Photo by Krishnanand Kelkar
Local musician Neil Padukone is presenting a preview of his Jackson Heights opus, Salsa Masala, this weekend.
By Tammy Scileppi

Jackson Heights has its own vibe. You can sense it just walking down the street.

So, if you’re getting bored with your recent Spotify playlist selections and need a major change of pace, head on over to Spaceworks in Long Island City — located at 33-02 Skillman Ave. — Saturday evening, for a live music concert experience like no other.

Described as a house concert on steroids — where four acts play five sets in two hours — Microsessions NYC is back for a fourth round — and with complimentary beer. It’s a great place to take your date or meet new friends.

Sprung from the tempo of New York City’s streets, this mind-blowing Indo-Latin funk jam music will get your hips shaking and heart racing. When you groove to Salsa Masala’s passionate mix of Indian spiced Latin and African-American beats — fusing Bhangra with Bachata, Cumbia with Dandiya, Salsa with ragas — you’ll feel that vibe deep down in your soul. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the music starts at 8 p.m.

You’ll be in one of four audience groups that rotate through four rooms, listening to 15-minute sets by each of the four acts along the way. The event winds down with a longer set — 20 to 30 minutes — where you can listen to anyone you’d like.

Microsessions has once again teamed up with the Queens Council on the Arts, which will be represented by Artist Commissioning Program Awardee, as well as guitarist/sitar/oud player Neil Padukone and his project “Salsa Masala: a Jackson Heights Block Party.”

The local musician will be presenting a preview of his Jackson Heights opus, which he has written for QCA’s Artist Commissioning Program, at the upcoming music event.

Also on the bill: Queens rock band Spells and Curses, who represent the Spaceworks Queens community, as well as amazing Gotham-based singer/songwriters Elle Pierre and Kamryn.

“I’m very excited to play at Microsessions and present ‘Salsa Masala’ — music I describe as Indo-Latin Jazz-Funk with some hip-hop thrown in,” Padukone said. “The project is inspired by my neighborhood in Queens. Walk down Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, and you hear Bhangra and Bollywood on one side, Cumbia and Bachata on the other. What would happen, I wondered, if we all brought our instruments out and had one big block party? This project is the music that would provide the soundtrack.”

The six-piece ensemble features guitar, sitar, oud, congas, tablas, clave, shekere, dhol, drum set, baritone saxophone, trumpet, bass, cowbell, guiro, and … well, you’ll have to see for yourself to find out what else.

QCA’s inaugural Artist Commissioning Program, which selected Padukone’s opus, provides support to projects that fill gaps in the American canon – untold stories that emerge from underrepresented communities in Queens.

“And what’s more American, and more New York,” asked the guitarist, “than the interaction of different cultures?

“Jazz emerged from blues, ragtime, and classical in New Orleans; rock and roll came out of electric blues and country music; salsa from mambo, jazz, and bomba in East Harlem; hip hop from funk, disco, and Caribbean music in the Bronx and Queens… and now the interaction of Indian and Latin music is coming out of Jackson Heights!”

The Artist Commissioning Program brought together a panel of 14 arts presenters from throughout the borough, who reviewed about 100 submissions and selected the award recipients, according to Padukone.

“They (ACP) and QCA have been mentors to us artists throughout the process, helping us think through the execution of the project, making introductions, and putting in their thought, time, and effort,” he said.

In fact, an actual block party will be held Sept. 15 on 82nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, as the final premier of Salsa Masala.

QCA’s ACP manager Kelly Olshan weighed in about the special musical project. ACP provides Queens choreographers, playwrights, and composers $10,000 towards the creation and production of a new, original work.

“Neil is one of four artists chosen by a panel of Queens-based community members, or art producers, who are committed to supporting the artists’ projects,” Olshan said. “A very competitive application pool, the art producers and I reviewed 97 artist applications for this opportunity. Neil’s work stood out to us for its ability to integrate a variety of cultural influences native to Jackson Heights. Dynamic and visceral, the resulting fusion builds bridges across places, spaces, and cultures. While it can be very difficult to facilitate cross-cultural connections, Neil’s work aptly tackles this an artistic and cultural challenge.”

Describing the three-way partnership between QCA, Microsessons and Spaceworks — a rehearsal, studio and community creative space — Olshan said it works like this: “QCA helps provide access to the artists creating dynamic work in this borough; Microsessions creates a dynamic way of showcasing this music; and Spaceworks provides an amazing space which engages the public in this unique event.

“If our relationship was a book, QCA helps provide the writing, Microsessions is the distinctive formatting and graphic design, and Spaceworks is the local book store.”

Microsessions, a revolutionary live music format founded and produced by Schomer, first launched in February 2016, in Austin, Texas. It debuted in New York City in July 2017 at Spaceworks. That first showcase jumpstarted a quarterly residency there.

Schomer said he was thrilled to partner with QCA and “the incredible Queens-based musicians” in their 2018 Artist Commissioning Program.

“It will be a magical night,” he said.

Tickets are available for $20 and can be purchased at microsessions.ticketbud.com/nyc-6-9.

Related Stories
Artistic community honors lives of Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillén at Queens Museum
Artistic community honors lives of Breonna Taylor and Vanessa Guillén at Queens Museum
Online music classes and sing-alongs for children and families
Online music classes and sing-alongs for children and families

Skip to toolbar