Hurray For The Riff Raff | The Dome | 22 March 2017
As Hurray For The Riff Raff launch into a feisty take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s anti-war outburst ‘Fortunate Son’, Alynda Segarra declares: “Keep on marching, stay strong, and protect each other.”
It’s the perfect summation of the past 80 minutes: a revitalising set of protest songs that run the gamut from the personal to the political. Yet, even as the impassioned singer addresses social and economic issues humanised by way of the immigrant experience, she and the audience can’t help but swing, her charged lyrics paired with music that’s just as powerful.
That music runs the gamut from the bluegrass of ‘Daniella’ and country hoedown that is ‘Blue Ridge Mountain’ to the dark ‘80s synth flavours of high-energy empowerment anthem ‘Hungry Ghost’. Of course Segarra’s beloved jazz gets a look-in with songs like a lovingly received ‘St. Roch Blues’, while the barren folk arrangement of ‘The Body Electric’ highlights such devastating lines as “Said you’re gonna shoot me down, put my body in the river” and “The whole world sings like there’s nothing going wrong”.
Even more direct is the flamenco-flavoured ‘Rican Beach’. “Well you can take my life, but don’t take my home,” she declares, “I’ll keep fighting ‘til the end,” on one of several new songs that explore what it means to be a “Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx”. And the haunting ‘Fourteen Floors’, performed on just keyboard and guitar, starkly compares growing up in a tiny apartment with her father’s move to the United States.
The salsa swing of ‘The Navigator’ has Segarra reconnecting with her ancestors, the sunny ‘Life To Save’ could be the soundtrack to summer nights out on the streets, the gentle country twang of ‘Nothing’s Gonna Change That Girl’ contrasts the headstrong message, and vibrant ‘Living In The City’ channels the early ‘70s psychedelic storytelling of Rodriguez’ ‘Cold Fact’.
But of the new songs, the most moving is the visceral ‘Pa’lante’. As if at a rally, Segarra has the largely white, middle-class audience chanting the title (meaning “onwards, forwards”) as she dedicates the sentiment to her mother and father, to all who had to hide, to all who lost their pride, to all who had to survive, her brothers and her sisters, to all who came before.
Like ‘Fortunate Son’, this is mainstream music, with a message.
- Hurray For The Riff Raff play KOKO on 17th October 2017. Tickets are available here.