Nestled between Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Terraza Live Music 7 Train Cafe is not hard to miss with its bright white and blue facade which takes on the form of typical South American architecture.
Right off of the 7 Train 82nd Street-Jackson Heights stop, the 10-year-old space has long been the foot-tapping, stomping and grooving grounds of many Latin jazz performers ranging from up-and-coming to Grammy-award winning.
With a smooth, tasteful fusion of music, politics, poetry and art, Terraza offers something for everyone, but particularly the spot has a penchant for Latin jazz music and any given day during the week, Latin music lovers from novice to expert, as well as neighborhood locals can be found rubbing shoulders.
Terraza got its start by owner Freddie Castiblanco, a Columbian native and avid music lover, who studied medicine before immigrating to America. His aim was to gather all the Latin cultures in one space while not only offering live music but different kinds of activities such as discussions, poetry readings and conferences about social justice issues, immigrant concerns as well as local and intercultural experiences. The space hosted the 2011 Jackson Heights Poetry Festival and last August, hosted ¡Voices in Flight!: Poetry from the Mexican-American Community.
“He had an idea to create a cultural space where people who don’t have a voice would have a voice; it’s political and trying to inspire change and the music also expresses those feelings and expressions,” said Marcella Joya, the cafe’s communications director.
On a typical Wednesday, Thursday or Friday night, musicians can be found jamming on the upstairs stage also known as the mezzanine – which is actually a terrace, while audience members sit directly across on vibrant colored cushions or a hammock in an ultra-intimate setting.
The stage does not exclude anyone from seeing and enjoying the music as its meshed floor allows for those who are enjoying a drink and conversation at the bar on the lower level to look up and still get a clear view of the performing band.
From Afro-Columbian to Afro-Peruvian, Cumbia and Jarana artists, including Yayo Rock, Alma Moyo as well as Eric Kurimski and grammy winner, John Benitez, who both regularly make appearances at the cafe, the space provides an affordable outlet for anyone looking for something offbeat to do in the borough.
And with the cover for the mezzanine ranging from $3 to $5, Terraza is easily packed.
“You have Americans playing Columbian music, and people from France and Israel playing Latin music, even introducing European and Asian elements into the music,” Joya said. “It’s great.”
In addition to the live music and discussions Terraza also offers Allegre tambor (drum) workshops and dance workshops, Zapatao dance workshops among others.
While Terraza is big on Latin flare, it attracts a multicultural crowd.
“A lot of people come here from different places with different music interests or just looking to see what the space is about,” said Joya. “What matters for Freddie is more the creation of this environment of loving music and loving culture and sharing it.”
Whether a band is playing live or not, Terraza’s music always embodies the mood and tone of the space as one where someone could escape for a few hours and become socially and politically aware. Joya notes that the music mixes often matches that of the particular night’s performer.
“The music is something we are really concerned about, it’s not just who is playing, it’s also what’s going on after the concert is done. It’s not randomly playing whatever,” Joya said. “That is something we haven’t found anywhere in New York City. We like to explore and offer people music they’ve never heard.”
And the small space is something Castiblanco has no plans on changing anytime soon. “The thing is to expand the idea of the space so that more people can explore it,” Joya said. “It’s small but it fills so many people. It’s intimate ... you have the pleasure of listening to good music without limits. It’s a listening experience."