A Cultural History of Tap
Tuesday, April 2 2019 at 6:30 pm
In April, Live Wire focused on the history of Tap Dancing and its deep cultural roots in African traditions and culture. Led by C. Daniel Dawson, the discussion included artists whose work upholds the traditions of Tap while also connecting the art form to present day performance styles.
In addition to Mr. Dawson, the panelists included Brinae Ali, Alfred Bruce Bradley, Germaine Ingram, Jason Samuels Smith, and Maurice Chestnut.
Fierce & Feminist: Women and the Life of a Community
Thursday, March 13 2019 at 7:00 pm
Fierce and Feminist in Harlem looked at artists, activists, journeywomen, and others in various cultural and political phenomena whose presence and work in the Harlem community exemplify the concept of feminism. From the numbers racket, to the Harlem Renaissance, to involvement in the Communist Party, the Black Panther Party, and the Young Lords, Fierce and Feminist considered the extraordinary influence women have had within the Harlem community and beyond and will honor women who were at the intersection of art, politics, and social change, such as pianist Hazel Scott, anthropologist Eslanda Goode Robeson, writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston and activist Yuri Kochiyama.
Presented by the Apollo Theater Education Program in collaboration with While We Are Still Here.
Karen Chilton, Actor, Dramatist, Author
LaShawn D. Harris, Author, associate Professor of MSU Dept. of History
Rosemari Mealy, Journalist, Activist, Author
Johanna Fernandez, Author
Karen D. Taylor, Founder/Executive Director, While We Are Still Here
April Armstrong, Actress, Singer, Storyteller
Legendary: Nikki Giovanni in conversation with Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole
Thursday, March 12 2019 at 7:00 pm
As part of its "Legendary" series honoring iconic artists and their impact on American culture, Apollo Live Wire paid tribute to Poet, educator and activist, Nikki Giovanni. Ms. Giovanni was in conversation with anthropologist and educator Johnnetta B. Cole, recently appointed chair and seventh president of the National Council of Negro Women. The two spoke about Giovanni's past and current work in a career that has spanned more than 50 years.
Presented by the Apollo Education Program in collaboration with The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.'s Pride in Our Heritage Tour.
Film screening and panel discussion with Melissa Haizlip (Director), Blair Underwood, Black Ivory, Carmen de Lavallade, Felipe Luciano, and Sade Lythcott. Moderated by Jocelyn Cooper.
Thursday, February 21 2019 at 6:30 pm
Race Music weekend at the Apollo will kick off with a free screening of Mr. SOUL! From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. The groundbreaking PBS series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement. With participants’ recollections and a bevy of great archival clips, Mr. SOUL! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.
Legendary: The Last Poets
A Conversation with Abiodun Oyewole and Felipe Luciano
Moderated by Hip-Hop pioneer Chuck D.
Monday, November 5 2018 at 6:30 pm
As part of its Legendary series honoring iconic artists who have impacted the arts and culture, Apollo Live Wire paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Last Poets. Formed in 1968 in Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park, The Last Poets quickly rose to become a force on the music and poetry scene, giving voice to the Black experience and inspiring generations of artists and activists for years to come. Founding group member Abiodun Oyewole and core group member Felipe Luciano, in conversation with Hip-Hop pioneer Chuck D., discussed the group’s origins, impact, recordings, and enduring legacy.
re-Volution Live: 50 Years After Say It Loud
Thursday, October 18 2018 at 6:30 pm
Fifty years after the release of James Brown’s hallmark anthem, Apollo Live Wire brings together a lineup of acclaimed artists and thinkers to reflect on the impact of that pivotal song in music history. Join Duke University Professor of African and African American Studies, Mark Anthony Neal; bassist, composer and host of Jazz Night in America, Christian McBride; and three special guest DJs, for an improvised evening of music and conversation.
Featuring Guest DJs: DJ KS 360, DJ LiKWUiD, DJ MamaSoul.
Letters to Langston: Snapshots of an LGBT Life
Thursday, June 14 2018 at 6:30 pm
Apollo Live Wire celebrated Harlem's LGBT community, its friends, and neighbors with a presentation on Langston Hughes by Harlem historian and Columbia University Community Scholar, John Reddick.
Letters to Langston: Snapshots of an LGBT Life reflected on Hughes' LGBT friends, colleagues, and romantic associations as viewed through the "camera" lens of his friend, long-time letter correspondent, and photographer Carl Van Vechten. The presentation also included readings of Hughes poetry by Lacresha Berry and musical selections by Genovis Albright.
Presented in collaboration with Harlem Pride.
On the Record: Black Music and the Civil Rights Movement
Tuesday, February 6 2018 at 6:30 pm
We often hear about the pivotal role that black musicians like Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Odetta, Harry Belafonte, and Nina Simone played in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. Less discussed, however, is the role played by black-owned record companies and how savvy black entrepreneurs negotiated the complex relationship between race, politics and commerce. This discussion will consider the contributions of trailblazing black-owned record companies like Motown and Vee Jay, James Brown’s People Records, Clarence Avant’s Sussex, Sam Cooke’s SAR, and Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International. We will also take a dive into lesser-known record labels like the Isley Brothers’ T-Neck and Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom. As the story of black music industry entrepreneurship did not begin and end with the civil rights era, the history of labels formed in the early part of the 20th century as well as the rise of companies as far ranging as the Bob Marley's Tuff Gong, Sylvia Robinson’s Sugar Hill, Prince’s Paisley Park, LA Reid and Babyface’s LaFace, Sean Combs’ Bad Boy, Dr. Dre’s Death Row, as well as the ascent of today’s 'hybrid' record companies like Jay Z’s Roc Nation, Beyoncé’s Parkwood, and Anthony Tiffith’s Top Dawg will also be explored.
Moderated by Jason King, journalist, musician, DJ and Associate Professor and the founding faculty member at New York University's Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
Carol Cooper: Arts critic, Educator, and Former Record Industry Executive
Michael A. Gonzales: Essayist and Co-author of Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture
James Mtume: Composer, Producer, Songwriter, and Activist
How I Got Over: The Spirit of Gospel Music
Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 3:00 pm
A Sunday afternoon conversation exploring the history and influence of Gospel music and the Black religious experience. Judith Casselberry, associate professor of Africana Studies at Bowdoin College and author of The Labor of Faith: Gender and Power in Black Apostolic Pentecostalism, guides us through this journey that begins in the early 20th century and winds across the decades through the migration experience, regional influences, denominational traditions, and innovative performers to today’s contemporary Gospel music scene.
Charrise Barron - Postdoctoral Associate, Yale Institute of Sacred Music
Mellonee Burnim - Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology; Director, Archives of African American Music & Culture University of Indiana Bloomington; Co-editor of African American Music: An Introduction
Joyce Marie Jackson - Professor of Folklore and Ethnomusicology in the Department of Geography & Anthropology at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Randal Jacobs - Essayist; Curator
Matthew D. Morrison - Assistant Professor, New York University; Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
Marcelle Davies-Lashley, Jhetti, and Samuel Guillaume
Black Men/Soul Music II: Soul Revolution
Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm
Following up the 2013 Live Wire inaugural event, this discussion looks at the music of black men during the 1970s and 1980s, some of which drew attention to the persistent issues of the civil rights movement of previous decades. Black Men/Soul Music II: Soul Revolution will look at the work of artists such as Stevie Wonder, The Isley Brothers, The Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and how they along with various writers and producers like Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Norman Whitfield helped to define the sound of a revolution in popular music.
Award-winning writer and journalist Herb Boyd lead the discussion.
Imhotep Gary Byrd, Award-Winning Radio Broadcaster, Poet & Songwriter
Gordon Chambers, Grammy Award-Winning Singer-Songwriter and Producer
Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of Black Popular Culture, Duke University
Solomon Hicks, Jazz and Blues Guitarist, Singer, and Composer
Performance and the Politics of Style
Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 6:30 pm
Women have made an indelible imprint on popular culture, style, and the entertainment industry. From early 20th century Blues and jazz singers like Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday to more contemporary pop, Hip Hop, and Indigenous music artists, their presence in the performance arena has not only influenced cross-cultural style but has also served as a narrative on social consciousness and the politics of race and gender. In a discussion led by scholar and author Salamishah Tillet, Performance and the Politics of Style will explore some iconic and, perhaps, lesser known artists who have taken performance to a new level, asserting their own narratives of artistic and political freedom in ways at times appealing and controversial.
Tanisha C. Ford, Author of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul; Assistant professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
Nichelle Gainer, Author, Vintage Black Glamour
Janel Martinez, Journalist; Founder of AintILatina.com
Ella! A Centennial Celebration
Thursday, March 23, 2017 at 6:30 pm
When Ella Fitzgerald made her debut on Apollo Amateur Night in 1934, she was a shy teenager. By 1939 she was leading the Chick Webb Orchestra in the wake of Webb’s death. Today, Fitzgerald remains one of the most respected singers of the 20th century. In a discussion led by Farah Jasmine Griffin, Live Wire’s celebration of Fitzgerald’s centennial will explore “The First Lady of Song” through her music, her musicianship, and as a woman revered in an art form predominated by men.
Moderated by Farah Jasmine Griffin, Author and Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Jazz Studies, and African-American Studies at Columbia University
Judith Tick (Matthews Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Music History, American Music, Women’s History, Twentieth Century Music, Northeastern University)
Loren Schoenberg (Musician; Founding Director and Senior Scholar, National Jazz Museum in Harlem)
Robert G. O’Meally (Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English, Columbia University)
Featuring a musical reflection by two-time Helen Hayes Award nominee, author and star of "Me & Ella", Andrea Frierson, and her trio.
Legendary: A Conversation with Melba Moore and Dionne Warwick
Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Music journalist Christian John Wikane helped us kick off the 2016- 2017 Live Wire season with two women whose longevity and careers have bridged decades and performance genres including music, theater, stage and screen. Melba Moore is a Tony Award winning singer and actress who appeared in Hair, Purlie, and Timbuktu on Broadway and also achieved success as a performing and recording artist. Multi-GRAMMY Award winner Dionne Warwick’s voice helped define the sound of the 1960s. First appearing at the Apollo as part of the singing group The Gospelaires and winning Amateur Night in 1957, her solo career included numerous appearances at the Apollo where her poised, classic style and powerful voice made her an audience favorite.
Bad/Dangerous/Invincible: Michael Jackson's Epic Years
Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 6:30 pm
From Off the Wall to Invincible, Michael Jackson’s recordings on Epic Records chronicle the artist’s evolution to become one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. Author and Duke University Professor of Black Popular Culture, Mark Anthony Neal, took us behind the music for a look at Jackson’s resounding impact on music, culture and entertainment and his place in a longstanding tradition of Black performance. Panelists included Tanisha C. Ford, Emily J. Lordi, and Irvin Mayfield.
Identifyin(g) & Signifyin(g) Harlem's Queer Arts Legacy
Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 6:30 pm
With its almost annual presentations the Jewel Box Revue during the 1960s and 70s, the Apollo was one of many venues in Harlem to highlight Queer culture and contributions to the arts and entertainment. From the Harlem Renaissance to the Harlem Balls, historian John Reddick explored the rich and influential legacy of Queer culture in Harlem, the venues, artists, and the purveyors.
Performances by Michelle la Fontaine.
Mothers of Invention
Thursday, March 24, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Live Wire looked at the blues and gospel origins of Rock n Roll and the ground breaking female icons and innovators at its heart: Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Big Mama Thornton. Tamar-kali lead this conversation which explored how their legacies reflected the trend of hidden influences in American pop culture. Panelists included Gracie Aghapour, LaRonda Davis and LaFrae Sci.
Click here to view a timeline presentation of the lives and careers of the "Mothers of Invention".
Comedy at the Apollo
Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 6:30 pm
Butterbeans and Susie, Stepin’ Fetchit, Moms Mabley, Timmie Rogers, Redd Foxx, Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock - the list of comedians who have performed at the Apollo is long and impressive. The story of comedy at the Apollo offers insights into the history of Black humor, politics, and entertainment. Author and journalist of On The Real Side, Mel Watkins, comedian and author Leighann Lord, and Bob Sumner, Producer of Def Comedy Jam and Apollo Comedy Club take us on a journey to discover some of the comedians who played the Apollo and forever changed American comedic style.
Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown
Thursday, November 12, 2015 at 6:30 pm
On November 12, Live Wire paid homage to Apollo Hall of Fame inductee with a screening of the acclaimed documentary, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown After the screening, Harry Weinger, a special consultant to the film led a discussion with the film’s director Alex Gibney, editor, Geeta Gandbhir, Hip Hop activist and journalist, Harry Allen, and ethnomusicologist, Michael Veal.
Breakin' Convention: Hip Hop Dance Theatre - How We Get Down Now
Thursday, October 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Dance historian and Duke University professor of African American Studies, Thomas F. DeFrantz leads this conversation with performing artists from the U.S. and abroad on how they integrate hip hop choreography with theatre in their work. Panelists included Jonzi D., Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, Antoinette Gomis, and Ukweli Roach.
Harlem's Music Legacy
Thursday, May 7, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Nefertari Kirkman-Bey moderates this discussion reflecting on Harlem’s jazz legacy-- the artists, venues and styles that made Harlem central the development of the music, and the current infusion of energy in the community around this timeless art form. Presented as part of the Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival.
Bold Soul Sisters
Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm
Riding the waves of an evolving Feminist movement and the sexual revolution, the “girl groups” of the 1960s gave way to a more progressive look and sound for female singers in the 70s. Groups like Labelle, The Pointer Sisters, First Choice, and Sister Sledge took R&B, jazz, soul and even country music to a new level. Music journalist and essayist Christian John Wikane interviews four women who helped power these groups to the pinnacle of the 1970s popular music scene: Rochelle Fleming, Nona Hendryx, Ruth Pointer, and Kathy Sledge.
South African Music Now
Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm
The fall of apartheid signaled not only a new socio/political era for South Africa but a change in the direction of its music scene. Ethnomusicologist and University of Pittsburgh professor, Gavin Steingo leads us in an exploration of changes in South Africa’s political and musical landscape since the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994 with some of the artists at the forefront of the country’s music scene: singerSimphiwe Dana; Poet & Hip Hop artist Tumi Molekane; and members of the A capella trio The Soil. Presented as part of the Africa Now! Festival in collaboration with World Music Institute.
Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Trombonist and Columbia Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology Chris Washburne leads this conversation on Harlem’s Afro Latin Jazz music. We’ll explore the roots of Afro Latin Jazz and some of the key musicians and shrines where the music flourished in Harlem.
Black Style on Stage
Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:30 pm
While the Apollo is known for its legendary performers, many of the performers who have graced the Apollo stage have been known for their trendsetting style.
In honor of the Apollo’s 80th birthday, this Live Wire event dug deep into our trove of colorized photos to uncover the depths of Black style as embodied by both well and lesser known performers. Black Style on Stage looked at clothes, costumes, hair and other style elements and the more intricate details of how performers presented themselves in pictures and on stage. We also explored the sometimes hidden messages that style conveys about an entertainer while discovering which of today’s celebrity artists are channeling style icons of the past.
Harlem’s own style & culture maven and Apollo archivist, Lana Turner, was our host with special guests Maxine Brown, Randal Jacobs, Emilio Sosa and surprise panelist Mary Wilson.
The Anatomy of Funk
Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Artistic and Creative Director, Otis Sallid, was joined by choreographers and musicians in a discussion of the man, the music, and the dancing that comprise James Brown: Get on the Good Foot, A Celebration in Dance. Moderated by Baraka Sele.
The Ultimate James Brown Roundtable
Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Bassist Christian McBride’s dream of performing with James Brown was realized just months before the Godfather of Soul passed away in 2006. McBride convened this panel of JB “alumni”—musicians and associates- to discuss the music and legacy of the “hardest working man in show business.”
Harlem's Music Legacy
Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Harlem Historian John Reddick took us on a journey back to the 1800 - 1900s to meet some of the musicians, singers, and songwriters who helped shape Harlem’s music legacy. Mr. Reddick was accompanied by special guest choreographer Kenneth L. Roberson and singer Lady Leah who demonstrated and discussed examples of the evolution of jazz music from throughout that time period.
Black Men/Soul Music
Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm
“Soul takes its toll on the soul” – Gordon Chambers
On February 7, 2013, celebrated author and Duke University Professor of Black Popular Culture, Mark Anthony Neal, was joined by journalist and writer Herb Boyd and musician, songwriter Gordon Chambers in a discussion of the artistic, social and political legacy of soul music and its role as an expressive art form for Black men. The lively conversation that took place focused on the music and careers of renowned singers as Jackie Wilson, Isaac Hayes, Barry White, Otis Redding and many others, looking at a timeline that spanned the 50s up through the present day.