Live In New York: ‘reykjavik Calling,’ A Mini Icelandic Music Festival

The YouTube Music Awards – An Idea Whose Time Has Come

It would have been easy to name myself the Buena Vista Social Club new generation, Fonseca said. But now its my career, and people are really accepting. We are starting from zero here, and Im feeling really good. My music is my life, and my life is my music. New from Pedrito Martinez New York percussionist and singer Pedrito Martinez seems to be following similar impulses on the excellent, eponymous debut album from the Pedrito Martinez Group, out Tuesday. The album grinds the band leaders original compositions up against tunes made famous by Led Zeppelin and the Jackson 5 all played with a zeal that should burnish Martinezs reputation as one of the most vital and charismatic Afro-Latin percussionists on the planet. The 40-year-old conga player first learned Cubas rhythmic dialects in the streets of Havana, but he said his curiosity is continuously stoked by the music of New York City. Everything comes from tradition, and what you do is add, Martinez said over the telephone. Its Afro-Cuban music interpreted by someone whos been in the United States for 15 years. Martinez first left his native Cuba for a tour of Canada in 1998, and in 2000, took first place at the Thelonious Monk International Afro-Latin Jazz Hand Drum Competition, held at the Kennedy Center. Since then, hes appeared on more than 100 recordings, all while performing regularly at private Santeria ceremonies at apartments across various New York boroughs. His group an ace quartet that includes keyboardist Ariacne Trujillo, bassist Alvaro Benavides and percussionist Jhair Sala still maintains a weekly residency at Guantanamera, a Cuban restaurant in Hells Kitchen. Martinez said the gig has helped him learn to a play with a dynamism and intensity that can rip across rooms of any size. We made this band in a little restaurant where people are eating and talking, Martinez said. You dont know how theyre going to react when you start getting loud and excited. But I get up there and do what I know how to do.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 photo, the northern lights glow north of Havre, Mont. on Highway 232.  The conditions of the sky were clear that made it favorable for viewing the northern lights.  (AP Photo/Havre Daily News, Lindsay Brown) MANDATORY CREDIT

Event coordinator Liney Arnorsdottir says the curators chose the acts that have the best chance of making it in the States. Theyre popular at home, they have strong management teams and theyre ready to make the next step. The fest has a good track record on that score. Last years Reykjavik Calling concert featured the band Of Monsters and Men. They went on to sell nearly 1 million copies of their debut by riding the coattails of Mumford and Sons nu-folk-rock movement. Then again, given their sound, and that they dont have a high press profile, few know they actually hail from Iceland. They come from a very small town called Gardur, Arnorsdottir says. Theyre very down to earth and dont talk about their roots a lot. It didnt help that last years event never came to New York. The year 2013 marks the series first showcase here, after previous stops in Boston, Seattle, Denver and Toronto. New York is always difficult, Arnorsdottir says. Its so saturated with events. On the other hand, our city has a special proximity to the events homeland. It lies five hours away by plane. People have this misconception that its far, Arnorsdottir says, but its closer than L.A. Neo-troubadour Snorri Helgason will appear in the Reykjavik Calling concert.

Neo-troubadour Snorri Helgason will appear in the “Reykjavik Calling” concert.

That used to be sales, but now the only really numbers that count are YouTube video views. Want a yardstick as to how this works? It used to be that a million views was considered substantial, but now that just barely gets you in the game. Hit 10 million? Now youre making some noise, but it isnt until you hit the 50 million mark that a song can truly be considered a hit, with most of the biggest hitting view counts far beyond 100 million. Whats more, that doesnt even include all of the offshoot user-generated lyric and cover song videos that rake in tens of millions of additional and uncounted views as well. YouTube is truly the major criteria for measuring a songs success these days, banishing all other measurements to secondary status. And YouTube seems like it will do these awards the right way, limiting them to only seven categories (the categories and the nominees will be announced on October 17), because heres the secret that no one talks about superstars dont need awards. Theyve got plenty of accolades already, and one more isnt going to make or break them. But rising stars and breaking artists do need the recognition, so the hopes are that some successful (by YouTube standards anyway) but less visible artists will get their due as a result of this show. Can the YouTube viewer system be gamed? Sure, but who do you trust more than Google Google to figure that one out? Theres probably something in its mysterious search algorithm already thats taken suspicious views into account.

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