UPDATED: Amazing news! Los Geekz, whose corrido is described below, as well as "Los Angeles," a corrido by Erendira Hernandez, will be performed by OZOMATLI at LACMA's The Corrido of L.A. event on December 18th! Congrats to the student producers!
Last week, students finished their corridos and submitted them to The Corrido of L.A. on LACMA's website. Our group to many different approaches to this project. Some students chose to work individually; some students worked in groups; some chose to write a poem; and some recorded themselves reading a poem.
One song that really stood out was produced by a group of students who call themselves Los Geekz. They performed a hip-hop song with beats and even background vocals. The group--comprised of Angel, Arthur, Geovanni, Mike, and April--put their collaborative forces together and truly left the Departures Team breathless with their song, Change is Coming. The song reflects some of the harshness of living in the inner city, specifically Lincoln Heights, and how the songwriters strive to overcome obstacles like gangs, violence, teen pregnancy, dropping out of school, and drugs.
It took about three weeks for the song to come together. At first, it seemed like the students were in constant procrastination mode, but, as it turned out, their non-stop YouTube surfing was actually a search for inspiration for both lyrics and beats. Once they found the right beat, Angel, Arthur, and Mike each worked on a verse independently while Geovanni put together the chorus. Mike and Angel worked on lyrics using their mobile devices, while Arthur hosted the song on his laptop. Angel then brought it to class for the final recording session where Angel and Mike laid down the two verses and April sang the chorus.
In this anthem, Los Geekz position themselves as agents of change in their neighborhood, the team looking to reclaim the streets and make them a better place. In this blog entry, Mike writes about the process and the underlying desire embodied in their song for a place where hope can foster creativity, connectivity, and community.
After first hearing the song, I was reminded of Jeff Chang's book Can't Stop Won't Stop where he discusses the positive influence of hip hop, particularly Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation, in the South Bronx during an era of heightened gang violence. This isn't to say that the Lincoln Heights of today is quite analogous to the bombed-out and severely disenfranchised South Bronx of the late 70s--my ruminations can sometimes get the best of me! I merely wanted to take you down the emotional path I traveled while listening to this beautiful corrido.
Here's a video of Mike and Los Geekz during their recording session.