“One day I heard a song that made my nerves tremble and my hair stand on end," says singer Ani Cordero. And haven’t we all experienced that? Hearing a song, only to feel ourselves drifting, parting the proverbial curtain and walking into a room of perfect sounds, entirely teleported to the past, the future, or the absolutely splendid present?
If you’ve never listened to Cordero – woah, get on that right now, because girl has it all: pipes, talent, a whole lotta soul. She exploded onto the music scene in 1999, becoming the frontwoman for a bilingual indie-rock band, playing with members of Calexico and Giant Sand. Just a year later, she reformed the band with her husband, Chris Verene, and quickly gathered national recognition, touring with Los Lobos, Indigo Girls, and Neko Case, among other big names. Cordero’s voice is equal parts sultry cool and edgy sizzle – not to mention the fact that she’s also a kickass drummer.
Recently, the band has been embarking on an amazing new project, synthesizing their love for world music with their passion for social change.
Cordero says she was inspired when she listened to a song by Piero, an Argentinian musician from the 60’s. “I asked my mom if she knew of Piero. Mami said, ‘Don’t you remember? I played that Piero record all day and night when you were little.’ I didn’t remember, but my body remembered. I wrote to Piero, we became friends – and it was like a magic door was opened to a whole world of music from the past that felt familiar and urgent, no matter what language you speak.”
Thus came about Recordar: Latin American Songs of Love and Protest. Cordero, along with a bevy of skilled musicians – including Kelly Pratt who has played with David Byrne, Arcade Fire, and Beirut – put together an album reinterpreting 11 classic Latin American songs dawning from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. She wants to introduce these astonishingly beautiful, historically momentous songs to a newer generation, as well as help raise awareness about the significance of political art in social change.
For example, Cordero does a lustrous cover of Deja la vida volar by Victor Jara. Jara was a Chilean singer, theatrical director, and activist in the 60’s and 70’s, participating in the Nueva Cancion Chilena (New Chilean Song) movement, which led to a revolution in Chile’s popular music. However, after the socialist Salvador Allende government was overthrown by a military coup in 1973, Jara was arrested, tortured, and killed.
“This music remains as relevant as ever. We really need to remember the risks required in standing up for social justice. This music is a reminder and a way to start a conversation about all that has been sacrificed, and all that remains to be done,” reads Cordero’s Kickstarter page.
I couldn’t agree more. The Arab Spring was notably galvanized in part by the political music and art scene burgeoning in the Middle East. This summer’s protests in Istanbul resulted in media blackouts, pushing protesters towards alternative outlets to express their opinions.
And this week, this discussion becomes particularly salient and painful as we face the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal after killing black teenager Trayvon Martin, who was famously unarmed, carrying Skittles and tea. Last Sunday, hundreds of New Yorkers flocked to Union Square to protest the ludicrous outcome, marching all the way up to Times Square and occupying the space.
Protests have continued into the week all around the country as people expressed their outrage at the horrific racism blatant in the justice system – and furthermore, in the fabric of America itself.
We have a long way to go. Although it’s easy to look back on history and dismiss what happened to Jara as old news, to hear the old songs of protest and feel nostalgic for an age that’s past, that’s not where we are. What happened to Trayvon, and what happens to so many across the country as racism and sexism endanger our lives, shows us that we must continue to fight for equality and justice.
Ani Cordero’s album is a celebration of that fight, that spirit of social change. Support her in her quest to spread beautiful, socially aware music by donating to her Kickstarter - and do it fast, because her campaign ends soon!
If you would also like to support Justice For Trayvon, sign the NAACP’s petition urging the Department of Justice to address the travesties in this tragedy. One million have already signed, and the movement is growing.
Red Dress and Postcard Images courtesy of Erin Patrice O'Brien