Equiano’s Playlist

By: Katherine Hernandez

Towards the beginning of the story; Equiano’s first trauma; being separated from him and his sister: Chapter 1 (Page 14)

I Like America & America Likes Me – The 1975

I Like America & America likes me encapsulates the first tragedy that Equiano faces perfectly. The song in itself speaks about the violence that many American’s specifically minorities face at the hands of capitalist people who can make a profit off of trauma. Which in Equiano’s case it is a very literal profit they can and do receive from him, they strip away a sense of innocence of him that the song represents perfectly in its mumbled jargon of emotional lyrics and synth-infused tune.

The Slave Boat: Chapter 3 (Page 22)

Freedom – Beyoncé

Freedom by Beyoncé is a song that tells a story in itself. The constant repetition of the word “freedom” in the song can be seen as a mantra for Equiano and his captivity. the song is not just about general freedom to a person it is a song written about the strife of minorities, more importantly, the dehumanization of slavery and the longing of freedom that every black person has felt, whether it be physical or mental; something that Equiano most definitely feels at this moment in time.

Realization That He Is Not A Free Man:

Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh-Oh) – The Neighbourhood

After Equiano is bought off to a family, he has the privilege of being educated through this familiarity and learning the “civil” ways to be this society. This causes the spell of double consciousness that he faces in the book, however upon once again getting onto a boat he has the daunting realization that he once again can be completely enslaved. His heart races and he realize what damnation he is living, this song by the neighbourhood exemplifies how despite the fact that Equiano has learned new mannerisms all eyes are still on him because of his race.

Equiano’s Travels: Chapter 13 (Page 127)

Islands – Young the Giant

Islands is a song that is somberly filled with vocals that make the listener feel as though they are on a voyage with the band on the way to discover something, perhaps even lose something. Which fits perfectly into the travels Equiano travels and meets the Musquito Indians. This song more entails what the journey there would feel like, filled with promise but still living with uncertainty.

Freedom: Chapter 14 (Page 137)

Life on the Nickel – Foster The People

Life on The Nickel by Foster The People elevates Equiano’s new found the freedom to the next level. The title in itself personifies how he literally had to buy his life through money. his freedom literally had to be bought and even then, he will never be a full member of society n matter how much he conforms because of his race. This song speaks about the lack of life one has to live when there is no vendetta in society that is set to make them fail.

The Undying Belief in Religion: Chapter 14 (Page 144)

Church – Aly & AJ

Church by Aly & AJ portrays the end of Equiano’s travels eloquently. Equiano has conformed to the religion of Catholicism and in fact some of the last thoughts he has had to do with the scripture. The song portrays how religion seems to forgive everything if you follow it, ignoring how hypocritical it can be, but much like the song says all you need is a little church to make the bad things go away.


Welcome to the modern telling of Equiano’s Travels in the form of a playlist. The focus was on what I believe are the most pivotal points in the novel and therefore I made a playlist that complements these scenes and chapter thus allowing the reader to imagine the contents of the book better. I believe that music often times allows us to make sense of things and gives a fresh perspective to situations. The songs provided will allow the reader to feel the intensity of each scene without having to directly read the book. I used the medium of music because we live in a generation where music is often used to make bold political statements are to engage audiences into feeling things that at times can be hard to say out loud. At the same time, music transcends generations. The mixture of music and novel is very helpful in my opinion. and twist to the classic novel.

Equiano’s Travels has many important scenes in the novel, but the reason I chose the scenes above is that I believe those are the scenes that showed the most change in Equiano. It ties of trauma that has scarred him and affected him the most. Moments in his life where you can physically see the turmoil he goes through his life. here he suffers and succeeds. Where the story makes its most progression. From the songs chosen to the transitions within the playlist all of it flows carefully with the novel, it provides a new way to look at the book and the story it holds. A mixture of the classic tale in a contemporary medium.

The songs were chosen, I believe do these scenes the most justice. They go hand in hand with the experiences that Equiano goes through, they tell his story in a couple of minutes something that is very hard to do. However, these songs encapsulate the essence of these pivotal points in the novel. The music transcends and this use of medium allows the modern generation to interact and form a connection with it that might otherwise not be achievable with the book alone.

2 thoughts on “Equiano’s Playlist

  1. Equiano’s autobiography being parodied through a playlist is an interesting and entertaining way to communicate his adventures. This is very inventive and I enjoyed especially the employment of The Neighborhoods – Everybody’s Watching Me (Uh-Oh) to communicate how he realizes that he is not a free man. I think an interesting addition could have been a song that communicates his conforming to the prejudice and discrimination he has faced.


  2. The author’s use of music to illustrate Equiano’s Travels was compelling, as it is incredibly ingenious. The inclusion of an auditory sense to demonstrate the emotions that Equiano experienced emphasizes his change.

    – Hongxi Su


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