Alynda Segarra grew up in a Puerto Rican family in the Bronx. As a teenager, she hit the road, hopping trains, living a traveler’s life. She wound up in New Orleans in 2007 and felt more at home here than anywhere else. Segarra played acoustic on street corners, and started the band Hurray for the Riff Raff.
AS: When I ran away, I was just like living on the road with a bunch of other young, traveling kids. And playing music, it was just a way to survive at first. Because at that point, I had just been asking people for money, you know with a sign, being like “Homeless Run Away, Help Me Out,” and when I came to New Orleans and I found people that were playing on the street and they were like, “play with us, and sing with us,” I just felt like it had all come together.
NS: New Orleans did shape your music somewhat in being here?
AS: Definitely, I’m always going to be a New Yorker, but New Orleans is what made me a musician. Not only did I actually learn how to play music here, but I learned about what music is for. You know, here is where I learned that music is for community, it’s for mourning it’s for celebration. Like, when I got here, music made sense to me because it wasn’t pretentious.
NS: Well on Look Out Mama, the title track has the narrator coming home to Mama and Daddy, and you yodel in it! A little Jimmy Rodgers or the Blue Yodel,
AS: Yeah, I remember the first time I played that song in New York, my family afterwards was like, “I’ve never heard a Puerto Rican yodel before, but it was pretty good!”
NS: You have this song, Rican Beach, which, by extension “Puerto Rican Beach,” somewhere in the New York, New Jersey Area.
AS: With Rican Beach, I wanted to get across this idea of, it can be you at any moment. You can be the one who’s on the other side of that wall. Who’s being hidden away from society. Who’s seen as a threat and also seen as someone who’s just not needed.
AS: I’ve listened to a lot of recordings form, like, the Civil Rights Movement and that music, those recordings, like I have a recording that’s all music from the march on Selma. And it’s just someone recording them as they’re marching and singing, and I always feel like when you hear those songs, it does something to your spirit where you feel brave. And you feel like you are filled with strength once again, even though you might’ve felt so beaten down before you listened to it. So I really would love to be somebody who can provide that space for people to feel this feeling that really only music and love can give you, which is like this strength that comes from somewhere we can’t really describe.