Author Archives: Shiva Ramkumar

The Levitt AMP program is all about building community—through music, through partnerships and through engagement across sectors to help create more thriving and inclusive communities. Among the sectors touched by the Levitt AMP program are local businesses. Today, we’re shining the light on how organizers behind three Levitt AMP Music Series—Fort Smith, Ark., Stevens Point, Wis., and St Johnsbury, Vt.—have leveraged their respective music series to support local businesses and stimulate their creative economies while strengthening connections within their communities.

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DJ Rekha at Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, CT in July 2021

DJ Rekha at Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts in Westport, CT in July 2021

“I love free shows that are for all ages. I just love it.” 

This may sound surprising to hear from a DJ, someone we may picture in the exclusive and adult-centric nightlife industry, but Rekha Malhotra, named “Ambassador of Bhangra” by The New York Times, has never been an ordinary DJ. DJ Rekha’s goal is to “challenge the norms of nightlife” and make spaces “as welcoming as possible to everyone.”  

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down backstage with DJ Rekha, just minutes before their show on Saturday, July 17, at the Levitt Pavilion in Westport, Conn, part of its 2021 season of free summer concerts. “It’s really exciting, they said, “it’s my 10th anniversary of being here. I love this gig, it’s one of my favorites,” they added, citing its open space and the enthusiasm of Levitt audiences “dancing literally barefoot on the grass” of the Westport lawn, surrounded by beautiful greenery and the picturesque Saugatuck River. Indeed, DJ Rekha’s infectious blend of bhangra, Hindi film music and hip-hop has been making people of all ages and ethnicities dance on Levitt lawns coast to coast, from Levitt Pavilion Westport where they had their first concert in 2011, to Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, also in 2011.

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Left to right: Levitt AMP Utica at Kopernik Park in 2019, Bunny Swan performing for Levitt AMP Soldotna in 2019 and 2021, Celloquacious at Levitt AMP Gallup’s 2020 virtual series

Left to right: Levitt AMP Utica at Kopernik Park in 2019, Bunny Swan performing for Levitt AMP Soldotna in 2019 and 2021, Celloquacious at Levitt AMP Gallup’s 2020 virtual series

Levitt is all about embracing the power of free, live music to strengthen the social fabric of communities. In the towns of Gallup, New Mexico, Soldotna, Alaska and Utica, New York, the nonprofits behind their respective Levitt AMP Music Series are each embracing this mission wholeheartedly by encouraging authentic connections with their diverse communities on stage and off, from Navajo Nation tribal members to Eastern European and African refugees to Alaska Natives, creating an inclusive series where all members of their community feel welcome.  

“Diversity is going to look different in every community,” said Shanon Davis, Executive Director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit behind the Levitt AMP Soldotna Music Series. These Levitt AMP grantees are working closely with their local communities to ensure greater representation that is equitable and culturally responsive. After the tragedies of the past year, particularly for communities of color, we’re heartened to see these Levitt AMP sites work towards healing by celebrating the diversity of their communities. 

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Three Levitt venues embrace Black Pride this June

Left to right: Larmani, Alise King, and Cherisse Scott (Levitt Shell Memphis)

Left to right: Larmani, Alise King, and Cherisse Scott (Levitt Shell Memphis)

This June we celebrate Pride Month, commemorating the beauty and diversity of queer people everywhere. In addition to being a time of celebration, Pride is also a time to reflect, learn about, and acknowledge those throughout history who have advocated for LGBTQ+ communities and advanced their rights. With June also being Black Music Month and the time of Juneteenth, we’re excited to dive into the intersectional history of Pride, and spotlight the POC pioneers as well as musicians who have championed the movement.

But first, be sure to mark your calendar for three intersectional Pride events within the Levitt network. Levitt Pavilion Denver is hosting a live concert on June 18th to kick off Denver’s 2021 Juneteenth Music Festival, headlining Black GRAMMY-winning R&B group 112. This year, the Juneteenth Music Festival collaborates with The Center on Colfax, an LGBTQ+ community center, to produce Denver’s first ever Black Pride. Look forward to events such as The Majestic Melanated Cabaret, featuring drag entertainers of color, a Drag Gospel Brunch, and The Strange Fruit of Black Excellence Ball, celebrating the Black community.

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Eddie Gomez

Not many can say they’ve shared the stage with iconic jazz legends such as Benny Goodman, Miles Davis and Gerry Mulligan before the age of 21 – but Eddie Gomez is no ordinary musician.

This Sunday, October 1st, audiences in Arlington, Texas, will experience the extraordinary artistry of jazz bassist and two-time GRAMMY Award winner Gomez when he takes the stage with his trio at Levitt Pavilion Arlington.

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SHEL

This Thursday, Levitt Pavilion Denver is presenting a free show by indie-folk group SHEL – four classically trained sisters from Fort Collins, Colo., whose shared musical mission dates back to when they were still squabbling siblings.

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levitt loves2

This summer, Levitteers across the country have captured the excitement of free Levitt concerts with #musicmoves, like this couple from Levitt AMP Carson City (dancing like nobody’s watching!). We love seeing the way #musicmoves you and your communities!

Although the summer is coming to a close, free concerts are still going strong at the permanent Levitt venues in Arlington, Bethlehem, Denver, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Pasadena; as well as the Levitt AMP sites in Berea, Carson City, Chattanooga, Hattiesburg, Middlesboro, St. Johnsbury, Trenton and Utica. If you’re in one of these towns or cities, you’re in luck! There’s still plenty of time to show off your #musicmoves! All you have to do is use the hashtag on your Instagram or Twitter with an accompanying photo showing how music moves you, and you’ll be entered to win a $100 iTunes gift card. You can also see your photo and caption on our national live feed! So what are you waiting for? Let’s see those #musicmoves!

Spotlight_Series_Kinky

Hailing from their hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, members of electronic rock band Kinky have consistently pushed the boundaries of the Mexican pop music scene, earning worldwide acclaim and a devoted fan base. Emerging from the underground Monterrey scene of the 1990s, Kinky members Gilberto Cerezo, Ulises Lozano, and Carlos Chairez brought their diverse musical backgrounds together to create their own eclectic sound, distinguishing themselves from mainstream pop, which at the time was dominated mostly by Mexican folk music. Drummer Omar Gongora and bassist Cesar Pliego later joined the band, turning the trio into a five-piece group. Kinky gained international recognition after performing at Latin Alternative Music Conference’s (LAMC) Battle of Bands in New York City in 2000. The musicians’ vibrant energy caught the attention of British producer Chris Allison (Coldplay, the Beta Band, Fila Brazilia), who went on to release the band’s self-titled debut album, Kinky (2002), on his Sonic360 label. The album received rave reviews and a Nissan Altima commercial spot, breaking them out of their underground desert music scene to reach international success.

Today, Kinky has continued to build its global following, and its music has been featured widely from commercials to the FIFA 2006 video game to TV shows such as Nip/Tuck, Gossip Girl and Dexter, to name a few. True to their experimental spirit, Kinky’s follow up albums reveal a thoughtful progression in the band’s style, as its members sought out fresh surroundings to nurture their ideas. For the production of its second release, Atlas (2003), Kinky traveled to an isolated ranch in Quitana Roo, Mexico, surrounded by nothing but wildlife and nature. The band finished up the rest of the album in the more urban environment of Los Angeles, cutting back on electronics and focusing on a more raw rock sound. Kinky recorded their third album, Reina (2006) in a Southern Californian mountain cabin. Their fourth and most recent album, Barracuda, was released in 2008 – lead singer Gil Cerezos describes it as “the dark side of Kinky.”

In almost 20 years since Kinky’s conception, the once underground group has infiltrated and challenged mainstream pop music; they’ve appeared on NPR’s Studio 4A, earned several MTV Music Award nominations and have worked with music greats such as producers Howie Weinberg (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, U2), Dust Brother John King (Beck, Rolling Stones, Beastie Boys) and Money Mark (Beastie Boys). Kinky’s palpable dynamism and drive attract fans to festivals and shows worldwide. Kinky’s innovative and evolving sound is difficult to label, and it’s clear the band intends to keep it that way.