With a new law set to go into effect in July criminalizing undocumented human beings in Arizona, people in the music industry and the arts have joined together to send out a message against bill SB 1070, that has been passed into law, in Arizona.
The amazing singer, Alexandra Taveras – she tours with Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, has toured with Thalia, had a number one duet with Tito Nieves and worked with late music legends, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz – has performed the vocals for Latin Grammy nominee, producer/composer/writer’s Jose Luis Pagan’s songs, Land of the Free/Tierra de la Libertad.
Land is the English version and Tierra the Spanish version of these songs against the law in Arizona. The songs are available as free downloads on http://www.arizonaapartheid.com.
Here is an exclusive interview with the people behind the project and the music, Jose Luis Pagan along with executive producers Chris Apostle, Bridget Zeuner and Jay Bildstein – who was also the concept’s creator.
Coming song: An exclusive CYnterview with singer Alexandra Taveras
Listen to The Land of The Free CYInterview:
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Chris Yandek: You have worked with so many major talents over the years of course, how was this project different co-producing with Jose Luis Pagan?
Chris Apostle: “Well, good to talk to you again Chris. This was different with Jose because we’ve worked together in pretty much kind of a standard creative process. I would coordinate things for him and take care of his business so he could create his art. This one, we kind of got into a little more creatively, together, which is not an avenue we cross too much. Obviously we’re both musicians, but we’ve never had the chance to sort of approach something kind of collectively, creatively, in addition to Jose with Alex and Jay Bildstein etc, etc. We kind of had a committee you know and Jose obviously wrote the song. He did all the lyrics on the song with the exception of a few bits and pieces by Alex and Jay. He had the song; we recorded the song for a record that Alex was gonna release a few years ago and the idea came from that.”
CY: Jose, in your time working with Marc Anthony and Thalia among others, how is this project unique given the fact of its message? Have worked on something similar like this in the past? What did you take away from it?
JLP: “Well, to me it’s kind of very different because working for example with Alex, she’s so experienced doing what she does. She’s been on the road with everybody with JLO, Marc Anthony. She knows what she’s doing perfectly inside the studio and if I can add of course, the topic of the song that makes it absolutely different to any other project I ever worked with.”
CY: Yeah. And given that, what do you think of the message?
JLP: “Well, I think that the message comes in the best moment. Coming from an immigrant which I am, I think it’s very important to, you know, start addressing problems that are affecting not only the immigrants, but all the people that live in America that we all integrated as one nation. Now it’s not a problem only for the immigrants because you know, my kids for example. I have two kids. My kids are American. They play with other American kids and they also played with some kids that may be immigrants or may be illegals, but for them it’s not different. They’re kids. I think it’s something that has to be addressed seriously you know.”
CY: Chris, what do you think the overall message is that people should get from the song?
CA: “The overall message I think is that people should open their eyes and see what the government, one particular state is capable of passing into law versus how people may or may not interrupt what the constitution says that we are all free and equal. For me, the issue is a little more poignant in many ways. It’s a little more of a double-edged sword to me. My grandparents were immigrants. They came to the country. Alexandra is Dominican. Jose is from Argentina. Pablo our engineer is from Bolivia. I helped him get his citizenship. Jay is from New York. Transplanted to Mexico where he’s been for the last decade with his wife and Bridget Zeuner is from Arizona. I just don’t like the draconian aspect of the law that I think is basically unjust and I really think it’s illegal.
The biggest thing from me, the message people should take is look at what your politicians are doing because now California is talking about this law. Just wait till Texas gets a hold of this thing down near Laredo, El Paso, Juarez, places like that; they’ll go crazy after this law. For me it’s more of a political statement that I’m kind of speaking up for the first time saying that I’m very angry about this. None of us come from racist backgrounds. We’re not racists. We believe in people and with this collective group it’s living proof that people from everywhere in the world can become not only the best of friends, but make the most successful music too.”
CY: Do you think the music industry needs to do more things like this?
CA: “I think the music industry tries to do things like this. I think in many instances a lot of musicians just shouldn’t talk when it comes to political issues. They make it a little bit pointed. Now, I’m not saying this is not a pointed issue. I just think what we’re doing here is a little more well thought out. I appreciate when people save the animals, save the environment; they’re against drilling and things like that. Yes and no. A lot of people do it, a lot more than we think. I just think we have a lot more traction because A.) We have a better piece of work; we have a better artist and B.) We have a team that’s set up all over the world, yourself included.”
CY: Jose, is there anything else you’d like to add regarding the song and regarding the experience working on this?
JLP: “To me, as I said before, it’s a very emotional topic because we’re talking about something that it could affect me personally. Thank God I’m a legal immigrant; I’m a USA resident, a legal alien. But what if I were not? I work like everybody else. I wake up early in the morning, I work. I pay my dues. I do everything that I have to do. I don’t see any difference between what I do and the people that are crossing my street that may be illegals.
I think we have to somehow reach to some people with this message. I think it needs to be done and as a musician, as a communicator that we are somehow, we are not on TV saying what we have to say, but we communicate through our music and I think it’s a method that has to be explained and detailed to people at what we are doing is adding a little bit of explanation of how we feel about it.”
CY: Chris, in closing, is there anything else you’d like to add?
CA: “Yeah. Jose made a very good point there. We’re expressing our feelings in communication to this song. The big aspect of this song to me is that I believe that right now America is at probably, in my opinion, the highest level of racism that we’ve seen in decades. I believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that we have an African-American President; you’ve had the advent of The Tea Party movement, the Sarah Palins of the world. Let’s not sugarcoat things. This is not about immigrants. This is not about illegal immigrants. Everyone, a lot of people in this country use illegal immigrants for work.
They pay for them happily. A lot of them do in Arizona. They sure as hell do it up here in New York, New Jersey down in Florida where Jose lives. But what they’ve done now is this is a racist issue. I truly believe this is racial profiling at its highest and there is a level of hatred in this country right now that’s so uncomfortable to me. People can sugarcoat it how they want. “No it’s not about the President. No. We just don’t like his policies.”
Bull. We all know what it’s about. The Tea Party, “We’re the real conservatives.” No you’re not. We know how you’re separating. They’re separating and dividing people and what you do is you have like, as Jose said, this is something that could affect him and his life. Well he’s probably one of my dearest friends and colleagues in the world, same thing with Alexandra Taveras, same thing with Pablo.
These are all, myself included, hardworking people that pay our taxes, live in society and live the America dream you know. Imagine two kids are making out in a car in a parking lot in Phoenix, two high schoolers, they’re in a car, they’re kissing, whatever. Imagine the fear when three squad cars come at them with dogs and lights and sirens. That’s what we’re talking about. I’m very disturbed by this law.”
Interview with creator Jay Bildsten and co-executive producer Bridget Zeuner
CY: Jay why don’t you start first about how you came up with this concept?
JB: “Well, you know a number of weeks back, of course, this law at the end of April had been passed in Arizona and I took a look at it and was quite unhappy with that and thought that a strong statement would have to be made and Bridget Zeuner, who I know a good long time, is somebody who has introduced me to some very talented people in the music industry. Chris Apostle [was a former executive at Sony] who’s now got his own shop. Alexandra Taveras, an absolute world class talent and probably one of the greatest voices in Latin Music today and got to know also Jose Luis Pagan. Just a top shelf composer, producer, writer and we kind of got a hold of everyone.
I spoke to Chris Apostle and Alex and reached out to Bridget and Jose Luis Pagan and we kind of brainstormed, put our heads together and said let music be a message and kind of create what I would say is almost a “We Are The World” for the digital world message against what’s taking place in Arizona today. We’re not selling anything. We’re just trying to promulgate a message against this unfair law using music.”
CY: Bridget, living in Arizona what is it like for you to work on this project knowing what you’ve seen in your state?
BZ: “Well it hits home to me because I it really, really affects the children. This is something that’s not really talked about. There’s no statue of limitations and a lot of people of both political positions don’t realize this. This means a person living in Arizona for as long as 30 years as a productive member of this state could easily be profiled based on “look and sound” and sent back to… where’s home?? To them, it’s the United States. This is why it’s so unfair. They’re literally going to be plucked out and taken to a place. I think that there is a solution that is much more gentle and much more humane.”
CY: Jay, when you look at what we’ve put together here obviously over the last few weeks, what do you think about what has happened on this entire project?
JB: “You know what I see, people from diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures, people from Mexico, people from the United States coming together for a common cause and that common cause is the knowledge that we’re all human beings, that we all have similar needs and that there is more that unites us than divides us. I think in the case of Arizona certainly after the financial crisis there is a lot of frustration. But the point is and Bridget made the point excellently, there are many, many people who live in Arizona who’ve been there 20, 30 years who may have originally come from Mexico or some other country, may not be documented now, after all these years contributing to that great state.
You’re going to uproot these people from their home, uproot their families. One of the things Chris, that bothers me so much – the undocumented folks in Arizona are a labor pool of 500,000 people who have given tremendous labor to the state of Arizona. What about all that labor? What about the swimming pools, the buildings built, the cement sidewalks laid, the brick walls, the nannies, the gardeners and all that? All the beneficiaries of all this labor, what do we say to them? One of the reasons the Southwest boomed so strongly was that there was this labor pool. Now, all of a sudden, financial crisis, bye folks we don’t need you. What about all the folks that benefited from that? That’s just not fair.”
CY: Bridget, you and Alexandra Taveras are both mothers, obviously. Does this affect you in a different way compared to someone like Jay?
BZ: “Very much. When I think about a nine year old little girl who, and I just saw some footage…some street journalist’s footage of this, gets pulled over with her parents. The sheriff or whoever pulled her over, gives her a stuffed animal, tells her to wait in the police car while her parents are sent back to a place unknown. All that matters here right now is this child, this innocent person who suddenly has no parents.
How do you explain that to them? We’re not condoning a ‘free for all,’ that people just come to the United States and I, as a mother, again am an advocate of protecting our borders and having people in our country the right way but it is what it is and there are children, families now at this point after so many years of them being here coming to work where there was work needed. I think it’s just completely unfair. This is not a black or white issue. It’s not a get a rope and round them all up and send them back because now we can’t afford to have them here anyway. It’s much more delicate of a situation. Let’s look at this family by family, one at a time and take some care into how we might solve this issue.”
CY: Jay, what would you like to add on this?
JB: “I would like to say that the United States of America and Mexico are two great countries. The vast majority of immigrants I believe, who are undocumented in Arizona currently, are from Mexico. They are by and large, good, hardworking, industrious human beings. I don’t think we should forget the human element here and whether or not somebody is documented or not documented does not say what’s in their heart, what’s in their soul and what labors they can put forward to help society. I think these folks have made a tremendous impact beneficially to the state of Arizona, the Southwest and the United States. I think we should keep that in mind and do all we can, peacefully and legally to oppose SB1070.”
CY: Bridget, what would you like to add?
BZ: “I would like to point out the human element of this. This is not – again – a cut and dry issue. This is sensitive. You’re dealing with humans. You’re dealing with families. I would ask the people of Arizona to educate themselves on all the points on SB1070 and understand what this means, ask for reform for a way that would allow us to do this in a way that is just humane and certainly not pointing fingers and racially profiling. Racial profiling in any form is wrong. We gotta step forward. We can’t step backwards and this is exactly what 1070 is. It’s a drastic step backwards.”
JB: “I’ll just say for my part, what I’m for is everybody who’s in the United States, who’s already there, should be given a path to citizenship. Most of these people, most of these human beings, have been productive members of society. Let them get citizenship and let’s go forward from here. Let’s not look backwards because we’ve come to a time of financial crisis. People should go to http://www.arizonaapartheid.com, download the song, send it to their friends, listen to it and remember that we’re human beings first and the United States and Mexico are neighbors, they’re friends and all people count.”