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Hurray For The Riff Raff: The Navigator, a story through an album

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Anaum Salman, Staff Writer

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Changing up their style, Hurray For The Riff Raff releases a unique album

Regularly, songs in an album follow a similar theme. The folk band, Hurray For The Riff Raff, however, released an album which follows a story instead. Alynda Lee Segarra, the face of the band, constructed a character and wrote her story. The band’s new album paints a story of self-discovery and acceptance.

Segarra, a Puerto-Rican woman who grew up in New York, wrote the lyrics and her 17-year-old character, Navita’s, story through her own experiences. Navita doesn’t feel right in her place in society and wishes to forget her life. When she wakes up, 40 years later, everything is gone and she realizes how she misses it. She then goes on a journey to find all those lost. Segarra’s story is somewhat similar. She left the Bronx, where she grew up, not finding herself there and confused about her identity. She traveled through trains and random cards, until making her home in New Orleans, where she met her band members. Through this album, she finally accepts the Puerto Rican part of her identity.

The album consists of twelve songs which each contains so much emotion and meaning in each line. In one song, “Rican Beach”, Segarra sings “First they stole our language, then they stole our names, then they stole the things that brought us fame. Then they stole our neighbors, and they stole our streets and they left us to die on Rican Beach.” The song speaks to not only Segarra but many other minorities who might be going through this today. Currently, many minorities in our country have been under scrutiny and are having their history ripped apart and forgotten. One by one, things of culture are being labeled un-American and thrown under the bus as suspicious or are being appropriated by western fashion and decoration. Minorities feel as though they are on Rican Beach, disconnected from the rest of the world.

Another song,”Pa’lante”, is about the spiritual death that one feels when ancestry history and culture is forgotten and pushed to the side in order to fit in and assimilate into society. The song contains an excerpt from the  Pedro Pietri’s seminal 1969 poem “Puerto Rican Obituary.” The poem references Segarra’s feelings in her lyrics, making the insert her own. Later in the song, Segarra raises her voice, yelling the title of the song which translates to ‘onwards, forwards’. Segarra writing and way of performing the song allows the listener to feel exactly what she is feeling- what Navita is feeling.

The album provides a unique voice with a unique but very real story that many other women, and even men, share across the country. Listening to the album, and hearing Segarra’s rough but soft voice telling her and Navita’s stories is both inspiring and calming. The unique mix of instruments of banjos, guitar, keyboard, and drums only enhance the lyrics, allowing the listener to be there right beside Navita as she experiences and discovers her identity.

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Hurray For The Riff Raff: The Navigator, a story through an album