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A New (Ancient) Arts Activism

I found someone!!!

Someone awesome!!!

Leah Song is a musician, activist, spoken word poet. “I am a blacksmith of iron and words,” she sings.

For a long time, I wanted to go the Big Way. I wanted Capital-S success. The badges I could wear and tout so that as I grew, everyone would know where I’d been and what I’d accomplished. The traditional markers and notches, denoting my worth.

I came to BU to deconstruct this, opting for a collaborative, ensemble-based program that encouraged holistic artistry and multifaceted talent. Where I could hone my skills not just as an actor, but a writer/Artistperson/activist/who-knows-what-else.

Leah Song makes music with her sister, Chloe. They call themselves Rising Appalachia. And they are not going the Big Way. (Though they have been very financially successful). They’ve got a song called “Scale Down” and dream called the Slow Music Movement. Leah gave a TedTalk about this idea, which essentially is about creating an alternative path to the current music industry. They model themselves as the modern “troubadour”.

Troubadour: a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages

These people traveled between communities, staying for multiple days or weeks as storytellers, artists, public servants, reciting “rhetorical, musical, and poetical fiction”

This reflects the sisters’ deep commitment to keeping their music accessible on a street level. They started by busking on the streets of NOLA. This is where I really am moved by them…:

They hold 3 booths at every show they produce for local non-profits to meet with concert-goers and speak about their work. Their goal is to incorporate Amtrak for accessible travel. They work with local healers and farmers to create fresh farm-to-table meals at their events. They hold holistic natural healing classes and sessions to share and engage with he communities they serve. And I do mean serve—they identify artists as public servants.

They are from Atlanta, GA, like me. They write songs filled with spoken word poetry and draw musical influence from Southern soul, hip-hop, gospel, folk. They write about their activism, the Earth, their spirituality (which are intricately linked). They currently work to ease racial inequality and the flawed justice system of the South. They work in Atlanta prisons to inspire creative spirit and physiological distress from a system designed to fail certain people.

The sisters’ activism focuses on racial inequality, the environment, natural healing forms, and cultural appropriation. Leah was engaged with the Zapatista movement in Mexico when she was young, and continues to advocate for indigenous rights, particularly in the southern US and in Mexico. The Zapatista movement involvement interests me particularly because they are dedicated to 2 cornerstone ideas: Women’s Revolutionary Law (a sort of base female-bill-of-rights ideology), and spreading the “Postcolonial Gaze” theory.

And then! I’m watching one of their videos, and they are literally WEARING COMMEDIA MASKS. The upright bass player is decked out with a beak, there’s an aerial silks dancer in the back…this is the kinda thing I’m looking to get into. The sisters have long been involved with circus arts and live performance, and they play hugely collaborative roles as artists in this way.

I realized this summer that I need to make music in order to fully express myself and serve our community. Though I do not regret the time spent acting, moving, writing. I have learned to hone my body as an instrument, and I will continue to in Arezzo this next semester! (holla Commedia!!) I’ve recently started hula hooping as a form of “Flow Art” and movement meditation, to both ground my personal self, and hopefully become a vehicle for performance and movement.

All this to say…I am really finding some of my jams. I’m finding music styles that can hold spoken poetry in different ways. I’m finding artists who want small, intimate connection. My cousin met Leah and Chloe in Asheville—they are living authentically and kindly. They engage with the people they perform for. I’m drawn to this. I’m drawn to the activism, the farm-to-table for at events, the bolstering of local nonprofits. I love their artistically collaborative spirit, as well, with the live performance art and movement pieces. These are all things I want to be a part of—the only gap is my own fears, my still-to-be-had music education, my continued education as a writer, mover, vessel, collaborator.

I started realizing about last year that my words had rhythm. I realized the things I was writing naturally had repetition, alliteration, repeated sounds and ideas and images. And in a small dusty soulful scared sacred corner, a piece of me whispered, “These could be songs.”

I think one day soon, they will be. 🙂

 

Links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVaA-VUlgBc

-This is the link to the TedTalk Leah did, where she talks about the Slow Music Movement and the girls’ artistic philosophy/goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmr5rdaemYk

-One of my favorite songs of theirs. “Scale Down”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-16VK4dwuI

-This is the video with circus art performers. “Sunu” 

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