I Know You Got Seoul.

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Living in Harlem, I’ve been seeing Asian tourists coming uptown for years, and that would little suprise most people. What might get their attention, though, is that many of these sojourners don’t come here just to eat at Sylvia’s, or merely to sit in the back of Abyssinian Baptist Church and hear its choir’s masterful singing.

Instead, they want to be part of the show. That’s why, for some time, a number of Japanese tourists have been rolling up above 110th St to learn how to sing gospel. As The New York Times reported in 2000,

Over the last two years, hundreds of Japanese, primarily women, have trekked to Memorial Baptist for the Saturday workshop where veteran black gospel music instructors like Mr. [Terrance] Kennedy lead them in a crash course of clapping, stomping, singing and swaying. Tommy Tomita, who is Japanese and a longtime Harlem resident, started the workshop in 1998 to give friends a look at one of the oldest forms of black music. When the friends demanded more, he persuaded the church to teach them how to sing. Now the workshop is advertised in Japanese stores and community centers in New York, as well as throughout Japan.

Well, it looks like Japanese nationals weren’t the only ones taking the classes. Check out the Kirk Franklin-esque strains Korea’s Heritage Mass Choir bring, singing “My Desire,” above. Wow: Folk weren’t lying when they said that 125th St. is the crossroads of the world. I believe it! Now, stop gentrifying our neighborhood, white people.


1 comment so far ↓

#1 Paul Carlson on 06.06.09 at 1:44 pm


In Japan, my wife informs me, Santa Claus is much better known than Jesus. Could it be that folks in Harlem will accomplish what 400 years of missionaries did not?

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