New York, New York

It’s dubbed ‘The Big Apple’, ‘Concrete Jungle’, ‘The Capital of the World’. Call it what you will, I've never fully understood New York’s appeal, and I seem to be part of a minority. Talk to most people and New York City will be up there on their top 10 places to visit; a vibrant metropolis, a place to relocate (36% of New Yorkers are foreign born), a city that succeeds in making people succeed and a place where people go to fulfil their dreams; a place to be discovered. On the surface New York (NYC) offers a chic lifestyle; fancy bars, plush apartments and great shopping when in reality these benefits are only a fraction of what makes up this vastly cosmopolitan city. When people envisage NYC they dwell on the highlights of Manhattan as a synecdochic representation whole of the city, and it’s through no fault of their own. Over the decades the media and film industries have sensationalised its urbanity through picturesque depictions of central park, episodes of friends, and films like SATC, yet they neglect to emphasise the drug dealing, the crime and the poverty that is so rife in areas like Harlem, Queens or the Far Rockaways. This attitude is reflected in many of the stereotypical tourists who refuse to wonder outside the plush confinements of Macy's, Soho and 5th Avenue.

I've never once felt like a tourist in NYC. That is not to say I haven't visited Macy's, The Statue of Liberty or Times Square, but the usual purpose of my visit is to see friends and family; I'm not so much concerned with the shopping or celeb spotting. Having revisited NYC on multiple occasions over the years, I've developed somewhat of a familiarity towards it. In fact, on my most recent visit last week, I hardly did anything at all except for mundane things like food shopping, a trip to the cinema and a quick browse in the mall. I loved the fact I didn't feel compelled to walk down to the Rockafella centre, get smothered by over-eager tourists and be charged astronomical prices for a standard black coffee. The only time I spent in Manhattan was a visit to Miss Lily's (click here to see the link), my new favourite kooky Caribbean restaurant.

Talking of restaurants, I have to give NYC credit for its broad variety of cuisines. No other city in the world could possibly compete; its wide-ranging cuisine is a result of its immigrant history. You name it, they've got it, and you don't even have to look far. I have to say this suits me well, for I have been cursed with an avaricious appetite. Every time I go to NYC I come back 5lbs heavier having stuffed my face with my grandma's home cooking and copious amounts of frozen yoghurt. But for all the food, shopping and entertainment NYC has to offer there is one thing that it lacks substantially (especially in comparison to London); live music shows. You would think given the fact that this city breeds countless singers, musicians and producers you'd be able to find a cosy jazz bar or a live music session where you can chill out with friends. But surprisingly there are only a small handful venues and you have to look hard. Thankfully this time I didn't have to look hard at all. On my last night in NYC I was invited to go and watch my friend perform at a live session just out of town. In the car on the way to the venue, my ‘New Yorker’ friends explained to me about the lack of live performances and how frustrating it was for underground, up and coming musicians to showcase their skills and even when such people are lucky enough to find a venue and be able to perform, they rarely get paid for it. I explained that in London these sorts of events were ubiquitous, an integral part of London's music culture and in areas such as Camden (Roundhouse), Covent Garden (Ronnie Scott's), Soho and Notting Hill you are easily able to find live shows. I personally think it’s something Londoners take it for granted, I know I do.

Reaching the venue, we took a seat and waited for our friend to perform. I was excited. Only then did it dawn on me that I'd never heard him sing properly. What a voice, Kellye Hawkins, who knew? By the time he’d sung his first line my excitement was swiftly replaced with adoration and shock. I have never been so instantly mesmerised by someone's ability to sing with such sincerity; I had goose pimples. As delighted as I was to hear him sing, it re-enforced my annoyance at the fact NYC's live music culture denies people like St.Kellye (stage name) the ability to be discovered. It’s a sin for talent like that to go unnoticed. This situation represents the fundamental irony in the romanticised idea that NYC is the "concrete jungle where dreams are made of."  The fact that NYC is widely accepted as ‘the city of discovery’ has resulted in too many hopefuls with similar dreams relocating there and as a consequence, the increased competition make their goals harder to achieve. The supply of musicians far outweighs the local demand, and standing apart from the rest takes ingenuity, talent and a colossal helping of self-belief. The city has now become so saturated with mediocre "big time" musicians it no longer bothers to seek out, create opportunities or offer budding musicians such as magnificent St Kellye a platform to advertise their extraordinary talent and accomplish their dreams. You'd be more likely to get noticed in a city like London than New York. At least there your dreams won't be trampled on by the clambering chaos of the need to succeed.

Check out St Kellye on his website here and pass the link on: 
Remember! You heard him here first!