Music/poetry album created through collaboration of faculty, staff, and students

Literature faculty member Alwin Jones recently released internationally a long-awaited reggae/poetry album titled “What Is? Love.” Created in collaboration with former students Jules Belmont '13 and Briaan L. Barron '13 and a former chef for the College, Mark J. Silva, the album is available worldwide for download via iTunes, Amazon MP3, and Google Play. Physical discs are available through Amazon.com. The project is a unique collaboration by which faculty, staff, and students together created intellectual property.

Jones, who is a US-based Guyanese artist, has taught at Sarah Lawrence since 2008. His collaboration with Belmont, a recording musician and guitarist, and Barron, a vocalist, is “a great ‘bottom-up experience’ of music recorded anywhere—studios, classrooms, and an office,” says Belmont. The album features Belmont’s original music, alongside the work of Silva, a popular reggae DJ and, says Jones, most importantly, a reggae and Garifuna music savant. “Briaan L. Barron’s vocals add rich soulfulness to several tracks,” Jones states, and notes that she is also the graphic designer of the album art that includes photos curated by US- based Guyanese photographer Ade “Shodiphoto” Oshodi.  As former students and donees of Jones, Barron and Belmont both encouraged their ‘prof’ to set his poetry to music after he had worked with them on creating several projects over their years at Sarah Lawrence.

The lyrics on the album tell stories related to Jones by his maternal grandmother, Cicely “Ninny” Narain. It is Jones’ opportunity to share his story of surviving domestic violence and political unrest as child and pre-teen in Guyana, South America; of the deeply spiritual woman who swept the village roadsides as an oracle of death; and of those who revolved from slavery to help make freedom a less abstract concept in the western world. The music itself remains as organically rich as the stories. For example, “Muddy Cutlass Clan” is an ode to slave revolts and anti-slavery activism that occurred in the United States, Caribbean, and West Africa. It tells the story of folks who used any available tools—cutlasses, forks, etc.—to take their freedom. If you listen closely to the percussion of “Muddy Cutlass,” you can hear the rhythmic clinking of a broken bottle added to Silva’s beat during post-production mixing by Belmont who found the bottle on the way to the studio. Music mimics history.

According to Jones the album is a musical meeting of independent artists and kindred spirits. In sum, he says, it defines several kinds of love, that basic and essential human connection, between artists, friends, students and teachers, musicians, activists, and family. “It is our hope that folks listening to the album will hear our songs and ask the question What is? and nod along, answering Love.”

To listen to samples or purchase the album, visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/alwinjones.

What Is? Love album cover