SASAMI’s Sonic Power
With her debut as a solo artist the past year under Domino Recording Company, Sasami Ashworth, also known as SASAMI, is putting her money where her mouth is during her current tour opening for indie rock band Snail Mail. She utilizes her newfound independence in music to speak volumes, literally using her voice as loudly as she can to not only communicate, but also financially assist those who have been silenced and separated in this country. Earlier this month, Ashworth posted on her Instagram account regarding her personal call to action. She wrote in the caption, “I often feel like sound is my only power. I will be playing as loud as I fucking can and selling earplugs this tour to raise $$ for @raicestexas. I believe every bit counts.”
For those of you who have been overwhelmed by the constant headlines about and donation opportunities for the immigration and refugee crisis, RAICES is worth your attention. Founded in 1986, the non-profit agency has grown to become the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas, promoting justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees.
As I walked into Cleveland’s eclectic neighborhood venue, Beachland Ballroom, for SASAMI’s show, I recognized a DIY poster for the cause propped up on her merch table next to an honor system donation cup. I exchanged some cash for the earplugs and got ready to have my shit rocked for a good cause. I felt a responsibility to listen more deeply than I would have by default.
Out came Ashworth with her bandmates, her body armed with her white Pure Salem guitar. Practically no time passed before she was jolting across the stage, producing the perfect combination of a soft, yet dismantling sonic shock for the audience. Whether they were aware or not, there was intention behind the sound waves coming from the stage: the overwhelming volume of the music and projection of her shoegaze vocals replicated the same sobering shock that we all feel when we hear about catastrophic circumstances. Her performance sonically reflected the duality of frustration and gratification, building abstract tension and release.
The simplistic idea of Ashworth using her voice in this way stuck with me. “It’s really not that difficult,” she tells me, laughing during our conversation after her performance. She’s right. It really isn’t that difficult to speak up, which is why I found her effort noteworthy in an age when the majority of people who are center stage have abundant access to audiences and tools like social media, yet seldom use their platforms for social justice.
However, Ashworth’s social media is an extension of her efforts in real life. She diverts the trap of self-obsession that often plagues most social media users to, instead, use her platform as a means to recognize others, specifically those being affected by the current immigration and refugee crisis and also indigenous communities across the country. The previous night before her Cleveland show, she touched base in Columbus, Ohio, making sure to inform her Instagram followers that her band was going to be performing on indigenous Miami territory. With assistance from @seedingsoveregnity, she has pledged to do a land acknowledgment at every stop on her tour.
As a country, we are defined by how we treat the most vulnerable among us. And, as a country, we’ve reached a time when we have to decide who we are and who we’re going to be. The same can be said about each of us as individuals. Immigration has become one of the defining challenges of our generation because our country’s policies—which are dehumanizing, tyrannical and chaotic by nature—are pushing people into the shadows. If we remain silent within a system designed for immigrants and refugees to fail, we become complicit with the actions of the oppressors. But small efforts like that of Ashworth’s hold the power of restoration and remembrance. As she said, every bit counts. She reminds her audience what music is about underneath it all: having something to say. The entertainer can be the advocator, and music is a universal language serving as society’s conscience.
Tickets for the remainder of SASAMI’s tour with Snail Mail and her upcoming solo shows and are still available. If you have the pleasure of going, don’t forget to pick up some earplugs on your way in.