Music, perhaps more than any other popular art form, has long provided a space for critical reflection, political empowerment, and collective action. And while the tumultuous and iconic decade of the 1960s is filled with countless examples, our generation’s musicians are also lending their voices to the ongoing struggle against oppression.
For Latinos in particular, our complex, intersectional identities incorporate many sides of this growing movement for justice, and we often find ourselves at the crossroads of class, race, gender, immigration, and sexual identity. Which is why musician Alynda Lee Segarra of the New Orleans-based folk-blues group Hurray for the Riff Raff has created Nosotros Festival, a music fest that embraces and celebrates Latinos’ political identities while carving out a space for protest and solidarity.
In the lead up to Nosotros Festival’s November 4 takeover of the Bowery Ballroom in downtown Manhattan, Segarra took the chance to reflect on some of the driving themes behind this important project and put together an 18-track playlist for Remezcla that reads like a musical manifesto. Boasting several of the contemporary Latino artists featured in the lineup, the playlist also digs back into the origins of modern protest music both in the United States and Latin America, forging a clear link between then and now.
Songs from civil rights icons like Nina Simone and The Staple Singers sit alongside Latin American counterparts like nueva canción pioneer Mercedes Sosa, whose “Si se calla el cantor” speaks in poetic terms about the social and spiritual value of music set against a haunting, minor-key guitar melody. Segarra brings it back stateside with Nuyorican revolutionaries The Ghetto Brothers, whose “Viva Puerto Rico Libre” riffs through an electrified Aguinaldo sample before giving way to a spacey, psychedelic call-to-arms.
Contemporary protest classics like Calle 13’s “Latinoamérica” and Ana Tijoux’s “Antipatriarca” bring an updated energy to the lucha, while carrying the same major themes over into a new generation. Yet Segarra also shows concern for defending more personal spaces, manifested in songs like Solange’s “Mad,” which masterfully combines the personal and the political in a glitchy, soulful homage to righteous anger.
Overall, this collection plays out like a conversation between past and present, inviting layered interpretations that point to questions of politics, identity, and the healing of collective wounds. But more importantly, these musicians manage to transform their anger into a joyful celebration of life. As Segarra herself recently said about Nosotros Fest, “I want people to walk away from the night and feel inspired and full of life, as opposed to drained from what we have to experience every day and from what we have to listen to on the news every day.”
The same could be said, no doubt, about this playlist.
Nosotros Fest goes down on Friday, November 4 at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom. Enter to win a pair of tickets to Nosotros Fest below: