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The Joys of Summer Music

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Zap Mama at Summerstage 2007

One thing I love about the warm months of summer is the abundance of free outdoor concerts and festivals that populate the streets and parks at this time. Since I relocated to New York almost nine years ago, I have had the opportunity to enjoy great music, theater and film --- without having to go broke in the process.

My first Summer concert in New York was in July 2001, which turned out to be Celia Cruz's final performance. Already ill with the cancer that would claim her life about a year later, Cruz came on stage with her traditional “Azucar!” scream as the band kicked off the first number. She was visibly frail, but her voice was intact. I also remember that halfway through the set, there was a hailstorm that fell upon us as we ran for cover.

The audience did not know about her illness back then – but it became clear that she was saying goodbye when halfway through “Bemba Colora,” she said: “As I prepare to leave, please, please God, remember my name... and If I die, hell, just bury me right here in Central Park and I want you all here with me. Remember my name: I am Celia Cruz.”

Fortunately for all of us, this statement was recorded and is available on the CD Central Park Summerstage: Live From The Heart of The City,” which came out a couple of years ago, including performances by Burning Spear, Ojos de Brujo, NRBQ and several more.

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Mavis Staples, Central Park Summerstage 2008

There were countless shows I've seen over the years, including Daniela Mercury (at Brazilian Day and Summerstage), Lila Downs (Summerstage, Celebrate Brooklyn), Skank (Brazilian Day, Summerstage), Los Lobos (Summerstage), LadySmith Black Mambazo (World Financial Center), Lulu Santos (Brazilian Day), Thievery Corporation, Cassandra Wilson (Summerstage), Vieux Farka Toure (Summerstage), Chicha Libre (Celebrate Brooklyn)... the list goes on.

I have already begun to attend local concerts this year. For those with a lot of time in their hands, go ahead and look for all those reviews via Google – there are hundreds of those out there.

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