‘Sounds of the City’ is back — live, in person and safe!

NEWARK, NJ — Newark is filled with music again this summer thanks to the return of NJPAC’s much-loved free outdoor concert series, “Horizon Foundation Sounds of the City,” with in-person performances on the arts center’s Chambers Plaza.

On July 15, Felix Hernandez’s Rhythm Revue Dance Party kicked off the seven-week series, which will spotlight a diverse array of musicians and genres, including hip hop legends Eric B. & Rakim, salsa star Tony Vega, reggae headliners Third World, and gospel songstress Le’Andria Johnson.

The concerts will be presented with an array of new safety protocols, to allow audience members to enjoy the music, mingling and dancing that’s made this annual event so popular, while keeping patrons, artists and arts center staff healthy.

“Sounds of the City is a legacy series in Newark; for more than 20 years, this is how the city has celebrated summer,” NJPAC Executive Vice President and Executive Producer David Rodriguez said. “This year, what we’re celebrating is not just the season but also the return of live performances to Newark. It’s our intention to ensure these events are not only fun, but safe.”

Concerts will be held within a gated outdoor enclosure. Capacity within the enclosure will be significantly limited, to ensure that attendees are able to remain socially distanced, with 6 feet between each group. Access to the concert area will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. All concertgoers must be masked throughout the event, and attendees will have their temperatures checked with contactless thermometers at the concert area entry gate. All attendees must complete a questionnaire on NJPAC’s health screening app before accessing the concert area. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the plaza.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase in specially designated areas, where patrons will be allowed to remove masks. Bags and backpacks will not be allowed in the concert area.

All concerts take place on Thursdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Chambers Plaza, directly outside NJPAC’s theaters, as follows:

  • Eric B. & Rakim on July 22. The golden age hip hop duo first exploded onto the scene with the release of the iconic “Eric B. is President” in 1986. Their classic album “Paid in Full,” full of funk- and soul-driven tracks, was named the greatest hip hop album of all time by MTV, and Eric B. & Rakim have been called “the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music.” After a decades-long split, the two reunited and returned to touring in 2017.
  • Syleena Johnson on July 29. The Grammy-nominated R&B singer-songwriter, daughter of the legendary blues and soul singer Syl Johnson, combines classic soul and R&B style with a uniquely sultry voice. The Chicago-based songstress  dropped her 11th studio album, “Woman,” in 2020.
  • Tony Vega on Aug. 5. Born in the town of Salinas, Puerto Rico, this salsa master grew up in New York City, where he began his musical career playing bongo in an all-children’s band. He soon began singing as well as drumming and went on to perform alongside salsa stars Gilberto Santa Rosa, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente before striking out on his own, recording several hit albums including “Yo me Quedo” and “Lo Mio es Amor.”
  • Le’Andria Johnson on Aug. 12. The Grammy award-winning gospel singer-songwriter was the season-three winner of the BET gospel singing competition show “Sunday Best.” Her first album, “The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson,” led not only to her Grammy win for Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance but to a career on the stage, a continuing ministry as a pastor and an appearance on the hit Oxygen series “Preachers of Atlanta.”
  • Brass Against on Aug. 19. A New York–based collective of dozens of artists, led by Brad Hammonds, Brass Against is devoted to creating brass-forward political songs that inspire fans to action. Recreating hits by Tool, Soundgarden, Rage Against the Machine and more with a super-sized brass section and fiery vocals, Brass Against has redefined protest music.
  • Third World on Aug. 26. The grand finale of the series is an appearance by one of the longest-lived reggae bands of all time, Third World. Combining reggae with elements of R&B, funk, pop, rock, dancehall and rap, Third World’s style has been described as “reggae-fusion.” With nine Grammy nominations and a catalog of charted smash hits, the band has toured six continents, and performed with Bob Marley, Santana and Stevie Wonder, among many others.