Bronx Native Addresses Nation with New Album

By Eileen Sepulveda

Alynda Lee Segarra and her band, Hurray for the Riff Raff, performing live. Photo courtesy of Wikicommons.

Born and raised in the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s lead singer Alynda Lee Segarra electrifies the ears with her Nuyorican poetic lyrics on the band’s eighth album. “The Navigator” explores the effects of the gentrification that is occurring throughout New York City. Segarra combines her Latin roots and folk music to generate a powerful message, and the band’s performance is vibrant and alive with spirit. With a combination of old-school salsa, acoustic guitar, and Segarra’s velvety voice, the album takes you on a soul-searching journey.

In the title song, Segarra shares memories of being “raised by the street.” She asks with a melancholy tone and a sense of tremendous pride, “where will all my people go?” referring to entire communities being displaced by gentrification. This song can speak, not only to a lot of native New Yorkers, but to many immigrants who currently feel unwanted in America.

Segarra told the Meridian, “I know that right now, especially in the South [Bronx], gentrification is creeping in. Lots of people are in danger of losing their homes. This album touches on that. Cities all over the country are changing for the sake of profit, not people.”

Segarra also emphasized the importance of her Bronx roots. “Everywhere I go I tell people specifically---I am from the Bronx, a borough that has soul! It’s the people of the Bronx that made me who I am. I had to leave to know what I had, and now I pray the borough does not lose the very people who made it a historic place.”

In the song “Rican Beach,” the cries of the people speak through her lyrics. “Now all the politicians/They just squawk their mouths/They say we’ll build a wall to keep them out,” she sings. “You can take my life/But don’t take my home.” Here Segarra addresses America’s new leadership, the many struggles of immigrants that want to come to America, and the reality of gentrification happening within our own communities.

The song also has a strong Latin vibe; the heaviness of the timbales and the bluesy sound of the bass guitar spark memories of legends like Willie Colón and Tito Puente. At the same time, “RicanBeach” is an example of true Americana folk music.

“Pa’lante” is powerful and upbeat. It was also the name of the newspaper of the Puerto Rican nationalist group of the 1970s, the Young Lords. Segarra includes lines from the famous poem “Puerto Rican Obituary” by Pedro Pietri, “where the mice live like millionaires/and the people do not live at all.”This blends well with Segarra’s assertion that we must “pa’lante,” or move forward.

Unlike the country folk southern feel of their last seven albums, “The Navigator” is funky, and the honest grittiness of Segarra’s voice is definitely a breath of fresh air. The album appeals to both a broader audience and the hearts of her New Orleans fans.

Following up a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom in Manhattan on April 20, the band will soon be touring nationwide to promote the “The Navigator.”