How Bushwick’s Urbano Street Collective is Elevating Voices, Creativity, and Music


Becca Siegel

– VOL. 15

On September 10, 2022, there’s something happening in Bushwick you won’t want to miss: the U-Street Music Festival, a celebration of underground and alternative musical artists in NYC. Hosted by Urbano Street and Make Music New York, this neighborhood event will provide a platform, and a stage, for multicultural and non-commercial musicians, street artists, and community organizations.

As you save the date, it’s worth learning about Urbano Street, a local nonprofit with an impact so strong, you can feel its sounds, voices and drum beats from creative and talented Brooklyn neighbors. 

Venn interviewed Diana Hernandez from Urbano Street, to learn about the origins, stories and community impact of this inspiring organization.

Venn: Could you tell us a bit about Urbano Street and its focus?

Diana: Urbano Street is a nonprofit organization based in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a neighborhood home to a very multicultural and artsy community. We create live music recordings, documenting not only the musicians, who mostly are Brooklyn-based, but also, their environments and surroundings.

We basically bring the studio and the artist to a location close to where they live, to a location that represents who they are. We record the artist, who may be a soloist, a duo, or a whole band.

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Tall Juan, a local guitarist, performs for Urbano Street’s sound team near his home in the Rockaway section of New York City.

We include the ambient sounds, and we work and collaborate with the artist to curate the song and the location. It’s very “real,” and meant to showcase and highlight urban aspects of the city. The artists we choose are alternative and “DIY” musicians who don’t get funding from the traditional music industry. At the end of the day, we’re supporting expression, so they can be themselves. 

With each live session, it’s a “passport” for them to get more opportunities. They can use recordings to apply to festivals, or press. Some previous musicians have used our recordings to apply for visas and grants. We keep the recordings free, for the artists. 

Venn: What kinds of stories have come from Urbano Street? Any milestones or transformations

Diana: There are a lot of stories. One of the things that we’re doing is creating a record of these musicians. Many of the artists we highlight are musicians who otherwise wouldn’t have documentation of what they are doing. We documented a Latino Ska band called Ensamble Calavera. We recorded their song, and it was featured in a compilation, in Mexico! Because of that, they’ve been added to playlists.

And Larry McDonald, a percussionist: he’s one of the only Jamaican musicians from the 60s era, still alive in New York. He was doing music every day of his life until the pandemic. We came to visit him at his NYC home, and it was his first time playing after so many months. People donated to him, through the visit that we did, and it was a very emotional episode for us. 

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Urbano Street’s recording team often goes to the homes of local artists to capture the artist in the natural creative environment. 

Venn: How is Urbano Street connecting with Venn this year?

Diana: Venn reached out to us via email, and they told me about the organization. They connected us with another nonprofit, and invited us to participate in a festival. We’re in the beginning of our relationship! 

Venn: How do you think Urbano Street’s goals align with those of Venn?

Diana: Our focus is “the real New York:” not the touristy places, and not the skyline. We’re trying to reach more people in the real communities and in the streets. That’s where Venn comes in: they’re in the streets, and that’s where we are as well.

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Issac Gut, a local guitarist and harmonica player, performs from the window of his Brooklyn apartment. 

Venn: How about the “U-Street Music Fest,” what are the goals for elevating the talents of creatives in the community?

Diana: The U-Street Festival is a gathering of multicultural creatives and community organizations in the music scene in New York City. This year, it will be held on Suydam Street in Brooklyn, just around the corner from Venn’s coworking space. Our goal is to foster collaboration among these communities, and in Brooklyn. We continue to do community-building and street art discovery through this platform. 

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A clairnetist performs for the recording team, benefiting from the collective resources Urbano Street provides.

Venn: Are there ways for more bands and artists to be featured?

Diana: Yes! We have a submission form here. For anyone who wants to participate (any type of artist, DJ, band or community organization), they can apply until July 18. We’ll be curating from the applicants, as well as others.

Venn: Lastly, what kind of impact has Urbano Street had on the local community? 

Diana: I think that it’s about supporting DIY artists who are usually nightlife employees. We are supporting their crafts and expressions, and at the same time, providing them with tools so that they can one day get paid for music. This is what musicians want: they just want to do their art.