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How much does music add to the lifeblood and soul of your hometown and how does make your hometown a more lively place to be?

If you were to walk through parks and on sidewalks in your community, or gather on stoops, in backyards or at local clubs, what kinds of music would you likely hear?
What sounds define where you live? How much does music add to the lifeblood and soul of your hometown?
In “The New York City Mixtape,” David Gonzalez writes about the global soundtrack that helps define New York. Over several months, he and a videographer, Todd Heisler, followed the musical scenes that reflect the city’s creative soul, finding them thriving in community centers, local bars and public parks — from Caribbean soca and jazz to traditional Chinese opera and hard-core Latino punk.
Here are several excerpts from their journey through bustling boroughs and neighborhoods to discover the soundtrack of the city:
Melrose, the Bronx: Drums Against Developers
The Afro-Cuban drums and chants echoing across Washington Avenue and East 163rd Street in the Bronx made Amara Marrero’s hips sway with joy. She grew up listening to her parents play this music, and it took just a few beats to work its way into her heart. “It feels like home, in Puerto Rico,” said Ms. Marrero, 31. “You can feel the spirit of it even if you don’t understand the language or the culture. I close my eyes and I’m transported.”
So, too, were the musicians, many of whom were first entranced by these African rhythms growing up in neighborhoods where rumbas — jam sessions — once beckoned from countless stoops and parks.
Chinatown, Manhattan: 7,000 Songs on a Dragon-Headed Erhu
Almost every day, Ximing Liao heads to Columbus Park in Chinatown and plays the songs of his youth in China. The sun-dappled park — tucked between red brick tenements and the towering government offices to the south — has become a cultural haven for him and other musicians and singers of everything from Chinese opera to 1950s television theme songs.
“I never imagined I would be in America,” Mr. Liao, 78, said in Mandarin, “let alone be playing here.”
Jackson Heights, Queens: Latin Sounds and All That Jazz
Tucked between a street of two-family brick homes and Roosevelt Avenue’s international commercial strip in Elmhurst, Queens, a cramped, triangular club has become a cultural and political meeting space. On any night, the bill at Terraza 7 features musicians from Latin America and the Caribbean melding traditional music with jazz to an audience that is equally diverse.
“This is like an embassy for so many cultures,” said Sebastian Cruz, a composer and guitarist who had come to see Ceferina Banquez, the queen of bullerengue, a musical style traditional to Colombia and Panama.
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn: Mother’s Courage and a Punk Rock Gift
Pounding, screaming in-your-face punk music raged from a backyard filled with headbangers gyrating, jumping and singing in celebration. A petite tattooed vocalist belted out lyrics that were likely heard (if not necessarily understood) halfway across Brooklyn, while frenzied revelers danced on the ground and bobbed in a pool. A fire-breathing fan let out huge bursts of flames whose heat whooshed over the crowd.
My students, listen to the music videos featured throughout the article and read at least one section of the text. Then, tell me:
What’s the soundtrack of your hometown? Imagine The Times has asked you to create a mixtape for where you live: What sounds and songs would you include? Explain how it captures the soul of your community. How important is music to you? How big of a role does music play in your life? To your community? What kinds of sounds are you likely to find if you were to walk the streets, visit parks or hang out at house parties where you live? Does your town or city have a vibrant musical scene? If not, does the article make you want to visit New York City, or another city or town with a rich, diverse and vibrant musical life? Do you wish that your neighborhood or community offered more live musical experiences? What kinds of music would you like to see and hear more often in your hometown?
What is your reaction to the Times interactive article, including the video clips and the photos of live music, the many portraits of neighborhood musical scenes, musicians and their fans? Which sounds captivated or interested you most? Which town or city across the globe do you think has the best musical scene? I grew up in a small town called Great Neck in Long Island, New York. While living there I was never truly aware of how the music around me influenced me until moving to Miami, Florida, and recognizing the shift in culture reflected in the music. Great Neck's culture is reflected in the music played everywhere whether that means inside a CVS or at a restaurant. Great Neck has a large population of Persian Jews which is reflected by the Persian and Hebrew music played everywhere. If I could make a soundtrack of my hometown it would include artists like Googoosh, Mohammad Reza Shajarian, and Shadmehr Aghili. The music played means more than just a melody but embodies the community as a whole by connecting those who escaped from Iran in the late 1970s and the younger generation that was born in the United States. Core memories from living in Great Neck include dancing with older relatives at celebrations with older generations while bonding over the shared culture that the Gen Z generation carries on within the community. If you were to walk through parks and on sidewalks in your community, or gather on stoops, in backyards or at local clubs, what kinds of music would you likely hear?

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