Songwriter Spotlight: Brinae Ali

Next up in our Songwriter Spotlight series is Brinae Ali! This is Brinae's third time collaborating with us. We originally crossed paths when she sang backup for Britton Smith at a previous performance. After that concert, she sent us some of her own music and we jumped at the opportunity to work with her. We've loved incorporating her incredible tap dancing into our performances! For this concert, Brinae wrote a new song based on Dathonie Pinto's memoir, Chains Don't Rattle Themselves, which is also the title for our upcoming concert.

Did the process of writing a song based on someone else's real life differ from the way you usually write? If so, how?

Yes and no. The only difference for me is that it is not my personal experience, so I was not able to write from my own experience. However, reading Dathonie's memoir allowed me to identify my emotions and feelings towards trauma, motherhood, poverty, family violence, and abuse.  Through these emotions I was able to discover the interaction which allowed me to create. As far as process, I sometimes write my songs from a journal entry and pull out certain words or sentences and turn them into phrases, stanzas, or songs. It was nice to have her words to extract and transform.    

What surprised you during this process?

I think hearing other songwriters' interpretations of the stories, and actually having a chance to hear the other stories outside of the one that I was assigned. The best surprise of course is the arrangements that Solomon puts together for the orchestra. This is my 3rd time working with the orchestra, and it's always a beautiful surprise when we come together.  There is a very trusting component to the collaborating process. I feel like we all share similar values and respect for humanity, and therefore we can be at ease and rock out.  

In what ways have you recognized yourself in these real-life stories? In what ways are they foreign to your experience?

I can most definitely identify with this notion of PTSD that seems to reoccur through the narratives. In Anjelique Wadlington's story, "You, Me, Them, and Us, Equals We..," I felt like I could connect with her struggle of depression and the kind of inner monologue we have to have with ourselves to see that things could have been worse. Accepting that we can not change the past, we can only heal from it. Which can take a lifetime. I also appreciated her perspective on her breakthrough and how she was able to transform her karma to help others. I have never been incarcerated and did not miss any of my schooling. So I can not even imagine.

What about the concert excites you most?

The magical healing potion we get to sprinkle the people! haha! But seriously, I am excited to meet the women who wrote these narratives. I truly admire their strength.

How do political and social justice issues influence your work?

It influences my work tremendously! It is a part of my cultural upbringing. I was raised by my father to understand that yes we make art for the sake of making art, but we also have a responsibility and gift to use our art to heal and invoke the spirit of resistance and justice through the practice of the teachings of our ancestors. 

A clip of Brinae in rehearsal!

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