Nuri's Voice is Music to Voter's Ears
The notoriety of California's Jerry Brown and Linda Ronstadt not withstanding, most people might find politics and music an unlikely combination. But for Erik Nuri '79, executive director of the Massachusetts Black Caucus, votes and notes couldn't provide a more natural mix.
Spending his hours away from the State Capital as lead vocalist and saxophonist for "Erik Nuri and The Cost of Living," a locally-renowned band, Nuri combined his vocation and avocation this summer with the release of "Let's Vote," a "rap" record with a political message. "Rap" records, the hottest discs on the Black music charts this year, feature a repetitive rhythmic backround and lyrics which have the singer tell a story in a conversational tone.
Although most "rap" records relate a humorous or sexual tale, the lyrics of "Let's Vote" indicate that it has a mission other than titillation:
Now this land is ruled by a democracy
That's supposed to include you and me
It provides a way to get your problems solved,
But first you've got to get involved.
Wanna talk to you about politics
And what it means to me and you, So we can realize that to better our lives
There's a simple thing each one of us can do...
Let's vote, let's vote
We've got to have somebody looking out for us.
Or else time and time and time again Your congressman won't be your friend.
"I had a dual goal," Nuri says. "First to compose a song in this medium that would be picked up by youth, and secondly to explain politics in a way that had never been done before." The record has received the endorsements of the NAACP, and the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as those of the Democratic National Convention and the Joint Center for Political Studies.
"Let's Vote" has received extensive airplay on Boston's Black radio station, WILD 1090. "Ray Green, who was just elected to the Assembly from New York City, told me he featured the song in his campaign by playing it in the streets on a truck with a bullhorn."
"A lot of people have told me that upon hearing the song they actually went out and registered," Nuri says.
A native of New York City's Harlem, Nuri earned a high school scholarship to Tabor Academy in Marion, Massachusetts from the Boys Clubs of New York. After participating in musical activities and student government, he entered Harvard in 1972 to concentrate in government. He didn't leave until 1979, taking three years off to manage produce stands in Cambridge and later New York and to support his family. Married at 18, the 26-year old Nuri has daughters ages six and seven.
Nuri says courses he took at Harvard on the politics of Black communities "interested me in the effect of politics on the lives and resources of Black people. I began to see politics as an area where not enough Blacks were involved." Consequently, Nuri says his academic experiences made him "determined to make Blacks see more about politics in new and unorthodox ways."
During his leave of absence, the late Rep. Bob Fortes (D-Mattapan) hired Nuri as an administrative assistant, and he became executive director of the Black Caucus last August, two months after his graduation. Currently serving as a liason between the Caucus and the community, Nuri develops programs and legislation for Caucus members, performing a variety of tasks from research to follow-up evaluation services.
Denying that he harbors any aspirations to higher office himself, Nuri says he hopes to "continue working in an administrative capacity while pursuing a recording career. I just hope there's not a time when I have to choose between the two.