While the pandemic and social unrest have understandably slowed down some creatives, there are also countless COVID bedroom albums and various other interesting outlets that heads have plugged into throughout the apocalypse. Just as local musicians have found their way streaming and screaming and dreaming these past several months, students from Berklee College of Music have been writing and rehearsing back home, wherever that may be.
We’re always looking for new sounds, energetic and exciting variations from the ordinary, tracks that make us think and drink, and Berklee’s typically superb for such pursuits, whether their compilations or showcases. While its students play in bands on scenes across New England, their coming into Boston from around the world also lends to a flavor that’s refreshingly kaleidoscopic.
A number of submissions to the school’s recently wrapped Songs for Social Change initiative speak to that expansive range of talent.
“This year, the contest received 90 submissions of original student songs from around the world,” Berklee announced in a statement. A tradition for more than a decade, the Songs for Social Change Contest “encourages students to write songs expressing their convictions about social issues of concern.” Until now, though, it’s never taken place in any circumstances that can compare to the current COVID commotion.
“Normally, the contest and a live event showcasing the winners are held during the spring semester,” the statement noted. “When the coronavirus forced the world to operate remotely, adhering to the original contest timeline and showcase plan became impossible.”
First place honors went to Gayathri Karunakar Menon, a double major in contemporary writing and production and songwriting from Qatar, with second place awarded to songwriting major Alexandra Riordan, from Australia for her song “Listen and Love.” Third place was a tie between songwriting major Samuel Foster and professional music major Madison Simpson for her song “Quilt too Big to Fold.”
All together, the winners, honorable mentions, and judges “hail from 16 U.S. states as well as Australia, England, Hong Kong, India, Macedonia, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, and Spain.”
“It’s an honor to have my story heard and acknowledged. It is a sign that our community is open-minded and willing to listen to those with diverse stories,” Menon said. “My family immigrated to Qatar [from India] in the 90’s. This song is about our experiences as people who aren’t citizens of the country they call home. While we love our lives there, we’re deprived of rights like complete ownership of property and business. Much of our status there depends on our livelihood, and we live in constant uncertainty.”
- 1st place: “Privilege to Dream” by Gayathri Karunakar Menon (Doha, Qatar)
- 2nd place: “Listen and Love” by Alexandra Riordan (Newcastle, Australia)
- 3rd place (tie): “Ghost on the Sidewalk” by Samuel Foster (Issaquah, WA); “Quilt Too Big to Fold” by Madison Simpson (Concord, NH)