When: Tue., June 16, 8:30 p.m. 2015
HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF
TUESDAY, JUNE 16
CAT'S CRADLE, CARRBORO—Many of the most memorable American folk songs—tunes by, of and for the communities who created them—hinged on missions of social justice. Iconic tunes like "Which Side Are You On?," "We Shall Overcome" and "This Land is Your Land" spoke truth to power in movements supporting labor rights, civil rights and the like. But folk music, at least in its most popular current form, has shifted from social consciousness toward a trending lifestyle, where a banjo and a beard can be a fashion statement and not a symptom of a greater cause.
Enter Hurray For The Riff Raff, the project of Bronx-born singer-songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra. Her band's music fits the contemporary folk aesthetic—acoustic, melodic, pleasant—but her words point to those powerful foundations of folk. "The Body Electric," from the band's February LP Small Town Heroes, addresses sexual violence. "He shot her down, he put her body in the river," goes one haunting verse. "He covered her up but I went to get her/And I said, 'My girl, what happened to you now?'/I said, 'My girl, we gotta stop it somehow.'" Segarra's voice moves with anger and sadness. In a campaign to raise money for a video for "The Body Electric," Hurray For The Riff Raff also raised money for the Trayvon Martin Foundation and an organization that supports gender activism for youth.
In May, Segarra wrote an editorial for the website The Bluegrass Situation. She quoted the feminist scholar bell hooks and beseeched her fellow folk artists to "fall in love with justice" again. They didn't need to be spokespeople, she said, so much as witnesses to the world's ills. "How dangerous for the future of folk music in our country it is to push away the people who could be telling first hand accounts, singing dreams of justice, and proclaiming their love of this land and all it could be," she concluded. Music can be a tool to foster unity and ignite change and make a difference. Would it hurt to try and wield that instrument anew? Clear Plastic Masks open. 8:30 p.m., $15, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro, 919-967-9053, www.catscradle.com. —Allison Hussey