Music activism is a calling and a cause. Think of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Raffi. Wait a minute… Raffi? Yes, the beloved children’s recording artist has spent the past 30 years building his “Child Honouring” program for educational purposes. Even Dan Zanes used his platform as a kindie visionary to promote community involvement and inclusion. Now Philly’s Ants on a Long (Julie Beth and Anya Rose) have gone a step further and produced Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline, a “climate musical” that is essentially a full-length episode of “Schoolhouse Rock.”
First performed in 2016 as a theater piece (with a cast of 12), Curious tells the story of sisters Clio and Taylor as they encounter pollution, inept government, and how to organize a community behind a cause. Their family moves to an industrial town where Taylor’s chronic asthma is exacerbated and neighbors suffer from similar ailments. The old refinery wants to expand and they surmise these things are related (“Is This Normal?”). Grammy winner Lucy Kalantari guests as the “old wise woman” who clues them in that the Internet has some answers. They overhear two businessmen talk about changing rules (i.e., laws) to make money at the expense of people (“Make It Big!”) and Google for answers (“Research”). This leads to writing letters, visiting City Hall, and using social media to engage the neighborhood.
Curious covers all the bases, from kids wondering if they can enact change (“Anyone Can Write a Letter?”) to frustration with the existing system (“The Man in Charge (Is Useless)”) and ultimately a happy ending with big business and government acting in tandem (when does that happen?).
Anya and Julie continue to perform and educate, using their music as a platform for dissemination of information through entertainment and youth audience engagement. Curious won’t fix the world, but it just might open a few pairs of young eyes and get some kids to ask “How can I change something?” other than the YouTube channel they’re watching.
Here is the video for the duo’s song, “Air and Space”: