Interview with Brian McKenna ’04: Dear Mama Earth

 Dear Mama Earth musically raises awareness of critical issues such as global warming and wasteful habits, in a way that is not only educational, but entertaining. 

In light of Wes EON GreenScene coming back, the rally against the Keystone XL Tarsands Pipeline, and the alumni created plan to solve climate change, I’d say Wesleyan is all about keepin’ it green these days. Brian McKenna’s ‘04 newest project, Dear Mama Earth (DME) is certainly no exception.

Dear Mama Earth, created in Brian’s studio, Btoven Music, is a very unique and powerful album based on an original body of Reggae/Soul music that he co-created along with international vocal sensation, Toussaint Liberator, and featuring samples from Galt Macdermot who is best known for his work in the musical HAIR and who granted personal permission to use samples from his works in DME.

It’s not everyday you come across good reggae music with lyrics like “wonder why we’ll never see a high speed rail/the gas dollars won’t touch the pail/these politicians said they all for sale”. As the up and coming champions of environmental awareness, Brian and Toussaint are currently working on a live music and educational awareness event to be presented in communities and schools nationwide. Just last April they headlined NYC’s 43rd Annual Earth Day at Earth Day NY’s  public festival in Union Square.

This project certainly represents a culmination of Wesleyan’s timeless values by using creative expression to address real world issues and advocating for change. Click past the jump to check out the interview and find out more about Dear Mama Earth.

What is your latest project, Dear Mama Earth, all about?

Dear Mama Earth (DME) is all about good music with a rebel theme. It encourages awareness about environmental issues and current events that affect our planet’s well being. Its songs plant seeds of consciousness and passion towards maintaining a healthy environment now and in the future. As my friend and collaborator Toussaint Liberator says in the song Mama’s Aide, “The connection of us to the Earth is very simple…if she dies then so do we. Tree Hugger, why not be?”

For your listening pleasure, we crafted DME as a 19-track studio LP. We also perform this new suite of music on stage with Toussaint and hybrid live/DJ-based band, where we’re joined by my Wes classmates Jon “Phes” Souza ’04, Will Cameron ’04 and Tacuma Bradley ’04 plus NYC-based DJ Andrei “Modabot” Lizardi and guitarist Adam Stoler .

  

How did you come up with the name?

Our vision was to create a modern suite of eco-conscious reggae and soul music. Something everyone can relate to. So Toussaint and I played with the idea that our songs could represent a collection of postcards addressed to an ailing mother — Mama Earth — with love from a child who is on the road or living far away. Dear Mama Earth.

 

Where did your inspiration for the project originate?

I’ve always had a deep appreciation for nature, but the specific inspiration for this project came while visiting the Chilean side of Patagonia where I witnessed how some of the world’s last virgin landscape is exposed to a massive hole in the ozone layer created by pollution from far off places. This was news to me and it seems not many people outside that region know about it.

This very real hole in the ozone requires people of all complexions to heed daily UV index warnings and remain indoors throughout most of the day. It’s really dangerous and shows how extremely delicate our environment is. Scary even. It also proves how small our shrinking world is and how important it is for an ever-growing population to protect the interests of our global community.

The trip to Patagonia made me want to address all of this somehow.  So I called Toussaint and asked if he’d like to work on this idea. Music – what better way to make noise about controversial issues? And through my studio business, Btoven Music , we had the resources to create music with a message.

We’re not scientists or politicians. We can’t directly implement government programs or develop eco-friendly technologies. But we can make a lot of noise people can get down to and spread awareness and inspiration in the process.

 

What do you hope people will take away from listening to the album?

We hope people will listen to our album and be inspired to do a little more everyday to make a difference. Whether that means turning off the lights when leaving a room, unplugging appliances when they’re not in use, recycling diligently or simply using less.

By listening to and enjoying this record, we hope people will not only be inspired to do more themselves but to also share the message with friends, family, and colleagues. If the message disseminates, we’re spreading consciousness and encouraging people to act now.

 

What advice do you have for your listeners who want to help make a difference in improving the state of our environment?

To start, we’re encouraging our listeners to: be aware of environmental issues effecting our shrinking world; use less in all aspects of life, from energy to paper and plastic; read up on current events concerning the environment, near or far; share your awareness with people around you; support Green Businesses and purchase eco-friendly products whenever your budget allows. And to think for yourself is most important. Don’t fall victim to unnecessary consumerism. If your smartphone works just fine, is it necessary to upgrade to the newest model? Consider how many thousands of years it takes for appliances to decompose. Learn how plastic waste is clogging our oceans. Get familiar with the issues affecting communities all over the world and apply yourself in creative ways that can help.

 

How did your Wesleyan experience prepare you for where you are today?

My Wesleyan experience allowed me to figure out how my passions fit in with the world at large. If I may: ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard’ as our master drummer Abraham Adzenyah put it. At Wes the creative bond among friends was paramount, some of them are involved here on Dear Mama Earth and remain my closest people. Our generation at Wes was about full force creativity, airing on the side of humanity and standing up for a cause. And fun of course. All of the above really helped me to figure out how to apply what I love doing to a successful career.

 

 

You can preview and download Dear Mama Earth on their website. A percentage of the album’s profits will go to The Sierra Club Charity, one of the largest, most influential grass route environmental organizations. Brian and Tousant will be on campus sometime next semester for a university-sponsored discussion panel as well as a live performance, continuing their journey to spread their message and encourage their listeners to take action. Wesleyan, take note.