The Navigator is a record made by and for the movement.
Written by Ida V. Eskamani
Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra is a musician born and raised in the Puerto Rican Bronx who came to age on the streets. In twelve exquisitely composed tracks, The Navigator follows the life and struggle of a Puerto Rican street kid not dissimilar from Segarra, named Navita Milagros Negrón. Through the eyes of this protagonist, the listener is brought face-to-face with the cruelest consequences of the American system: destitution, segregation, and exploitation. But as the record navigates these desperate circumstances, the listener bears witness to the most powerful force of all: the unyielding resilience of marginalized people.
As soon as the record begins, you know magic is about to seep deep into your soul. The Entrance opens with hums of a tuning orchestra, which give way to a harmonizing choir. The chorus finds a home somewhere between gospel and doo-wop as they sing in unison. Segarra's soulful vocals soon join in, and with a three-second countdown accompanied with an enduring acoustic riff, the listener is transported to the inner city alongside a child living in the projects. Living in the City encapsulates the cycle of poverty with incisive lyrics: “fourteen floors of birthin', and fourteen floors of dying." Hungry Ghost follows, transitioning from desperation to determination for something more than those fourteen floors so tragically described.
Rican Beach is a powerful track that encapsulates the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, and so many of our native lands and people. The incorporation of bongos layered with a steadfast bass line creates an undeniable energy. You can't help but feel the protagonist is about to let you in on a secret. The aura of this track is resolute, tenacious, and undeniably revolutionary.
Puerto Rican, Cuban and Brazilian backing beats are interwoven into folk, country, rock, gospel and doo-wop. The intersections of genres speak so beautifully to the narrative of the album, and the immigrant diasporas that inspired it.
Pa’lante is, hands down, the protest song of the year. It’s an anthem for our intersectional struggle. It progresses through themes as flawlessly as the medley on the Beatles' Abbey Road, and cumulates into a powerful love song for the movement’s past, present and future.
Segarra's lyrics throughout the record are stunningly vivid, perhaps even cinematic. As the listener joins the protagonist through this journey, the record transitions between genres with incredible ease. Puerto Rican, Cuban and Brazilian backing beats are interwoven into folk, country, rock, gospel and doo-wop. The intersections of genres speak so beautifully to the narrative of the album, and the immigrant diasporas that inspired it.
In its entirety, The Navigator is an anthem for the outsiders, the outcasts, and the oppressed-- immigrants, the working power, LGBTQ people, racial minorities, the colonized and the dehumanized. It is an ode to our ancestors and the untold power they possess. Musically and lyrically, it embodies our intersectional struggle. It’s an album built by and for the movement, in our souls and on the streets.
Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart.