The July shooting death by a Minnesota police officer of Philando Castile, an African-American man born in St. Louis, set off something in St. Louis musician Leslie Sanazaro.
Sanazaro, a Black Lives Matters supporter, has appeared at protests and rallies since Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson in 2014.
For her, the tipping point was Castile’s death. She decided to record a song speaking out on the issues.
“I was feeling totally outraged and overwhelmed and also feeling a deep sense of sadness for the oppression that was going on,” Sanazaro says. “I felt compelled to write a piece of music in support of Black Lives Matter.
“As an artist, when an issue comes up that’s as moving as the issues we’re dealing with concerning racism in the country and in our city, those are the moments when we have to act. We have a responsibility to act. I feel strongly about that.”
She began writing immediately and says the lyrics came pouring out, a sign this was what she was supposed to be doing.
Sanazaro says the lyrics to the song, “Now!,” which she also produced, represent “the racial inequality that exists — how important it is to acknowledge it exists. People are hurt by actions of violence over and over by police. The verses are about recognizing and acknowledging what’s going on and coming together. It’s not a sweet song. It’s definitely a song that pushes a little bit.”
After completing the song, she called the folks at Gaslight Studio on the Hill and asked if they could support the project (she had no budget for it).
“They were 100 percent on board right away,” she says. “They gave me an open night two days later.”
She put out a call to artists on Facebook, asking for singers and musicians to show up the night of the recording.
“The support was overwhelming,” Sanazaro says. “Thirty musicians responded. I was very happy with the response, but not surprised. I feel like lots and lots of people in the music community feel strongly about the issue.”
Among those who showed up to contribute were Kaleb Kirby (drums), Teddy Brookins (bass), Jackson Howard (guitar, vocals), Lenny Mink (guitar), Jack Brookman (cello), and a horn section with Jessica Butler (sax), Annie Linders (trumpet), Uki Ono (sax), Chris Tomlin (sousaphone), Kari Liston (vocals), Summer Osborne (vocals) and Devon Cahill (vocals). Those artists span genres — rock, pop, jazz, blues, soul, singer-songwriter and classical.
Surprisingly, no rappers showed up for the recording, though a couple expressed interest. Sanazaro says there was a spot in the song for raps. “We had an open instrumental section we were hoping they would take over.”
A video — a mixture of recording footage with a story about a young black man’s encounter with a white police officer — produced by Mink will debut Thursday at Yaquis on Cherokee and onthesongisnow.com. The song and video will be available for free download.
“There’s such a strong community of support here,” Sanazaro says.
Now, she’s in Minnesota with fellow St. Louis musician Dawn Weber working on a movie titled “Virginia Minnesota,” written and directed by Daniel Stone and starring Aurora Perrineau. The film uses her song “These Things Do Not Define You,” which she originally recorded a few years ago.
Sanazaro’s last album was “First We Cry, Then we Laugh” (2011). She has three albums in the can and will release one of them in 2017.