A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Let the Record Reflect: Songs from Bushwick/SAL Partner-Events

By Wes Weddell, Associate Director of The Bushwick Book Club

For the fourth season of partner-events between Seattle Arts & Lectures and The Bushwick Book Club Seattle, the two organizations set a goal to record as many of the songs—created by Bushwick artists inspired by SAL’s lineup and premiered at author-events—as possible. With the season having recently concluded, both groups are delighted to announce the release of the 2018/19 Partnership Songs collection, featuring five of these new musical works: the first “SALbum”!

Here are the songs and a brief statement from the songwriter:

Song: “Ancestors Never Sleep

Composer: J.R. Rhodes

SAL Event: Alice Walker

“Ancestors Never Sleep” is based on the Alice Walker poem by the same name. The idea behind the poem is that our ancestors are always with us, watching over us. I thought to write a lullaby to emphasize that we can feel safe and comforted in that knowing.

Song: “Deaf Nation

Composer: Matt Price

SAL Event: Ilya Kaminsky

“Deaf Nation” was inspired by the book, Deaf Republic, by Ilya Kaminsky. Many of the images come straight out of the book, but it is not so much a retelling of the Deaf Republic as a reflection of it through American eyes, focusing on some of the current, and perennial, American social conflicts.

Song: “Chemical Warfare

Composer: Shaudi Bianca Vahdat

SAL Event: Solmaz Sharif

“Chemical Warfare” is a song inspired primarily by Solmaz Sharif’s poetry collection, Look, as well as supplemental research into the Iran-Iraq War. The song seeks to be a compassionate study of grief in the wake of wartime.


Song: “If We Try and We Fail

Composer: Alex Guy

SAL Event: HERE: Poems for the Planet, feat. Francisco Aragón & Kimiko Hahn

As I was reading the poems in HERE, one thing that really struck me was the full perspective the anthology provided. Poems that celebrate the beauty of life, nature and human connection, followed by poems acknowledging the pain and destruction that is taking place on the earth, followed by poems that call us to action. Reading these together took me on a full and emotional journey. And as I worked on my song, I imagined my own inner journey of moving from fear and isolation towards a place of hopefulness, and a growing trust that when we strive collectively and allow ourselves to feel the full weight of our experiences, we are resilient enough to carry on and continue to try, even in the face of the most complex and daunting challenges.

Song: “Back Home to Me

Composer: Reggie Garrett

SAL Event: Imbolo Mbue

The ending of Imbolo Mbue’s book jolted me and caused me to re-think some of the assumptions I’d carried with me as I read. When someone chooses to end the struggle, does that necessarily mean they’ve lost? We hear all the time about people who come to the U.S. from other countries and work hard to make it here. On the other hand, we rarely hear about those who choose (for whatever reason) to return home. For my song, I chose to think of the country Cameroon as an elder, many of whose children have left (and are leaving). In the song, the Elder dispenses its wisdom to one who has returned—something along the lines of, “I could have told you all this but, being young, you had to go and learn for yourself…” The song is constructed of three double verses, each followed by a chorus. Note that I tried to appropriate (and butcher) Cameroonian proverbs as the first two lines of each verse and chorus.

Posted in 2018/19 Season