“Hurray for the Riff Raff” album speaks on social change

Photo Credit: Hurray For Riff Raff

Photo Credit: Hurray For Riff Raff

By Kevin Wright, Staff Writer

What should music mean, and what should it say and express?

Artists answer this question in a variety of ways, choosing to emphasize ideas such as love, hate, jubilation, alienation, or comradery.

Not only can music express the personal sentiments of the artist and creator, but it can convey political and social stances, something that one might not immediately associate with popular music.

Alynda Lee Segarra writes songs for her band, “Hurray for the Riff Raff.” The songs tell a story of the narrator taking a stance for their own political and social rights.

Influenced by the palette of protest music artists like Woody Guthrie and Nina Simone, “Hurray for The Riff Raff” makes music on their new record “The Navigator.”

The music is based on styles like folk and R&B that traditionally informed the classic Americana style music, but their sound goes further than that.

With the addition of Caribbean Conga drums on tracks like “Rican Beach” and the title track, the sound becomes something that is utterly unique.

Americana brought together with Latino music styles, represents a sound that embraces all of America, not just the Northern section.

Other tracks feature well done takes on folk-rock grooves, bolstered by the strong songwriting and unifying concept of the album. This is seen on “Life To Save,” “Living in the City” and “Fourteen Floors.” A standout is “Hungry Ghost,” a track that is an assertive statement of self-empowerment that gets your blood pumping with a catchy power chord progression and a driving drum track.

While the record sounds good, it is also worth our time to look at the lyrics. “The Navigator” is in fact a concept album, a label that often gets thrown around in the music world.

Segarra confirmed as much when she visited the college last year, performing some new songs off the album in Kline Theatre as part of the “This Machine Kills Fascists” free concert series.

At its base, “The Navigator” is about gentrification. Across the U.S., people in urban locations are being forced out of the only communities and homes they have ever known in order to make room for things like luxury apartments and large businesses. These communities are predominately composed of minorities, such as Latino individuals.

Segurra herself is Puerto Rican, and her cultural background is clear especially on the track “Pa’lante,” where she references prominent Puerto Ricans in history, while also mentioning prominent North American historical figures like Emmett Till, thereby referencing the past of traditional American folk and protest music.

“Hurray for the Riff Raff” conveys a pursuit of equality and justice that references the past while also firmly creating a new path forward into a socio-economic reality that seems more dire than it ever has been. However, if one thing can save us and offer us hope, it is the saving grace of music.

“The Navigator” is out now on iTunes, Spotify and other online music services through ATO Records.

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