Before Star Search, American Idol, The Voice, The Masked Singer, Eurovision Song Contest, Rhythm + Flow and other top talent competitions, there was Amateur Night at the Apollo.
In 1933 the show began broadcasting in front of a live audience and has been the launch pad for the music careers of artist from Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Luther Vandross, H.E.R., D’Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Machine Gun Kelly to Miri Ben Ari and continues to be the soul of American culture and a centre of innovation for emerging and established African-American and Latino performers with music genres from jazz, swing, bebop, R&B, gospel, blues, soul, to hip-hop.
With music at its core, many may not even know that the cultural centre ventured into large-scale dance performances and theatrical presentations such as the adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and the New York premiere of the opera We Shall Not Be Moved and special programming like the blockbuster concert Bruno Mars Live at the Apollo and 100: The Apollo Celebrates Ella.
The Harlem venue is in dark mode right now and you couldn’t even travel there if you wanted to because of shelter-in-place orders and travel bans but you can hear music that shaped our culture in honour of the legendary Apollo Theater — from your couch — from anywhere in the world tonight through a livestream via Let’s Stay (In) Together: A Benefit To Support The Apollo.
Due to the pandemic, the Apollo has had to cancel their live events such as WOW – Women of the World Festival, Amateur Night at the Apollo, School Day Lives, Historic Tours, Live Wire, Apollo Comedy Club, and Apollo Music Café events from March 13 through to June 30. Because of travel restrictions the Apollo Theater and African Film Festival’s Africa Now! concert, featuring Oumou Sangaré was cancelled in April and postponed along with events for which the theatre was rented; such as Bowery Presents: Morrissey, have been postponed until the fall.
The Apollo Theater’s goal is to raise $4 million through an emergency relief fund to financially stabilize the theatre and safeguard the iconic institution’s future over the next 50 years. The fundraising campaign became necessary following the unprecedented cancellation of over 100 programs.
Part of the funds raised from this event will be allocated to micro grants to support local merchants and small businesses in the 125th Street neighbourhood that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Announced yesterday, the Harlem Entrepreneurial Micro-Grant Initiative is a joint collaboration between Apollo Theater, 125th St Business Improvement District, and the Harlem Commonwealth Council. Independent businesses in Harlem can apply for the Harlem Entrepreneurial Micro-Grant Initiative now until June 25, 2020. The quick turnaround time will see 20 grant recipients notified of their $1,000 fund in around a month from today.
You may be too young to recognize some of the music being played at this event but the true musicians will, or it will be a crash course in the history of music of Apollo legends such as B.B. King, Patti LaBelle, and Stevie Wonder, who’ve graced the stage during its 86-year history.
The line-up includes: Ziggy Marley, Warren Haynes, Amber Iman, Divinity Roxx, Will Calhoun, Vernon Reid, Liz Warfield, “Captain” Kirk Douglas of the Roots, Kool & The Gang, Gary Clark Jr., Robert Randolph, Ray Chew, Michael McDonald, Lil Buck & Jon Boogz, Ken Mo, Celisse Henderson, Infinity’s Song, Marc Bamuthi, Joseph and DJ Reborn as well as special appearances from Dionne Warwick, Doug E. Fresh, and Roy Wood Jr.
The “Let’s Stay (In) Together: A Benefit To Support The Apollo” event marks the launch of a partnership with Gibson, which will include collaborations on future show programming, music preservation, music education initiatives, and support established and emerging talent. You can donate and win limited edition Gibson Custom Shop guitars. Live streaming will also be available for free on TIDAL, Apollo’s media partner.
“Let’s Stay (In) Together: A Benefit To Support The Apollo,” a free concert event livestreams tonight, Thursday, June 4 at 7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT on the Apollo Theater website.