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Towering Boombox Structure to Rise in Downtown Brooklyn

By Janet Upadhye | January 24, 2014 3:29pm
 "Got The Power," a public art display by Bayeté Ross Smith is made of a towering pile of boomboxes.
"Got The Power," a public art display by Bayeté Ross Smith is made of a towering pile of boomboxes.
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Bayeté Ross Smith

DOWNTOWN BROOKYLN — "Radio Raheem" would have been proud.

"Got The Power" — an art exhibit by Harlem artist Bayeté Ross Smith — is a tower of more than 100 boomboxes. It is accompanied by a dozen radios within the structure simultaneously playing songs and oral histories relevant to Brooklyn.

"The exhibit references the role boomboxes have played in urban communities and within popular culture, the resulting sculpture and soundscape is a symbol of pride, power, and autonomy," said Ross Smith.

The soundtrack that plays with the structure is site specific — Ross Smith asks locals to share their favorite songs and stories and create a soundtrack from the offerings. His first boombox tower was erected in Harlem and later he made structures in Minnesota, Alabama, and more.

His Brooklyn tower will play songs suggested by locals of all demographics including "Pressure Drop," by Jimmy Cliff, "Pac Blood," by Danny Brown and "Set It Off," by Big Daddy Kane among others.

The songs are interwoven with first hand accounts from Brooklynites about drives from Flatbush to Brighton Beach with an 8-Track playing on the radio, a time when music played from records instead of computers, and memories of when Brooklyn "was wide open and on the brink of change."

Ross Smith collects the stories from talking with locals at cafes, events, and asking his own networks to get involved. He currently has participants from Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed-Stuy, Kensington, Bushwick and Sunset Park. 

"Got The Power" will be on display at the BRIC Arts theater at 647 Fulton St. from Feb. 19 to April 27.

Ross Smith is still looking for donated boomboxes, songs and oral stories about Brooklyn for the project. To participate tweet at @BayeteKenan.