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A new sound is being produced by DMV musicians as a result of their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic.
Local artists such as DuPont Brass, Summer Dennis, and Marquel aka Daniel Williams created lyrics that speak to the disproportionate deaths rates in the Black community due to police brutality and the ongoing pandemic.
Marquel recently released “VESSEL!,” a five-song EP that speaks on the pandemic experience and embracing change, if not necessarily intentionally.
“The album that I’m working on is way more based on my experience in the pandemic. It has a different sound and vibe,” Marquel said. “The lyrics in my EP relate to the current situation but I could have never predicted how much, because I started working on it prior to the lockdown. Lyrics like, ‘It’s necessary to take space and that’s OK, I’m loving you all the same, I’m loving you from far away.’ It’s so relevant to how people are feeling.”
DuPont Brass hesitated to release an album during these uncertainties, though. The coronavirus has brought on so much change and many people lost their jobs, resulting in less income to support the arts.
“I remember playing music for tuition money on McPherson Square. I will never forget the day when I paid off my balance at Howard University,” said Anthony Daniel, a trumpeter and musical director for DuPont Brass. “As a group, we discussed whether or not to release our most recent album, ‘Music Education,’ last month. We concluded that this is the time to release a sound that will help our people.”
The kicker is that people already had hard-knock times prior to the coronavirus.
“I feel Mary Mary when they sang, ‘Everything that could go wrong, all went wrong at one time,’ in ‘Shackles,’” confessed Daniel.
Historically, music and humor have gotten many through of the most trying times, and many of those tribulations have also served as artistic inspiration, one such case being Summer’s song “Ghetto Rona.”
“It was strange to walk outside in the beginning with a mask and gloves on,” Summer said. “I had to be OK with not leaving the house and not being able to perform live shows. I kept saying how ironically ‘ghetto’ it all is, and then I began singing it and producing the song.
“I took for granted being able to operate life the way I wanted,” she said. “I’m grateful for the internet as we have virtual shows coming up that allow me to safely create, express my frustrations, and I hope to resonate with the audience through the sounds we are producing.”
Several artists expressed their frustrations not only with adjusting to life on lockdown but racial injustice and police brutality. Marquel shared that he fears less for what may happen to him than he does for his family.
“It was Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor that got me to the point that I couldn’t even watch the George Floyd video at first,” he reflected. “I became less focused on what I could gain and more determined about being a vessel for change.”