The West Indian Day Parade in New York, a huge annual cultural celebration, will be happening this weekend. Our very own D.C. team member @thirteen.99, born in Crown Heights and of Caribbean descent, put together a playlist to vibe out to for your Labor Day weekend activities and pay homage to the festivities.
WHAT IS EASTERN PARKWAY? WHY IS CULTURALLY SIGNIFICANT TO THE LABOR DAY PARADE IN CROWN HEIGHTS?
Eastern Parkway is a main road in Brooklyn. It serves as the route of which the parade follows. The parkway serves as a main artery in Brooklyn. During Labor Day weekend the parkway becomes one huge party. Bands process down the street with thousands of people in costume. People prepare all summer for this moment. The streets are filled with spectators and vendors selling food or merchandise. You can hear soca, calypso and reggae music for miles!
IT SEEMS LIKE THERE'S A STRONG SENSE OF COMMUNITY DURING THE PARADE OR JUST WITHIN THE COMMUNITY IN GENERAL. COULD YOU SPEAK TO THAT A LITTLE MORE, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT'S THE CASE?
Crown Heights, Brooklyn is a very Caribbean neighborhood. I grew up around people from almost every island I could name. There’s a mutual level of respect for each other’s food, music and culture overall. Even though we all have our differences the West Indian Day Parade serves as a time for everyone to come together and represent their heritage. It has been a staple in my community since the late 1960s.
HOW DID THE IDEA COME ABOUT TO DRAFT A PLAYLIST BASED ON THE PARKWAY?
Last year I made my first Eastern Parkway playlist because I was home sick. Covid-19 has canceled the parade for the last few years. I wanted to bring the feeling of being in the streets playing mas to a playlist. It was a way for me to celebrate this tradition at home. This year is the first time the parade will be returning to Brooklyn. Eastern Parkway 2.0 is a playlist that consists of some of the greatest carnival hits.
HOW HAS WEST INDIAN/CARIBBEAN CULTURE IMPACTED YOUR TASTE IN MUSIC?
Music is such a huge part of Caribbean culture. My dad was a dj back in the days so I grew up around vinyl and sound systems. My mom was a singer and played many instruments as well. Their influence has made me appreciate music from before my time. My family is from Trinidad and St. Vincent. Both of these islands are very musical places. Growing up I pretty much knew our music before I even got into Hip Hop or any other genre. It has always intrigued me how Caribbean music has influenced music and entertainment at a global level even though it makes up such a small market share.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE REGGAE/CALYPSO RECORD? ARE YOU ON THE HUNT FOR ANY IN PARTICULAR.
I go through phases where I dig super deep into certain artist discographies. Right now I’ve been listening to The Mighty Sparrow who is one of our legends. One record that I’m looking for is a single called “Don’t Tell A Soul” by the Organizer. It’s a calypso song from the 80s and I got a chance to meet the artist during my last trip to Trinidad before Covid.
Click here to check out the playlist that Mel curated. Make sure to follow us on Spotify at atmos USA to stay updated with our playlist and newest sounds.