Alynda Segarra's unamplifed voice in this Tiny Desk performance had no problem rising above the drums, congas, cello, violin, bass, keyboards, and an electric guitar. The passion for her Puerto Rican roots feels boundless. As Soul Captain for Hurray for the Riff Raff, she and her band weave tales of man's inhumanity to fellow humans, often from bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
But the spirit that arises out of her ancestral roots and its clash with twenty-first century cultural insensitivities inspires the brilliance that is Hurray For The Riff Raff's latest album, The Navigator. This 2017 release and the songs that grace it are at the heart of the fervency Alynda Segarra sings about so animatedly at the Tiny Desk. The song "Pa'lante," one of the most articulate songs of a generation, speaks of being colonized and hypnotized, sterilized and dehumanized, with the refrain, "pa'lante" which translates as "forward." I think of it as "onward." To continue the fight to freedom and respect. As Alynda Segarra preaches:
"To all who lost their pride, I say, Pa'lante! To all who had to survive, I say, Pa'lante! To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, Pa'lante!"
Writing songs with a message can often turn out to be well-meaning, but musically less memorable. These songs, however, play as anthems and help do what music can do best – build bridges, unite people and form communities. Hurray for the Riff Raff, indeed!
"Nothing's Gonna Change That Girl"
Alynda Segarra (vocals/guitar), Jordan Hyde (guitar), Charlie Ferguson (drums), Sarah Goldstone (keys), Claudia Chopek (violin), Patricia Santos (Cello), Justin Kimmel (bass), Juan-Carlos Chaurand (percussion)
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Bronson Arcuri, Alyse Young; Production Assistant: Salvatore Maicki; Photo: Claire Harbage/NPR
"I'm ready for the world," Alynda Lee Segarra sings in the chorus of the rousing "Hungry Ghost" — and her band's set told that simple truth again and again. In the past seven or eight years, Hurray For The Riff Raff has blossomed slowly but fully, transforming its sound from intense-but-delicate one-woman bedroom recordings to the rip-roaring full-band jams that dominated the group's set at Stubb's BBQ in Austin, Texas, recorded live for NPR Music Wednesday night.
Segarra commanded rapt attention throughout a string of powerful songs from Hurray For The Riff Raff's new album The Navigator, which examines her Puerto Rican heritage and a search for what she calls "my lost humanity." Wearing a homemade T-shirt that read "No Human Is Illegal," Segarra roared through songs that seethed with coiled intensity — even the slow-burning ballad "Fourteen Floors," for which Segarra took over on keyboards, was performed with to-the-skies power. So, yeah: Ready for the world.
Credits: Producers: Robin Hilton, Mito Habe-Evans; Director: Colin Marshall; Technical Director: Josh Rogosin; Audio Engineer: Timothy Powell/Metro Mobile; Concert Videographers: Lizzie Chen, Mito Habe-Evans, Nickolai Hammar, Katie Hayes Luke, Kelly West; Editor: Morgan Noelle Smith; Supervising Editor: Niki Walker; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann; Special Thanks: SXSW, Stubb's BBQ
Oh I just wanna go to work -- And get back home, and be something I just wanna fall and lie -- And do my time, and be something Well I just wanna prove my worth -- On the planet Earth, and be, something I just wanna fall in love Not fuck it up, and feel something
Well lately, don’t understand what I am Treated as a fool Not quite a woman or a man Well I don’t know I guess I don’t understand the plan
Colonized, and hypnotized, be something Sterilized, dehumanized, be something Well take your pay And stay out the way, be something Ah do your best But fuck the rest, be something
Well lately, it’s been mighty hard to see Just searching for my lost humanity I look for you, my friend But do you look for me?
Lately I’m not too afraid, to die I wanna leave it all behind I think about it sometimes Lately all my time’s been movin slow I don’t know where I’m gonna go Just give me time, I’ll know
Oh, any day now Oh, any day now I will come along Oh, any day now Oh, any day now I will come along I will come along
Dead Puerto Ricans who never knew they were Puerto Ricans Who never took a coffee break from the 10th commandment To kill, kill, kill The landlords of their cracked skulls And communicate with their Latin souls Juan, Miguel, Mirado, Olga, Manuel From the nervous breakdown streets where the mice live like millionaires And the people do not live at all
From el barrio to Arecibo, ¡Pa’lante! From Marble Hill to the ghost of Emmett Till, ¡Pa’lante! To Juan, Miguel, Mirado, Manuel, ¡Pa’lante! To all who came before, we say, ¡Pa’lante! To my mother and my father, I say, ¡Pa’lante! To Julia, and Sylvia, ¡Pa’lante! To all who had to hide, I say, ¡Pa’lante! To all who lost their pride, I say, ¡Pa’lante! To all who had to survive, I say, ¡Pa’lante! To my brothers, and my sisters, I say, ¡Pa’lante! ¡Pa’lante! ¡Pa’lante! To all came before, we say, ¡Pa’lante!