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Solid Sound Collective creates original music to celebrate and inspire social change

An illustration of a woman listening to music on headphones
Maria Fabrizio
Special to NPR

Community activism and music both run deep in the St. Louis area. To celebrate that legacy, the Solid Sound Collective – a project of the nonprofit Action Art Collaborative – brought five local musicians together to produce a set of original songs based on interviews with St. Louis activists, organizers and community advocates.

Colin McLaughlin is among those five musicians. He’s also an Action Art Collaborative team member. He told St. Louis on the Air that Solid Sound Collective was inspired by the intersections of individual artists, creative purpose and community focus.

“We knew of a group of musicians who were already using their platform to advocate for social change [who] are aware of the systemic racism and poverty in St. Louis [and] also aware of the incredible local legacy of resistance and people movements,” he said. “We wanted to encourage even more collaboration and partnerships.”

Pairing Solid Sound Collective musicians with local activists and organizations provided a significant two-in-one for Collective member Ryan Marquez’s song, “Stand Tall,” a piece inspired by prominent activist Percy Green II.

“In the spirit that we were having an actual conversation, I wanted to include his voice and his words and really make it a part of the music. I wanted the music to reflect the spiritual nature and the energy of original music born and marinated here,” said Marquez. “In the confluence of the cool where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet with the rich tradition of blues and jazz influence, as well as some soul, gospel and hip-hop.”

Colin McLaughlin, left, and Alicia Revé, right
Emily Woodbury
Colin McLaughlin, left, and Alicia Revé

For singer/songwriter Alicia Revé, the residency with the Solid Sound Collective was her introduction to the Migrant and Community Action Project, a community organization she’d previously been unfamiliar with. It was also an opportunity to write two songs – “Ana’s Song” and “The Golden Cage” – about an experience she’s personally come to understand better and believes others can, too.

“I think a ton of us, especially native-born Americans, think we understand what it's like to come to this country as a transplant and as an immigrant. We think we know the journey. Because of so much misinformation, there's a lot we don't know. So to hear firsthand of someone's experience is eye-opening but also empowering,” Revé said.

Revé said the communal, mission-focused nature of the Solid Sound Collective makes the project unique and exciting. “We are doing this work not to elevate ourselves, not to puff ourselves up, but really to tell the stories of other individuals, shine a light on organizations and then look at audience members saying, ‘Hey, so what are you going to add now to this pot that we've already started?’”

To hear music by Solid Sound Collective and to learn more about the project’s approach to deploying music to bridge community figures, organizations and issues, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or YouTube; or click the play button below.

Solid Sound Collective creates original music to celebrate and inspire social change

Related Event
What: Solid Sound Collective premiere
When: June 2
Where: Work & Leisure (3015 Locust St., St. Louis, MO 63103)

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Ulaa Kuziez, Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Roshae Hemmings is our production assistant. Our audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Elaine Cha is the host/producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.