Being a Latina in academia, I have spent a significant amount of time and energy attempting to get out of the categorical boxes in which society tries to place me. I have also spent a significant amount of time and energy in America's most elite colleges wondering what it will take to break the proverbial "glass ceiling" faced by Latinos and other people of color at every level of the educational and economic system.
So, I was a little apprehensive in July 2012--the year I spent in between my Master's and Ph.D. program-- to attend a concert at the House of Blues, at the invitation of a close friend of mine, as I did not see how it would help me to get in the right academic mindset for the upcoming school year. Besides, for a long time, I had been disappointed with the music floating around the radio waves. Still, I went along.
OKT, an Anaheim-based band, performed in the second half of the show, a mixture of Sublime and other covers and original music that combined a wide array of unique sounds through skillful mastery of each instrument. "What was this anyway?" I asked myself as I witnessed each song adopt a rhythm unlike the previous. My attempts to pinpoint an exact genre were drowned by the vocalist's defined and at times melodic lyrics and the cheers of hundreds of people in the crowd.
All four band members performed with incredible energy and precision, leading the crowd through seamless transitions between reggae, rock, hip-hop, and even some metal tones. Their music both transcended and combined these genres to reach the unique cultures associated with each.
To say that the audience loved them would be an understatement!
It was unlike anything I had ever heard or even thought possible: a single, four-member band fluently transitioning between musical spaces in a way that inspired the crowd to dance, laugh, mosh, and fill the room with positive energy. Since 2012, I have seen OKT perform eight additional times, in a variety of venues, and have never ceased to be amazed.
On the first chance I have, I will go out of my way to enjoy their ever-growing blend of sounds and playfully thoughtful lyrics. Their love and commitment to music has been evident in every performance, and it has been refreshing to witness their fan base and support within the local music scene increase consistently.
It is no secret to any of my friends that I hold this band's music and the band itself in high regard. One of their songs, "Robbery" traces their desire to simply carry out their passion for making good music and making the most of life in order to counteract the chaos of the world. It is one of my favorite songs, perhaps because it is a type of allegory in my own journey both within academia and within the larger society. My commitment to the field of education and to my community has led me to where I am, often having to navigate between cultures and languages. But, there is a sort of renewed hope in me every time I listen to OKT or see them perform, a sort of reminder that doing what one loves, in itself, will break barriers.
In the second to last performance I attended, the band played a full acoustic set. The guitarist and bass player move their fingers up and down the chords of their respective instruments with such ease, a perfect smoothness that creates a most mesmerizing yet pronounced sound. I look around at the Huntington Beach pub filled with all types of people, some swaying to the tunes, some just listening, all of them admiring. I take a sip of my cranberry vodka and smile.
Note: OKT will be performing at the West Hollywood House of Blues on October 25th, 2013. Their full performance schedule can be found at www.reverbnation.com/okt
Gloria I. Montiel:
Gloria is the Director of Education and Health at a non-profit and a full-time Ph.D. student in the field of Education..