Corey DePina heads to Cape Verde!

 

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ZUMIX’s beloved Youth Development and Performance manager has just set off on the journey of a lifetime! This past weekend, he jetted across the globe, from Boston all the way to the Cape Verde islands in Africa. He’ll be taking a month long sabbatical before spring programs kick off at ZUMIX in February, visiting schools and seeing where his family grew up. Between planning calls, booking travel, and making packing lists, we snuck in some time to sit down with Corey and ask him a little about his upcoming adventure.

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ZUMIX: Can you talk about where you’ll be going?

CD: I’ll be visiting the West Coast of Africa; there are a group of islands called the Cape Verde islands, that’s where my parents were born and emigrated from. As of now, I’ll be visiting two of the islands: Praia, which is the capital, and Fogo.

ZUMIX: What do you plan on doing in each of those places?

CD: The intent in Praia is to do a workshop and a performance at a local non-profit called Delta Cultura. I’m not totally sure if I’ll make that happen because it’s two hours away from where my family lives. But if I can work out the details of getting a ride there, I’ll go and do a workshop. I also have family members who own bars and hotels there, so I plan to kind of take over and do a hip hop night at their places. When I’m in Fogo, where my parents were raised, I’ll spend a lot of time with family, and visit a few High Schools.

ZUMIX: What kind of programming are you planning for the schools?

CD: I plan to do a hip hop history workshop. And I’m also interested in talking to staff and faculty about how they might use arts in their schools; in Boston, we’ve been doing a lot of work on incorporating the arts into education, so I’d love to give them some suggestions about our approach- specifically our use of teaching artists. I’d love to find out if they do that already, or if we can share ideas. I’m not exactly sure what the level of education is there, but I’m curious to go and figure it out.

ZUMIX: Has there been a lot of close planning for these visits, or are you waiting to see what happens once you arrive and get your bearings?

CD: I’ve been calling places and talking to people there, but the communication has been a little interesting. Some of them think that I’m some really big celebrity who’s coming. Some other places are like “we’ll talk when you get here, don’t worry about it, just get here first then we’ll talk.” Fogo, where I’ll spend most of my trip, is pretty small, so once I get there I’ll be able to travel around. But the intention is just to fill the island with hip hop, and with music, and to learn a lot about my ancestry.

ZUMIX: Are there elements of your ancestry in particular that you’re eager to learn more about?

CD: I’m interested to learn about the slave trade and how slaves escaped and formed their own city and culture and community on the island. The island was not inhabited until slaves got there, and they actually made it livable.  There’s also an element of survival that I’m really curious about. These are people who live on an active volcano, and so all the animals and plants and things were brought there from Europe by slave owners and colonizers. So the idea of these people choosing to live there and survive on the bare minimum is really interesting to me.

ZUMIX: How do you think learning about your history will impact your work?

CD: The work that I do has a lot to do with empowerment and soul work, like spirit science kind of, so for me it’s really interesting to go back and study my ancestry and figure out what makes me who I am, so I can then help other people connect with their ancestry and figure out who they are, and find the confidence to build their spirit and self-worth.

There’s also the fact that my family doesn’t visit ZUMIX, and hasn’t always taken what I do for work seriously. But they’re super proud now, because I’m able to go to Cape Verde and share my profession and what I’ve built for myself here, there. I want my family members to see that someone like them, someone who had nothing and who just started with rap lyrics, helped build and be a part of a great, successful non-profit.

ZUMIX: Is there a difference between American hip hop and African hip hop?

CD: There’s some overlap- the idea that people are telling their stories through music. As far as the popularity of it, I think they’re a little bit more behind as far as current hip hop. I’m excited to go there and share how this culture, this whole style of music, started with a group of people who had nothing and who needed to express themselves. I want to talk about the evolution of hip hop and how it became so mainstream.

Hip hop itself is a very adolescent culture- it’s very young- so no matter where you go around the world, you’ll always find kids doing some form of hip hop. It can be a genre that older adults don’t fully understand or appreciate, so as an older person, I’m looking forward to bridging that gap, and showing how this form of music can really empower and change someone’s life, at any age.

ZUMIX: Is there anything in particular that you’re most excited about?

CD: The opportunity, which is all happening because of the META fellowship through the Mass Cultural Council, to travel, see where my family came from. And to realize how spoiled I am here in America to have running water, or to have access to internet and music and clothes and things like that. I’m really looking forward to seeing the culture change and getting more of an appreciation for the things I have here.

ZUMIX: Is there anything you’re nervous about?

CD: Being a solo adventurer and being on my own for a month, and speaking a different language…but I feel really confident that I know enough about my art that I’ll be able to use my art to make an impression of who I am and what I am. But I’m gonna be on an active volcanic island for a month, so there’s a part of me that’s like “you’re gonna be bored, and you’re gonna have to find something to do!” So I’m going to get really hip hop about my vacation.

I’m also nervous about the diet and water, because you have to boil the water- that will be tricky. What to pack, obviously, will be tricky. Making sure I can stay in communication with people, and using the wifi and internet is going to be interesting.

ZUMIX: Is there anything you’re excited to bring from Boston to Africa?

CD: Last week I went to a Wu Tang concert and got to meet Masta Killa, so I got him to sign my hat, which I’m bringing; it’s going to be really cool to go to Cape Verde and share that with people there and be one person away from a connection with authentic hip hop. I want to reinforce that it doesn’t have to be a dream, it’s not fictional, it can be real. I’m going in with the experience of having worked with people like Akrobatik, a Boston legend, and I’ve met and talked with Kool Herc who’s like the father of hip hop. So it’s kind of humbling to think that I get to go there and represent them in some small way.

ZUMIX: Is there anything you want to bring back, to ZUMIX, or for yourself?

CD: I want to bring back more of an understanding of purpose for myself, and more confidence in knowing that what I’m doing and how I do things are important. Even the idea of being able to go there to talk about the work that I’m doing helps to put value on and solidify the fact that our work here is important. I’d also like to bring back a little more of that cool island vibe and approach to the work. More confidence and focus.

I hope I can bring back some music, some great networks, and experiences. I also heard that my uncle has goats and chickens so that will be super fun. Dan is going to let me borrow his camera.


We can’t wait to hear how Corey’s journey unfolds! Check back here after he returns in mid-February to get his look back at the trip.

 

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