A Venue Returns to Its Roots

IMG_9021Joe Puglisi Drom, 85 Avenue A.

Drom, the world music venue on Avenue A, is undergoing rebirth after several months closure.

The club exists down some stairs set back in a building between Fifth and Sixth Streets, so it’s easy to miss. The entryway, usually crowded with bar-hoppers, is gated during the day, with only a sign to indicate its location. Some may have assumed it had closed for good.

Drom was founded three years ago by Serdan Ilhan, a seasoned music producer from Istanbul. According to Mr. Ilhan, Drom started as a stage for “world music, especially gypsy music.” Gypsy style, originating with the Romani people of Eastern Europe but now a global phenomenon, is essentially a blend of European and Indian folk styles.

Mr. Ilhan has been involved in the music business since 1994, working with world music events at Lincoln Center and Summerstage. He has also toured with several acts. But operating a venue is his main passion. Drom is the third in a series of attempts to curate a stage in the East Village. “I’ve been in the business a long time,” Mr. Ilhan said. “And venue and the music are together for me.”

About a year and a half ago, Mr. Ilhan left Drom to work on some outside festivals and concerts. When he returned, he didn’t like what he saw.

“My partners ran the place like a club,” he told me, “with D.J. parties.”

Three months ago, Mr. Ilhan bought out his partners and has focused on redesigning the club ever since. “I want to go in the same direction we started before,” Mr. Ilhan said. “Focusing on world music.”

Drom is recalculating its offerings to serve its original clientele – wandering musicians and fans of international music styles – with six nights of live music each week.

The decorative improvements include some European touches – a new color scheme, a new floor, all new lighting fixtures (both ambient and for the stage), and new furniture. The kitchen is reopened too, serving a variety of Mediterranean and Turkish food. More important is the revitalization of Drom’s stage, which is currently hosting the sixth annual Gypsy Music Festival.

The performances in the festival not only draw from all over the world, but encourage the meeting and collaboration of different nations and styles. Even the local cast of “Stomp” (from the Orpheum Theater on Second Avenue) is set to perform on Nov. 15

Mr. Ilhan said he plans to participate in the annual CMJ Music Marathon, as the Drom did prior to his absence. Although specifics have not yet been announced, no less than five Israeli bands are making the journey to perform, as well as the Brazilian-inspired songwriter and composer Arto Lindsay.

Drom officially reopened last Friday to a packed house for Turkish clarinetist Selim Sesler, but the real star of the evening may have been the new look for the venue. “For someone who hasn’t been in years, they see the place now, and it’s a big difference,” Mr. Ilhan said. “And they like it.”

Drom, 85 Avenue A (between 5th and 6th Streets) (212) 777-1157