A Conversation with Youth Musicians from Boston’s Boys & Girls Clubs

One of my favorite things about co-hosting a radio show is to have diverse guests and engage in dynamic conversations. Interviews ON AIR have a special feeling of liveliness. Animated by the immediacy of broadcasting and the transmission of electric wave, conversations feel as public performances in front of a wide audience. In America Unificacion, the youth radio show I have been mentoring since last year at East Boston’s Zumix radio station, we have started to experiment with this format and we are really enjoying it. Last week, Manuela, the youth host, and I received the visit of a talented group of youth musicians from the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Boston area (Charlestown, South Boston, Blue Hills, Roxbury, Chelsea and the Mattapan Teen Center).

Talking with these young musicians about their creative processes and listening to their music productions was inspiring and mind opening. Ranging from 10 to 18 years old, these youths have actively leveraged the learning ecosystem of the city, connecting to opportunities, and creating learning pathways following their passions.

The Boys and Girls Club of Boston have been important hubs for them, providing access to learning spaces, mentors, peers, and technology.  These after-school programs and centers have connected to the local universities and created opportunities for volunteering and mentoring. For instance, several students from the Berklee College of Music have become mentors in the Boys and Girls Club youth and support them in their learning and music production processes.

Meet Kaya, a 15 years old African-American musician from Roxbury, who has been making music since she was 9. She has learned to play guitar, sing, write her own music, and collaborate with producers to create powerful music tracks at the Boys and Girls Club studio.  “From Time” is the song she shared with us and  we played during the first section of the show (starts around minute 10).

As the voices and their music tracks reveal these youths have taken their passion seriously and have transformed their play and hobbies into serious and almost professional work. The quality of their music production and the stories that they told us during the interview let us appreciate how their interests and the social support they have encountered, have allowed them to articulate powerful identities and pursue their dreams of becoming professional musicians.

Listen, for instance, to the stories and music that are part of the second section of the show. Specially the cases of King David, a 10 years old African-American MC who has been rapping since he was 6, and Clark D, a 18 years  Haitian-American MC and producer. The tracks thee brought to our show were powerful. Well produced and with strong messages. The one of King David, with a explicit call for safety, and the one of Clark D with an powerful articulation of Caribbean identity.

While interviewing the youth musicians from Boys and Girls Club I couldn’t stop thinking of how important is Hip Hop culture for minority youth and of its great potential to create pathways to opportunity. After the show, I have the opportunity to talk to some of the adult producers that came with the group to Zumix and they talked about several stories of success from MCs and producers that have been cultivated in the Boys and Girls Club of Boston. I am very curious to hear more about them. Meanwhile, I would end this entry sharing a link to the Sound Cloud channel of Clark D, and to the song Fuego that we broadcasted during our America Unificacion show.

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