On Sunday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m., New Yorkers of all ages will take the Zankel Hall stage for Soul Mechanism: A Concert Celebrating the Music of Migrations, a special evening that marks the culmination of a citywide creative learning project. Led by celebrated performer Toshi Reagon and a band made up of longtime collaborators, the concert will showcase original songs written by New Yorkers in a performance featuring American roots songstress Martha Redbone, jazz and gospel vocalist Lizz Wright, singer-songwriter and filmmaker Be Steadwell, activist-artist Taina Asili, Sudanese singer Alsarah Elgadi, and other special guest artists.
Inspired by Carnegie Hall’s citywide Migrations: The Making of America festival, songwriters from across the city have engaged with their own family histories and the legacies of their communities this season, creating new works about migration, immigration, home, and what it means to belong. This one-night-only concert experience promises to be an intriguing and timely exploration.
“We have selected seven new songs written by musicians from a variety of settings: classrooms, after-school programs, and the justice system,” said Toshi Reagon. “Each songwriter has a different voice and history with music. Together, their words and sounds will tell a powerful story about our collective experience with migration.”
The songs—composed in a wide variety of styles from blues to reggae and R&B to folk—include “Freedom Trap,” about the challenges of returning home after incarceration, “Sunshine,” about facing discrimination as a Filipino American, and “Señoritas,” a song inspired by the stories of women traveling to the United States from Latin America. “Home,” written by young musicians in the justice system, expresses a simple wish to go home, “Get” highlights the exodus of African Americans from the South to the North during the Great Migration, and “Unity is Now” contrasts Martin Luther King’s dream of freedom and equality with the current realities of immigration enforcement. “To the Highest Elevation” explores evolution, migration, and the passing of cultural and family traditions.
Listen to demos of these brand new tracks here.
Many of the songwriters—all of whom participate in programs offered through Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute—will perform their own songs in the concert, including members of the Future Music Project Ensemble—a teen collective that comes together weekly in the Hall’s Resnick Education Wing to create, perform, and produce original music. Additional songwriters/performers include members of the Musical Connections Advisory Committee, and high school students from P177Q in Queens, New York. In addition to the new material, Toshi Reagon will select additional songs that speak to different aspects of the migration experience and showcase each of the guest artists’ perspectives.
In preparation for the show, Toshi Reagon will lead a community conversation in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing on Saturday, May 18 at 3:00 p.m. with Marley Dias, the 13 year-old founder of #1000BlackGirlBooks, civil rights lawyer Anurima Bhargava, East-African retro-pop artist Alsarah Elgadi, and Natalia Aristizabal Betancur from Make the Road New York. The event is free and open to the public, and RSVPs open on Friday, May 10 at 11:00 a.m.
“This season, songwriters from across New York City have grappled with the theme of migration, creating deeply personal and powerful songs,” said Sarah Johnson, Chief Education Officer and Director of Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute. “This music is imaginative, relevant, and needs to be heard. We can’t wait to showcase these incredible new songs on the Carnegie Hall stage while opening up this important discussion around migration, origins, and belonging to the wider community.”