Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.
Mutlu Onaral: When the COVID-19 pandemic first took hold, I found it difficult to engage with anything other than the constant news cycle surrounding the virus. The pandemic has had a traumatizing effect on so many of us, and it can be a challenge not to feel overwhelmed by it. Nevertheless, these last few months have also made me reflect on how grateful I am to be able to play music for a living. To make that musical connection is such a gift, and it can uplift us even in the most challenging of times.
We’re now in a moment of societal transformation that is long overdue. The plague of systemic racism and police brutality that is still so prevalent in America is being countered by a powerful, collective movement in the aftermath of the police murder of George Floyd. We as musicians have the ability to use our platforms to speak out and help unify our communities in the pursuit of justice and equality, even though we don’t have the opportunity right now to connect in-person with listeners at a show.
The artists who have always moved me the most, both past and present, have been the ones who utilize their work as an opportunity to bring about social change. An album like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is still so resonant almost 50 years after it was released. It’s inspiring to now see so many musicians adding their voices and message to the collective push to bring about a more just society. It gives me a great sense of pride to be able to contribute to that in whatever small way that I can.