Harlem Timeline

Soweto Kinch begins a four-part journey of discovery in Harlem, a few square miles in northern Manhattan which have given the world great musical riches.



He hears from Pulitzer Prize winning novelist David Levering Lewis (author of When Harlem Was In Vogue") about the origins of the area and visits the site of the "Tree of Hope" where superstitious musicians have touched the bark to help launch their careers.

We hear about the unique Harlem Stride style of piano jazz; visit speakeasies and the site of the famous Lincoln Theatre (which is now an Episcopalian church); and journey to Sugar Hill, the home of the Harlem Renaissance movement which saw intellectuals produce some of the area's richest writing, poetry and painting.

Soweto Kinch is an award-winning jazz composer, saxophonist and rapper who received a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his debut solo album in 2003.".


In his second journey into Harlem's history, Soweto Kinch finds out about the rich gospel tradition, explores the art, music and poetry of the Harlem Renaissance, and traces the story of jazz from swing to bebop.

He visits the place where politician Marcus Garvey addressed the crowds from a soapbox, and finds out where African American thinker and reformer W.E.B. DuBois lived and worked.

He also hears about the legendary Savoy Ballroom and late night clubs like Minton's and Uptown House where Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie created a new style of jazz.

Finally as the 1940s progress, rhythm and blues arrives on the scene and the everyday sound of Harlem is transformed.


Soweto Kinch continues his personal journey to discover the story of Harlem.

Today he traces what happened from the end of the 1940s to the 1970s, taking in the story of soul music, and the growth of doo wop, but also looking at the social problems of the 60s, when Harlem's name was synonymous with protests and violence.

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Soweto Kinch concludes his personal journey to discover the story of Harlem, its music, politics and culture.

He meets record producer Paul Winley to discover how doo-wop became hip hop. Kurtis Blow and Zulu Jeff explain how hip hop spread to every corner of Harlem and Soweto also encounters break dancers and DJs.

Soweto sees that Harlem's cultural future is assured, with a visit to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem which conserves the rich musical legacy of the area. He also joins in a jam session at Bill's Place, a venue styled after the speakeasies of 1920s and 30s Harlem.

The journey ends at the marvellously preserved art deco Lenox Lounge, scene of many a recent movie, where jazz and blues remain a central part of Harlem's rich cultural atmosphere.

Soweto Kinch visits The National Jazz Museum in Harlem and jams in a speakeasy.