Grammys Hit Durham Again!

by Lou Perron

Last year it was Mamadou Diabate’, the Malian kora player who resides in Durham. He won a Grammy for Best Traditional World Music.

Then this year, Merge Records, a local Durham label won Album of the Year for The Suburbs by Arcade Fire.

But I especially want to congratulate the Carolina Chocolate Drops for winning the Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig .

         Photo by Julie Roberts, courtesy of Nonesuch Records

I first heard The Chocolate Drops a number of years ago, at an unlikely venue: E. K. Powe Elementary School.  Surprisingly, the Carolina Chocolate Drops were willing to spend their time playing at a public school with an audience of youngsters.  This alone was great of them.  But they put on a workshop of both music playing and playfulness.  And they had the rapt attention of both young and old (me.)   Through their musicianship, they preserved and enlivened this music, passing along an “aural” tradition and keeping it from extinction.  So they’re incredible teachers as well.


And these are not the only Grammy winners who live in Durham.  But it’s not just Grammy artists that make great music in this town.  Live music is at the heart of Durham.  You can find it almost every day or night. Go out to hear it and give it your support!

Here’s a totally incomplete mix of links for live music in Durham:

And some of the local venues/groups:

For more, try the Independent Weekly

So much live music here.


Leave a comment »

Leave Your Car At Home


Over the last several years I’ve occasionally pondered the benefits of walking and biking in place of driving.  In my mind there are several advantages, though I will just focus on a few.

One of the clear and most recognized benefits is exercise.  My peak fitness levels over the years have occurred during periods of bicycle-dependent transportation.  During these times,  I could keep up with friends on mountain bike trails even when I wasn’t riding the trails frequently simply due to endurance built through everyday cycling.  While commuting by bike adds to my travel time, the exercise it provides enables me to cancel a few dedicated workouts throughout the week.

A second advantage is the way walking and biking lends itself to mental clarity and promotion of thought. I’ve noticed clearer and increased levels of thinking when biking or walking.  For me, the slower a transportation source becomes (car to bike to foot) the more my mind is free to think about things on a deeper level.  Although I’m not certain of the cause, I attribute it to the having more time and being less distracted when compared to the often-stressful car commute.   When compared to car travel, walking and biking promotes a peaceful existence and stress reduction.

Last, I connect more with my surroundings when I’m outside of a car.  I am more prone to exchange a smile, eye contact , or even a few words with someone walking by, than I would behind my music-filled metal and glass world.  Just last week I had a conversation with a fellow cyclist, which was sparked by his one word question: “commuting?”  This brief encounter, fueled by our bicycle connection and crossing of paths, left me feeling energized and was a bright spot in my day.

As a resident of Old West Durham shared with me recently:

Given the choice, we wouldn’t want to live anywhere other than a walkable, urban neighborhood like Old West Durham.  We can walk to a lot of amenities, like several great restaurants, shopping, dry cleaners, and even the grocery store.  In our neighborhood, traveling to Ninth Street or Broad Street is a short walk on all pleasant, neighborhood streets-  a far cry from getting in the car and navigating the multi-lane madness of the suburbs.  But more than that, in a neighborhood like ours we can really get to know our neighbors.  On our street we run into people walking their dogs, or working in their yards, or even talking to other neighbors out in the street.  When we head down to Dain’s or The Regulator, we often run into people we know from the neighborhood.  So for us, the walkable scale of our neighborhood not only gives us convenience, it also helps us be part of the community.

In conclusion, even in the midst of winter, consider how you might trade the car a few days a week to travel by bicycle or a pair of shoes.   As a result, you should notice advances in your physical and mental health, thought-life, and connection with the community around you.  I hope to see you on a Durham sidewalk soon.

Comments (1) »

DPAC adds more accolades to a growing list!

In just over two years,  DPAC -Durham Performing Arts Center has really made a name for itself.  Just this month, Pollstar Magazine ranked DPAC #9 in highest year end ticket sales in the nation.  This says a lot about the community support the center has received since its opening in late 2008.  DPAC has been able to bring world class performing arts programs to Durham through its continued excellence.  Make sure you take time to see some of the wonderful events coming soon.

“If you haven’t been to DPAC yet there is no better time than this winter and  spring. We have over fifty different performances to choose from. Our mission is to present unique, one-of-a-kind live entertainment event. From Broadway to concerts, comedy to family shows… there really is something for everyone at DPAC, ” says Bob Klaus, GM at DPAC.

Read the press release about the ranking and note their upcoming calendar of events.

Leave a comment »

We Have Moved!

We Have Moved to 401 C Foster St!  Same great building but more space!

By Mary Rae Hunter:

Last Friday, we packed our bags and moved to our exciting new office space.  We loved the location of our old space so much that we chose to make a move just a few doors down in our current building.  With the incredible growth that Urban Durham has been experiencing, we were anxious to relocate to an office that could accommodate our expansion, yet keep us proximate to where we make our home away from home:  Foster Street by The Farmer’s Market and Piedmont Restaurant.  Well, we were fortunate to find space within the same complex, so … we made the move and now we want all of our clients, friends and family to come and celebrate our new digs with us.  Very soon, we will be inviting everyone to a Grand Open House!  If you are near Foster Street, please stop by anyway!  You are always welcome!

Comments (1) »

“New Neighbors”

by Susan Herst

Exploring social issues through his art, Dave Alsobrooks has been steadily working on his “New Neighbors” project in his somewhat limited free time.  His full time job as a partner at a marketing firm in Durham keeps him quite busy.  This past weekend at Third Friday I met Dave, an artist, designer and thinker, in his Golden Belt studio and learned more about this project which I first read about in the newspaper this past summer.  His four goals are:

  1. Install art in vacant buildings that encourages new occupants
  2. Inspire residents across Durham to visit other areas of the city
  3. Mount installation art on canvas and auction to help local organizations
  4. Create a sense of pride in the city for all residents

Here is how he describes the project:

What if we caught glimpses of “New Neighbors” living in currently abandoned properties? Not in a shady voyeuristic way, but in a reassuring way. This is precisely what the New Neighbors project in East Durham will create. Empty and boarded windows on front facades of vacant buildings and homes will be filled with bold color and silhouettes of potential occupants: a classroom of students eager to learn, a young woman heating water for hot tea, a birthday party for a five-year-old. And so on. Until all of the windows simultaneously exhibit a vibrant community of neighbors. After a month-long installation, the art will be dismantled, applied to stretched canvas and auctioned at a special event to benefit local preservation and arts organizations. New Neighbors will call attention to vacant properties in a positive way. The intent is not to merely point out vacancies, but more to point out that these abandoned properties are primed, much like a fresh canvas, for transformation.

Idea Image

Idea Image

I can’t wait!

Comments (2) »

Winter Wonderland

by Jessica Slice-Sadler


In honor of another snow day here in Durham I thought I’d post some of our photos from the post-Christmas snowfall. Durham really is magical right after a snow and the comraderie between those that do venture out keeps you nice and warm. My full-length puffy jacket may seem extreme for NC’s temperate climate but it has been well-used this winter.


Happy Snow Day!

Leave a comment »

Durham – Destination for 2011

By Mariana Byrd

This weekend the travel section of the New York Times published an article titled “The 41 Places to Go in 2011”.  The 41 places tend to be exotic, including Santiago, Chile, Koh Samui, Thailand, Iceland, Milan, London, Loreto, Mexico, Oahu, Melbourne, Australia, Durham, North Carolina, Singapore,….wait, was that Durham, NC?  Our very own Durham in the top 41 places to go in 2011 as named by the New York Times?  Right there, with places like Oahu, Singapore, and Egypt?

Yes, that’s right, Durham, NC is #35 on the list of the top 41 places to visit this year.  I know how much I love this town so it is great to see others acknowledge it as well.  What’s even better is that the NY Times is touting it as a destination, somewhere that you *need* to visit.  Great news for Durham as a whole.

Here is the full list of cities and the write up from the NY Times article on Durham:

1. Santiago, Chile
Undaunted by an earthquake, a city embraces modern culture

2. San Juan Islands, Wash.
Bold-face restaurateurs vie with unspoiled nature. Nature wins

3. Koh Samui, Thailand
A toned-down version of Phuket, heavy on wellness and food.

4. Iceland
Where a country’s hardships are a visitor’s gain.

5. Milan
A reborn cathedral joins fashion-forward galleries and hotels.

6. Republic of Georgia
A rustic ski wonderland on the verge of discovery

7. London
Anticipating the 2012 Olympics, a slew of new hotels and restaurants.

8. Loreto, Mexico
A beach hideaway with sport fishing gets a luxury resort.

9. Park City, Utah
Beyond the film festival, a growing group of top-tier resorts.

10. Cali, Colombia
Cafe culture is on the rise while salsa fuels the night life.

11. The Danube
From Budapest to the Black Sea, new cruises on a storied river.

12. Niseko, Japan
An Aspen emerges in Asia, with luxury to spare.

13. Oahu
Hawaii’s most developed island adds resorts and attractions.

14. Antwerp, Belgium
A new breed of boutiques have made it a fashionista’s paradise.

15. Melbourne, Australia
New hotels plus big-name chefs put Sydney on notice.

16. Tlemcen, Algeria
An ancient Islamic city dresses up for a gala year.

17. Sopot and Gdansk, Poland
Poland’s Baltic coast welcomes party hoppers and soccer fans.

18. Erzurum, Turkey
Skiing in Turkey? A winter sports capital emerges in Anatolia.

19. Hyderabad, India
Dynastic grandeur in the heart of modern India.

20. Manchester, England
An industrial city reinvents its famed musical past.

21. Tallinn, Estonia
The beautiful capital city aims to shed its stag-party past.

22. Fogo Island, Newfoundland
An art colony blooms on remote and rugged shores.

23. Singapore
With new resorts and casinos, the city lets its hair down.

24. Port Ghalib, Egypt
A low-key beach escape with clear water and sea creatures.

25. Whistler, British Columbia
The Olympians are gone. Now it’s your turn.

26. Guimarães, Portugal
A city of youth is fired up by its art scene.

27. Olympic Park, Wash.
Bad weather is good for skiers and storm-watchers.

28. Dresden, Germany
A new museum leads the way to a historic city’s future.

29. Oualidia, Morocco
On a Moroccan lagoon, oysters, flamingoes and no crowds.

30. Zanzibar
On an African isle, luxury lures the après safari set.

31. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
The ranches beyond a historic village offer a dose of rural chic.

32. Tozeur, Tunisia
Camel racing, souks and eco-lodging in a Saharan oasis.

33. Hangzhou, China
An hour from Shanghai, a historic jewel goes five-star.

34. Iraqi Kurdistan
Safety, history and a warm welcome in a stable corner of Iraq.

35. Durham, N.C.
A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip.

A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.

The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu.

36. Kosovo
Mountains, medieval architecture and unexpected night life.

37. Pingyao, China
Ming architecture is intact as contemporary culture takes root.

38. Salonika, Greece
Out of the country’s economic woes, a new wave of artists.

39. Okinawa, Japan
A ‘Japanese Amazon’ with some luxury thrown in.

40. Budapest
A scene pops up in abandoned buildings, and glamour rises.

41. Miami
Big-time music arrives in a town known for beaches and art.

Leave a comment »