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Mr. Friday Night

Former Florent waiter Jean Shepherd and his band Navegante have taken up unofficial residency at an East Harlem public house.

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Every other Friday, my band Navegante plays at this place uptown called Camaradas, in el barrio on 115th and First Avenue. It’s a Puerto Rican–owned venue where the owner encourages us to try out new music. I used to work at Florent, and I feel about Camaradas like I did about Florent. It feels like a family—like anything can happen. After a certain hour, just go for it.

Our music is what I call electro-Latin funk. I play the cuatro, this farmer’s instrument from Puerto Rico my uncles turned me on to, and the bassist plays a synth over an electronic beat. At the last gig the dance floor was packed with black girls, Asian girls, Latin people (but New York Latin people—Nuyoricans, Mexicans, Colombians), and some people from downtown with their eyes opened, like, “Wow, I haven’t experienced this in years—feeling like I’m part of something.”

I recently helped start a monthly party at Camaradas called Lo Mio, meaning “This is mine.” Too many things in this city are for the tourist New Yorkers—the ones who just moved here. I don’t want to contribute to that. I’ve been here thirteen years, okay?

Navegante plays at Camaradas May 15, and their album Microcosmos will be released June 19.

As told to Tim Murphy.

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