On a sunny, sometimes cloudy, hot Sunday afternoon, the music featured at Riverbank State Park could be heard from the 145th Street main entrance to the soccer field. Dozens of people picnicking or simply exploring the park were able to watch various artists perform.
The Harlem Creates Music Festival, now in its second year, highlights artists who, in one way or another, have made an impact on the Harlem community and the local New York music scene.
Rakiem Walker, a saxophonist for his group the Rakiem Walker Project and member of the board for Harlem Creates Music, mentioned that the festival came to life in 2014, with the help of its president, Jacob Shaw, who is also a musician.
“We figured, why don’t we have a festival that highlights artists and styles of music that are not highlighted at all, that don’t have representation?” he said. “We wanted to represent that.”
In its debut last year, the Harlem Creates Music Festival was held at the Apollo and at Riverbank State Park. This year, running from Aug. 29 through Aug. 31, the festival featured 14 artists and was held at the Nabe Harlem Underground Lounge and the Schomburg Center, with the main event culminating at Riverbank State Park. Admission was free and open to the public.
The festival included a lineup ranging from reggae to salsa and featured such acts as Harlem-based Brother Num; Johnny Mambo and Friends, who frequently perform at Red Rooster Tuesday; and RAAA, a group of teenagers from Brooklyn who are fresh from playing Afropunk on Aug. 22 and who won the Afropunk Battle of the Bands 2015. The Rakiem Walker Project ended the afternoon.
Walker mentioned that the Harlem Creates Music Festival is more than just a platform that reaches the community. “We’re about re-introducing excellence, musical excellence to the Harlem community and the world that comes to visit Harlem,” he said.