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May 26 2011

The Roots Kick Off Philly's Black Music Month Celebration

June Concerts Are Music To The Ears Of Those Looking For A Harmonious Summer Weekend

This June, Philadelphia will celebrate Black Music Month, founded more than 30 years ago by the city’s famed songwriter and record producer Kenny Gamble and on-air personality Dyana Williams. During the month-long celebration, events and shows will feature many genres of music, including jazz, hip-hop, rap and more. Festivities kick off unofficially on June 4 with the fourth-annual Roots Picnic, an all-day concert that culminates with a performance by Philly’s Grammy®-winning hip-hop group The Roots.

Black Music’s Roots In Philly:
Soul, R&B and hip-hop music would not be what it is without Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Their smooth, soul-stirring sound combined with sophisticated, precise musical arrangements and socially conscious lyrics paid off with 175 gold and platinum albums and 80 number one hits.

This year, Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records (PIR) celebrates its 40th anniversary. One of the many events planned to commemorate the anniversary is a Sound of Philadelphia night at the Phillies’ game on June 24, featuring Jerry Butler, Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp. Fans interested in discovering how Gamble and Huff have influenced music can check out the autographed walls and the vast memorabilia collection in the TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) Experience gift shop. Still a force in the music business, PIR maintains a catalogue of more than 3,000 recorded songs, which are often sampled by recording artists like Angie Stone, Usher, Jay Z, Nelly, Ciara, Kelly Rowland and others.

The city’s music scene and legacy continues to thrive today thanks to artists who have made names for themselves not just in Philadelphia, but nationally and internationally: Patti LaBelle, Boyz II Men, Will Smith, The Roots, John Legend, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Santigold, Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Marsha Ambrosius, Jazmine Sullivan and Eve.

Here’s a look at how Black Music Month will play out in Philly:

First Weekend: June 4-5, 2011:

  • The Roots Picnic – The pioneering hip-hop band brings together artists from various genres to the Philadelphia waterfront for a day of music and community. In its fourth year, the picnic includes all-star performances by The Roots, Nas (backed by The Roots), Wiz Khalifa, Esperanza Spalding (backed by The Roots), Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Man Man, The Dismemberment Plan, Mac Miller, Yelawolf, Little Dragon, J. Period, Nicos Gun and Donn T. June 4. $65.00. Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, Columbus Boulevard & Spring Garden Street, (215) 569-9400,
  • 27th Annual Celebration of Black Writing Festival: Music Concert – Hosted by Art Sanctuary, the finale event on Saturday will include an all-day outdoor festival at Temple University. A concert on the main stage brings together a full lineup of live music, comedy, poetry and hip-hop. Performances include trumpeter Hannibal Lokumbe, DJ and MC MH The Verb and Philly native Res. June 4. Free. Cecil B Moore Avenue between 13th & Broad Streets,
  • El Social – Rittenhouse Square’s Walnut Room features DJs spinning to the sounds of Latin and Caribbean-inspired music, rare grooves and funk. The fun continues every Sunday of the month. June 5, 12, 19 and 26. Free. 1709 Walnut Street, (215) 751-0201,

Second Weekend: June 11-12, 2011:

  • Soweto Kinch Quartet – Jazz alto saxophonist and British rapper Soweto Kinch makes his Philadelphia debut at the Painted Bride Art Center, where he’ll perform works from The New Emancipation. The music is inspired from 19th-century blues and features a modern hip-hop aesthetic. June 11. $25. 230 Vine Street, (215) 925-9914,
  • Odunde African-American Festival – Now in its 36th year, Odunde celebrates the Yoruba New Year beginning with a spiritual procession to the Schuylkill River and ending with a lively street fair, complete with music, dance and food inspired by African and African-American cultures. June 12. Free. 23rd & South Streets, (215) 732-8510,

Third Weekend: June 17-19, 2011:

  • West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival – This popular three-day festival—running for the eighth year—features live jazz, salsa, R&B, classical, soul and reggae performances, as well as craft vendors, food galore and more. This year’s lineup includes Chaka Khan, Chrisette Michele, Men of Soul (Jeffrey Osborne, Peabo Bryson, Freddie Jackson, Howard Hewett), Eddie Palmierie Salsa Orchestra, Kenny Gates and the Philadelphia Freedom Jazz Orchestra. June 17-19. Free. 7100-7400 blocks of Ogontz Avenue,
  • Barbara Walker – Philadelphia’s own Barbara Walker serenades guests as they dine at Warmdaddy’s. Throughout her career she has performed and recorded with Grover Washington, Patti Labelle, Lionel Hampton, Natalie Cole and many more. June 18. Free. 1400 Columbus Boulevard, (215) 462-2000,

Fourth Weekend & Beyond: June 24-July 4, 2011:

  • Wawa Welcome America! – The annual celebration of the nation’s birthday includes outdoor films, parties, parades, fireworks, food and lots and lots of music. This year, Philly’s favorite DJ and drummer, Questlove of The Roots, will serve as musical director for the finale on July 4. Throughout the 11-day festival, music lovers can enjoy the music of Gerald Veasley, Aaron Neville, Michael McDonald, Estelle, Earth Wind & Fire, Sara Barrieles, DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Roots and others. June 24-July 4. Free.
  • Orrin Evans – Jazz pianist and Philly native Orrin Evans and his quartet, featuring saxophonist Joel Frahm, perform while patrons enjoy savory meals at Chris’ Jazz Cafe. June 25. $22. 1421 Sansom Street, (215) 568-3131,
  • Jaguar Wright – Philadelphia’s soul maven, Jaguar Wright takes the stage at Warmdaddy’s, performing uplifting songs that evoke pride and strength in all listeners. June 24-25. $20. 1400 Columbus Boulevard, (215) 462-2000,
  • R Kelly – Three-time, Grammy®-winning artist R Kelly makes a stop at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts over Fourth of July weekend. Joining the R&B singer on tour are singers/songwriters Keyshia Cole and Philly native Marsha Ambrosius. July 3. Tickets start at $59.50. 5201 Parkside Avenue, (215) 893-1999,

Musical Sunday Brunches:

  • Sunday Jazz Brunch – Southern hospitality reigns at Warmdaddy’s on Sunday mornings when patrons enjoy savory meals while listening to live jazz performers. Reservations required. $22.95 (tax, tip and beverages not included). 1400 Columbus Boulevard, (215) 462-2000,
  • Relish – Relish serves up fine traditional and modern Southern cuisine and showcases the best in live jazz. The fantastic jazz brunch on Sunday provides an entertaining—and delicious—end to the weekend. 7152 Ogontz Avenue, (215) 276-0170,

Music All Year Long:
Philly’s music scene thrives not only during Black Music Month, but all year long. The city’s diverse jazz and blues scene has been a training ground for nationally known musicians such as Christian McBride, Stanley Clarke, Kevin Eubanks, Gerald Veasley and Rachelle Ferrel. For those interested in checking out jazz any time of the year, there’s Chris’ Jazz Cafe, hosting live performances nearly every night of the week. For outdoor concerts under the stars, music lovers can head to Penn’s Landing, The Dell Music Center and The Mann Center for the Performing Arts, where jazz, R&B and gospel are among the offerings. And for music of all sorts, World Cafe Live, Relish and the Global Soul Lounge at the Kimmel Center delivers a diverse roster of performers.

Make It A Weekend:
With so much music to hear all month along, music lovers will want to make it a weekend or more. One popular deal is the two-night Philly Overnight® Hotel Package, complete with free hotel parking and available at more than 30 hotels throughout the region. Visitors can book online at or by calling the hotel directly.

The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation (GPTMC) makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases business and promotes the region’s vitality.

For more information about travel to Philadelphia, visit or, where you can build itineraries; search event calendars; see photos and videos; view interactive maps; sign up for newsletters; listen to HearPhilly, an online radio station about what to see and do in the region; book hotel reservations and more. Or, call the Independence Visitor Center, located in Historic Philadelphia, at (800) 537-7676.

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