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New York's New Music And Arts Series M.A.K.

New York's New Music And Arts Series M.A.K.
AAJ Staff By

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New York City has a brilliant new arts foundation, and a related music series. Nikka Arts is a music and arts foundation, founded by New York singer and composer Lola Danza and her business partner JB, of aboptv.com. The organization aims to provide a space where musicians and artists can present their creative work, and also attract money to record inventive musicians who, like most artists now, are not offered contracts by major labels.

Nikka Arts is also inaugurating a music series called M.A.K. (Music and Kreation), the opening night of which is on Sunday April 3rd, 2011 at 7 pm. The series will reveal leading creative musicians to the public. Danza is focusing primarily on a new kind of music being made by musicians who are generally jazz-oriented, but are adding other influences to the mix such as rock, world and classical music. The elements involved in this vibrant form will be there for all to see at the music series, which will be held at the Manhattan Lower East Side club Fat Baby, at 122 Rivington Street (under East Housten Street between Norfolk and Suffolk Streets. F, J, M, Z Trains to Delancey St., Essex St. stop). Details of both Nikka and M.A.K. can be seen at Nikka Arts, including the ubiquitous Facebook—Danza warmly invites music lovers to "Like" the page—and Twitter links.

The M.A.K. series is actively supported by many leading artists including vocalists Sheila Jordan and Judi Silvano, drummer Kendrick Scott, guitarist Ben Monder, bassist Albey Balgochian, violist Mat Maneri, and saxophonist Noah Preminger, to name a few. A unique feature of the series is that each night, which will begin at 7pm with a cocktail happy hour, will schedule six one-hour sets of strongly contrasting music. Given the star nature of many of the performers, this will effectively make M.A.K. a series of one-night festivals.

Danza, who will also soon be performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC (on May 13, 2011), says that she and her colleagues are very excited about the many brilliant artists who are coming from all over to participate in M.A.K., "some famous, some maybe to be famous." She says the foundation's short-term goal—and, indeed, its long-term goal—can be simply stated: to help musicians and visual artists get the word out about their art, and M.A.K will be a major vehicle to accomplish this objective.

The name of the foundation itself, Nikka Arts, was inspired by the Horace Silver tune, "Nica's Dream," written for the "Jazz Baroness," Baroness Nica de Koenigswater, who helped many jazz artists in the '40s and '50s. The connection is that de Koenigswater's efforts in supporting musicians provides a model and an example that Danza hopes to emulate in some way with Nikka Arts.

Nikka Arts began in a singular way. Being a vocalist, and spending so much time with her fellow musicians on the scene, naturally led Danza to hear their stories about their lives—some enthusing, but others stories where it seemed as if the world had forgotten brilliant talent, even stories of musicians becoming homeless. When singing at the Joe Maneri Tribute Concert, which son Mat Maneri and his wife Lucy Walters-Maneri were hosting, Danza met a brilliant musician who was living in his car. She saw, however, that his spirit for the music was keeping him going. As she puts it, he believed so much in the music, and she knew that the music would stir him again and pull him back from the brink...which it did. So Danza began to look for ways to improve the environment for creative musicians, and Nikka Arts came into being.

Danza seeks to open up possibilities for musicians so that, as she says, they can do what it is that they do best, which is create and present. The emphasis is on the word "create." Danza says that she can't promise to solve all the problems that musicians and visual artists face in their day-to-day lives, but she can help them create. If that makes them wake up smiling, or gives them hope for a better future in the art world, then she says Nikka Arts has accomplished its goal.

Nikka Arts will also be seeking public donations, and donors will, no doubt, be very welcome at the Foundation's website Nikka Arts.

Danza points out that it's important for people to support the arts, because the arts allow us to dream and create. Some, including Danza, feel that a lot of people have forgotten the importance of art in our culture and that this is a shame. She says that the Renaissance Italians were quite aware of it, and, accordingly, they have a brilliant artistic legacy. Prominent families, like the Medicis, knew the importance of investing in artists. They invested in Leonardo da Vinci, who then created the Dome in The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. Other artists were funded, too, with similarly stellar results. Other examples were in Vienna, where Beethoven, for one, received stipends from various princes and so on, many of them themselves amateur composers.

Danza's business partner, JB, has a cable TV show in Manhattan, through aboptv.com, which shows music videos with art. Danza says aboptv.com will work with Nikka Arts to show jazz and visual art with music videos, featuring various artists from the M.A.K. series.



Evolver Records will also be working with Nikka Arts, to help musicians document their work. That aspect—new recordings, in an artist-friendly environment—promises another significant outlet for musicians. Albums will generally only be available digitally, though a limited amount will be pressed as CDs, for certain select artists. The album's digital download cards will, of course, have artwork design on them.

The most immediate aspect of the Foundation is the opening of the M.A.K. series at Fat Baby, on Sunday April 3, 2011 at 7pm. Danza describes M.A.K. as a grassroots music series. She says it's to be a series that runs on its own, with the thought behind it being "For the musicians, by the musicians." Nikka Arts will also follow John Zorn's ideology for the Stone, having guest curators, thereby allowing as many different artists to perform as possible.

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