Cross-Culturalism at the core of Meridian 23’s sounds and tastes
- Meta and the Cornerstones are a perfectly eclectic choice to play Meridian 23’s grand opening event (free, April 11 at 9 p.m.). PHOTO BY HEDWIG MARIA
BY SAM SPOKONY | You won’t need a plane ticket to experience sounds and tastes from across the globe, as a uniquely cross-cultural nightclub and live music venue will soon open its doors in Chelsea.
Meridian 23, located at 161 West 23rd St. (btw. Sixth and Seventh Aves.), aims to bring a genre-blending mix of world music and DJ/electronica vibes to the neighborhood, while drawing on years of planning by its multi-ethnic co-founders.
Collaborating ever since they became friends while attending the United Nations International School on East 25th Street, club owner Ferdinand Galvis (whose roots come from Colombia, Germany and East Africa) and creative director Stefan Andemicael (who’s half Eritrean and half Austrian) explained that their idea for the new club developed in response to a changing NYC atmosphere that — amid so many individual “scene” hotspots — often seeks a fresh, eclectic voice. That means going beyond just dance beats or acoustic jams, while also bringing modern jazz, funk and other alternative music under one roof.
New venue reflects the many interests of its multi-ethnic founders
“For me, seeking that feeling comes from my experience as a DJ,” said Andemicael. “When I’m on the decks, I span the globe, and that used to meet some resistance…[some] people tended to seek specific genres. Now an eclectic mix is more appreciated. The audience has caught up. Cross-culturalism is a genre onto itself. Cross-culturalism is the core concept for Meridian 23.”
The two-level, 2,500-square-foot club — which will have a soft opening on April 5 — was constructed as a versatile space, which will cater to those diverse musical acts by featuring both a stage area for bands and an expansive floor for DJ parties. In addition, bar stations (four upstairs and one downstairs) will offer a cocktail menu that “playfully circles the globe,” according to the co-founders.
Also important to the club’s vibe will be an equally interesting array of food choices — served until 1 a.m. — featuring tapas by Pierre Thiam, a Senegal-born chef who’s already brought zesty African culinary traditions to several New York restaurants.
But in the end, it’s all about the sound — and the co-founders stressed that they’ve put in years of work to painstakingly fine-tune the sonic aspects of the space, electronically and physically, with tips from the same DJs and instrumentalists who will soon form the club’s broad community of performers.
“We thought of Meridian 23 as a performance space first,” said Galvis. “With that in mind, I paid a lot of attention to what would make the room sound good. If the sound isn’t great, it doesn’t matter how great the band is.”
Listeners will soon get a chance to test out those new acoustics at the club’s April 11 grand opening event, which will be highlighted by a free 9 p.m. concert by Meta and the Cornerstones — a perfectly eclectic choice to kick things off.
Led by West African-born singer Meta Dia, the six-piece group brings together instrumentalists from three other continents while deftly fusing the danceable rhythms and harmonies of Afro-pop, hip-hop, rock and soul. Their second album, “Ancient Power,” released last April, also drew irresistibly head-bobbing strains of reggae into the mix — and aside from actually being recorded in Jamaica, it featured contributions from Damian Marley and top artists from the genre.
And the next night, also at 9 p.m., Meridian 23 will host a second grand opening concert — tickets cost $10 — this time featuring another group with roots in Africa, albeit with a very different vibe.
The Feedel Band, a seven-piece group whose founders hail from Ethiopia, bring their engaging brand of jazz to the table, with both a drum set and percussionist combining with electric bass to lay a powerful rhythmic foundation for the group’s improvisers, which include sax, trombone, guitar and keyboards. Also inspired by the music of their home country, the band prefers to call their mix of musical languages “EthioJazz,” leaving plenty of room for great interplay and group dynamics.
Looking to the future, the club hopes to follow those performances up with many more forays into the city’s myriad of live music scenes, while also staying true to its nightclub roots and drawing in those who just want to drink and dance.
Part of that artistically diverse experience, according to Galvis and Andemicael, will also involve creating a community for the artists themselves. So along with providing a stage for their sounds, Meridian 23 will set aside one night every few months just to hold a party for its musicians, seeking to foster new ties and collaborations that could help spark new crossovers between their various genres.
“The idea is that a sense of community blossoms when artists feel a sense of belonging in the place, and the place belonging to them,” said Andemicael. “That’s why the bar will throw a party for the talent. People who haven’t met each other, but who are part of something here, will get a chance to hang out.”