Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Occupy the Heart Valentine Variety Show

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I’ll be performing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in lower Manhattan this Sunday.  Please come on down.  It’s bound to be fun experience that you won’t regret.  I hope to see you there:

February 19, 2012 – 7pm – 9pm

Nuyorican Poets Café

236 East 3rd Street Between Ave B & C

New York, NY 10009

Ticket price:


Other Information:

URBAN PRODUCTIONS in association with The 2012 FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL present: “Occupy the Heart!” Valentine Variety Show Featuring LGBT and LGBT-friendly stars of the vibrant NYC area performing arts scene. A night of entertainment in celebration of love & romance! with musical host ROBERT URBAN – including performances by Ron R. Alvarez, Elijah Black; Joanne Borden, Tina Marie Carr, Nick De Jesu, Cindy Diamonds, Martina Downey, Matthew Duffy, Kelli Dunham, Daniel Freeman, Francesca MacAaron, Tracy Stark official OCCUPY THE HEART webpage.

Under The Lens

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

During one hot sticky Sunday in June,  I met with photographer Angela Jimenez and her lovely assistant Cantina for the Sign Post photo shoot.   We met on the street outside of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX).  When I saw them, I immediately felt at home.   I was eager to get started, though a bit nervous about the whole thing.

Angela and I were back and in forth over the last fewl weeks conceptually mapping out the imagery for the shoot.  Each and every time, I came up with abstract images that seem to lead to a theme of self reflection.  As a listened to every song on the CD,  I was looking for the big picture and that’s what spoke to me.   When I stepped back and looked at it as a whole, it became very clear.

The night before I was asked to bring in props and so I went on a scavenger hunt for objects that we could build different scenes around.  I went to Enchantments, one of the largest stores of its kind in New York, looking objects I could use.    I left with one Crystal Ball and 4 pumpkin colored candles encased in glass.  I combed the streets in the East Village and came upon a novelty store and found a vintage hand held mirror.  We made good use of all of them.

There were a few prominent images that we built our theme under namely: The Veiled Woman, reflection of Eyes In The Mirror and Martina Under Candlelight.


The Veiled Woman

Angela has an amazing eye for detail.  And you could tell she was literally building a scene from scratch, but it worked.  The Veiled Woman was an image of me at the center of the universe.  The effective use of the light made me appear as if I was being beamed up to an alien ship through a funnel of light surrounded by celestial objects.  All of this was done by carefully veiling me through a colorful scarf with careful use of light at the right angles.  I have not yet decided yet but this image screams of the album cover itself.

The origin of the Veiled Woman was inspired by an image I saw the Internet.  It was an opaque image of a woman’s face thinly veiled by a silk scarf.  You could carefully see the outline of her face.  We re-created something similar but went the additional mile of creating a vortex of light with me at the center.


The Crystal Ball

There were several shots of me posing with a Crystal Ball but the money shot are two photos: one that is an upside down photo of me inside of the Crystal Ball while I’m holding it right side up.  It’s a photo of opposites.  During the second image, the camera instead focuses on me instead of the Crystal Ball.


Eyes in the Mirror

Eyes in the Mirror is an interesting trick of capturing reflections through mirrors.  Through the use of two mirrors and careful positioning, Angela photographed the reflection of me instead of me directly.  It was an interesting concept because I was one of the ideas we spoke about a few months ago.   During an Internet search, I came upon the eye of Horus and I was quite intrigued by this Egyptian symbol.  During my scavenger hunt, I was actually looking for the eye of Horus but came up empty handed in terms of objects so we decided to create the effect ourselves through mirrors.

I had always wanted to work with mirrors.  The technique involved careful positioning the two mirrors at the right angles to capture both the light and my eyes exclusively and it worked.


Martina Under Candlelight

Our first attempt was to create an altar with me at the center.  We settled by using just candlelight candlelight to illuminate the canvas, mainly myself.  The room was pitch black with only the pumpkin color light in the backdrop.  Dark Caverns was playing in the background for effect and I felt like I was in the stillness of the night.  It was a very serene scene.  The result were images of me sitting under campfire light.

We worked very hard that day for three hours but everything seemed to come together. I got a chance to see some of the outtakes of the shoot that day and I was very impressed.  We left with a plethora of images that I’m going to have fun working with as well as the designer.

Giving Birth to Sign Post: My New CD

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Giving birth is certainly no easy task and sometimes it takes a little longer than 9 months, but I am very proud to have released my new CD, Sign Post.  It is now available at CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.  Soon it will be available on many other digital platforms.

The hardest thing about the process is letting go.  It’s the kind of project that you can tinker with it forever, but if it’s not shared then what’s the use.   I’ve worked hard on the songs and have had some life changes during the process: a death in the family and a fall towards the end of production, but still I rise each day.

Sign Post was a collaborative project that involved many talents.  I’d like to thank first and foremost my producer and multi-instrumentalist, Robert Urban of Urban Productions.   He kept encouraging me to carry on and pushed me towards excellence.   We had many magical moments in the studio together.  I’d like to thank Steven Sullivan who played bass, Barbara Tone for her sax works and my partner, Tawanna for her technical help and editorial feedback on the lyrics.

As for the songs, they stand onto themselves like little islands.  Some were written prior to going into production.  Others were written during this period.  What I find really interesting is how I can really measure the growth from the first song we recorded to the last.  By the end of the project I was really comfortable stretching my wings in all sorts of directions.

And now it’s time to share these songs with the world.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.





A Night on the Town: Video from the Fresh Festival at Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Alas, I am happy to share the video of my performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. It’s a cozy place. Enjoy.

Pics From the NYC Fresh Fruit Playhouse Variety Show

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Having sprained both ankles, a feat that even my doctors were surprised by, it wasn’t enough to deter me from delivering a performance when duty calls. I was determined to crawl to the show, but arrived in a rental wheel chair. I managed with some help to hobble on stage and used my cane as a prop.

I sang “Sign Post,” which is the title track from my next CD. Here are some photos:

The Fresh Fruit Festival was a lot of fun. It was my first time at the Nuyorican Cafe and I’ll be back for sure.

Now Performing……

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Please come out and support me at the Fresh Fruit Festival on December 19th. I will be accompanied by Steven Sullivan and Robert Urban and there will be a host of other artists. It should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it:

this time to present The FRESH FRUIT PLAYHOUSE Variety Show at NYC’s legendary
Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.

Sunday Dec 19th’s show is a winter/holiday-themed blockbuster, featuring a star-studded, eclectic cast of singers, musicians, poets, comedians & more.

The evening will also include an auction of strange & fabulous items to benefit the Fresh Fruit Festival.
(the perfect opportunity to snag bargain bizarre holiday gifts!)

musical host Robert Urban
singer/songwriter/pianist Tracy Stark
comedic monologist Jonathan Calindas
singer/songwriter Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes
“mouthmatics” vocal impressionist Jay Stone
singer/songwriter/guitarist – Corinne Curcio

monologist Joanne Borden
singer/songwriter/guitarist Tina Marie Carrr

spoken word artist Lizzy Fox

R&B vocalist – Nick DeJesu
singer/songwriter Martina Downey
musical storyteller – Marjorie Conn

singer/songwriter/guitarist Elijah Black
Flamenco singer Nilsa Martinez

with additional musical accompaniments provided by musical artists:
bassist Steven Sullivan,
saxophonist Barbara Tone (and yours truly on geetar….)

Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe 236 E 3rd Street NYC (btwn Ave. B & C)
$10 no drink minimum!
For more info: or
Sunday December 19, 2010 @ 7pm Resrv./info:
[click on the calendar for December 19]

Carol Polcovar – FFF founder; Frank Caro – FFF artistic director

Dream Weaver

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I’ve had a steady flow of dreams lately and dream inspiration. Dreams inspire me to be totally free, creatively like no other. For me, it’s the answer to unblocking those creative arteries. It unlocks all the gems that I withhold during my conscious state. It requires that I get to bed at a decent time and don’t unload daily stresses into the dream state. Stress inhibits creativity for me.

This week I’m residing in the City of Fake, otherwise known as Las Vegas at the fabulous Wynn Encore Hotel. The Strip is everything you imagine: glitz, glam and flim-flam. It’s very magical and Las Vegans (pardon the pun) take pride in it, as they should. There’s no place on earth that can marvel the magic of Vegas. Ironically, I’ve managed to find a space to step away from the glitz and go deep inside to connect with my inner magic.

This week alone, I’ve planted the seeds for three unique songs: some with words and other with just the music. Musically, each seed stands alone onto itself, so I’m never exhausted of originality. Even with all of this, I sense that there was even more music and words that I just can’t recall at the moment.

Thanks to recorders, I file the seeds away on my hard drive until I’m ready to develop them into full fledged songs or even connect the dots. And I’ve got tons of them. Tapping into dreams is like tapping into a hidden well of creativity. My goal is to be able to tap into it even more freely and willingly for those hidden gems.

Timing is critical to capturing these seeds before they slip away from memory. I’m usually able to capture seeds within 30 minutes of being awake. And I usually have a tape recorder nearby and lock myself in the bathroom for the added acoustics. I’ve even captured story ideas this way as well.

And it was during one of these post dream rituals that I came up with a song called Slide, a song about taking better care for Earth before we destroy it. I hope you enjoy it.

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lyrics & music by Martina Downey

Martina Downey: lead & backing vocals, keyboards
Robert Urban: guitar, bass, synths & drums
Steven Sullivan: bass

produced, arranged, recorded & mixed by Robert Urban

What's on my iPOD?

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Well, the more I think about it the more I realize that I could be a flower child. The music that inspired me the most when I was growing up were Bowie, Beatles, Stax Records, Temptations, the Jackson 5 and the rest of Motown but not necessarily in that order. I could put on a Parliament record after listening to David Bowie’s Heroes. I remember when David performed it on Bing Crosby’s last special in ’77. It was really something to see. The choreography was great.

On Sunday morning, my mother would play Aretha Franklin singing gospel with songs like How I Got Over or a James Cleveland record. So there was no escaping gospel music. It was always at the root.

Today, I still enjoy the music of the late 60s and 70s because it was the era of convergence. The Temptations began to sound psychedelic and psychedelic rock bands sounded like the Temps. And speaking of the Temps, recently there is a later song circa 1975 that I’ve really grown fond of. It’s called Memories.

And speaking of psychedelic, I could really trip to King Crimson. Songs like 21st Century Schizoid Man and Cat Food are timeless. Check out the dissonance of the piano in Cat Food. You can tell they were inspired by African music and Jazz. They take me on a ride and I just get lost in the music. It’s a wonderful feeling. No wonder I can connect with it. It’s a familiar feeling. And speaking of Cat Food, there is this Japanese band called Benisyoga that does an impressive interpretation of it.

21st Century Schizoid Man is like a symphony, each part of the song is it’s own movement. It’s like several songs within one. This approach to music had a great influence on me. There is a Japanese band called Seasons and they tear it up in their version. They are sassy strings bring the song to whole other emotional level. Check out the video and buy the record! You won’t be disappointed.

I’ve been listening a lot to Traffic a lot these days. There’s just something about those old songs with Steve Winwood on vocals and organ, songs like Freedom Rider and Heaven Is in Your Mind. Ooh, I just love the meter changes in that song. It goes from 4/4 time in the verse to 3/4 time in the chorus. That’s so cool!

Jomama Jones: The Lone Star

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I witnessed Jomama Jones tonight at Joe’s Pub in the Village. What can I say. She was “afro-futuristic,” divine and utterly fantastic. Jomama Jones is much more than skin deep. Her music is spiritual and had me foot stompi (more…)

The Balancing Act: Part One

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

With Robert Urban

What can I say? It’s something that can never escape me. No matter how many distractions, stress inducing moments and work-life balancing acts I endure, I can’t escape the desire, the passion to write music. I’ve come to the understanding that if I don’t release it, it will haunt me forever like a living hell. Scary, isn’t it?

The older I get, the more busy life gets. I am referring to the rat race of urban living. A few years ago, I found myself at a point of being haunted by the thoughts of wanting to create but not finding the space to do so. The more I moved away from the gift, the emptier I felt. And then the painful reminders sink in: aching bones and joints, weight gain and stress.

I realized that I could never totally disconnect because my dreams still presented me with creative pearls of musical ideas; little nuggets that I could store on my hard drive and I did just that. It could be 3am in the morning. It could be a melody, a lyric but usually some kind of melody that I felt compelled to jot down in my groggy, early morning state. And so I did just that over and over again. The closer I was to dream state, the easier it was to truly capture the essence of the gift that was bestowed to me at the waking point. I have a good sense of memory for dream details: smells, places, colors, people (living and dead) and sounds.

For example, I can recall being in a dream listening to a song on the radio, but realizing in the wake state that I never heard of it before. The same thing happened when I was watching a concert on the TV in my dream or the glowing lady in white who taught me an old song in a foreign language. There’s more on that next time.

I still struggle with the work-life balancing act, but realize I’m not alone in that process and that there are other artists doing the same thing in different ways. In that work-life balance is the guilt associated with not having moved forward and feeling helpless in the Matrix of life. Even as a clumsy kid in gym class, I always hated the balancing beam. Remember that?

I think I like creating music more than performing it. It’s always a good feeling when I can accurately share the soundtrack of my mind and when I can capture the moment. It’s a beautiful feeling. I do like performing, but I stress out from all the little details. However, when I am on stage it all pulls together and I am totally in the moment. It’s the before stuff that drives me crazy.

About a year ago, I felt the need to record again. It’s been nearly 10 years and thus began the search. I am very happy to be working with the very talented Robert Urban of Urban Productions. He is my George Martin, the genius that he is. We’ve been working together for a few months and here’s a taste of what’s to come from our hard work. It’s called Sign Post. I hope you enjoy it.

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lyrics & music by Martina Downey
(c) 2010

Martina Downey – vocal
Robert Urban – guitars, percussion, piano, orchestral sounds
Steven Sullivan – bass

arranged, produced, recorded & mixed by R. Urban