represented in New York City. In keeping with a long tradition of cross-cultural sharing with African communities in the city, on August 23, the Soukous All Stars bring a feast for the mind, body, and soul. Their music provides a sonic roadmap for Congolese and Kenyan musical forms: “They really capture a time in East and Central Africa and the style of music that has helped change a whole generation afterwards,” explains Leigh.
While August is packed with musical surveys of the southern hemisphere, the month ends with a performance celebrating socially conscious Caribbean music pioneers. On August 30, Soy Caribeña!: Womxn’s Voices of the Caribbean features Krudas Cubensi—comprising Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes, two Cuban hip-hop MCs/poets/theater performers/educators—and Dominican singer-songwriter Carolina Camacho for what promises to be a potent night of musical activism. Long Island’s DJ GabSoul rounds out the night spinning music from her Trinidadian and Guyanese roots between the live sets.
On September 6,singer-songwriter Be Steadwell brings her blend of soul, a cappella, and folk together to create “Queer Pop.” In live performance, she uses loops, vocal layering, and beatboxing to compose lyrical songs with life-affirming LGBTQ content. The following week brings one of Central America’s exciting new voices, as Doctor Nativo—whose explosive and original sound combines reggae, cumbia, hip-hop, and Mayan traditional music—performs on September 13.
Anyone who has attended the popular Latin dance series ¡VAYA! 63 knows that each concert offers a perfect dose of rhythm and movement to make everyone want to join the party. ¡VAYA! 63 invites audiences to get on their feet and move to the sounds of the pioneers and torchbearers of New York City’s Latin music scene. On September 21, Charlie Sepulveda stops by to sound off his trumpet in a salute to the changing seasons. Rounding out September, on the 27th, Aakash Mittal’s Awaz Trio presents sonic landscapes, pointillist textures, and angular melodies drawn from Indian and American improvised music.
Much like a musical passport, the Atrium transports concertgoers to a world that extends beyond the glass entryway on Broadway between 62nd and 63rd Streets. This colorful collection of performers invites audiences on a spiritual journey, rendering ancestral, familial, and folkloric stories visible through music. By immersing oneself in the uniqueness of each week’s programming—from Negro Leo’s contemporary Brazilian beats to Jorge Glem’s melodious cuatro solos—you are taking part in some of the liveliest gatherings in New York City.
For more information, visit LincolnCenter.org/Atrium.
Hillary Bonhomme is a musician, writer, and radio producer living in New York City.