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.

“Dear Harp of my Country” A Short Story Rendition

One day, Thomas Moore, a young Irishman, is crossing the marshes of his homeland when he comes across a copse of English elm trees. Entering the small forest, Thomas is immediately struck by the absolute silence and impenetrable darkness of the place. After stumbling his way through the first of the trees, he beholds a faint light behind a very large tree ahead of him. As young Tom approaches the light, he sees a chain wrapped tightly around the tree, and trapped by the chain is an old Irish harp. Though ages have passed since the shining harp was tied there, it remains beautiful, and Tom feels that if he could only free it from the chain, the most enchanting music in the world may come from the instrument. Kneeling down before the tree, Tom puts his hands on the chain, intending to break that which keeps the harp silent. As soon as he pulls the chain, the harp begins to shine brighter and brighter. Forced to close his eyes, Tom looks away. After a moment, he hears a lilting sigh, a cross between the sound of a summer breeze and the relieved sound of a mother who has found her lost child. Opening his eyes, Tom falls to his backside as he beholds the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. With eyes as green as the Irish hills and hair that flows down her back like wheat in a field, the woman stares into Tom’s eyes.

She speaks with the voice of a melody, “What is your name?”

The normally timid man feels unnatural strength within him as he looks at the woman, and replies firmly, “Thomas Moore ma’am, although most call me Tom.”

“I am Iré, daughter of Erin,” she replies, “Are you here to help me?”

Rising from his place on the ground, Tom realizes that this lady, Iré, is more disheveled than at first he perceived. Her dress, many years out of style, is covered in mud, and her hair is full of tangles and twigs. Feeling the strength of his own loneliness and the certainty that he is somehow connected to this woman, Tom responds,

“If you think I may be of some service, ask me for anything and I will deliver it to you, my lady Iré. My home is not far from this place. You are more than welcome to come refresh yourself there.”

With true excitement and gratitude in her voice, Ireland simply states, “Thank you Tom. I would love to see your home.”

This first meeting between Tom and the Irish harp-turned woman Iré sparked a joy within Tom that he could not understand. Whenever he was around the lady, he felt at home. After some time together, they journeyed together throughout the country of Ireland to make music and spread joy. Ireland’s voice when raised in song made all who heard her lose all of their worries, but something was always a little off when they performed. Tom did everything he could to complement the lovely Iré in their music, but he was never as skilled as she was, and no matter how beautiful their songs were, he knew that he wasn’t the right person to be Iré’s partner. She radiated happiness, but like the country she reflected, the despair of how long she was shackled to that English tree always peeked through her smiles and songs.

After making his decision, Tom tearfully turns to Iré one day while they are at home. He sings to her, “My one true love, dear Iré, you know I’ll always be true.

And this last song we weave as one will mark my love for you.

To sleep you must go now,

back to those trees, and you

must wait for one who will save you

From the tears you’ve shed anew.”

Iré joins in the song,

“The time for sleep has come to us,

oh Iré you must go.

But look for one whose song is right

for freedom you shall know.”

As the embodiment of Ireland returns to her tree, her shackles are gone, but still the English elm stands tall above her, and she knows that it will still be a long time before her music will be heard again. Tom leaves the place with the wind, and the harp again sits waiting for a lover, a soldier, or a patriot to set her song free forever.


Thomas Moore’s original “Dear Harp of my Country” is a short poem composed of moving lines about the suppression of the Irish. Speaking to the Irish harp, a symbol of Ireland and its people, Moore uses beautiful phrases that he would perform as a song to make the plight of his nation known. This short story rendition transforms the Irish harp into a woman embodiment of Ireland. The lyrical lines are gone, but in their place is a simple tale the likes of which a novel or a movie would contain. For a modern audience, such a story is better understood and more likely to spread than a poem. Using the character of the original author brings attention to the era the story addresses, and having the character Iré and Thomas Moore perform together connects the story to the reality of what Moore presented with his poem. The Irish harp indeed was a focus at the time of the poem’s publication, and its unpopularity was seen as a mark of sadness connected to English influences. Having the Irish harp/woman shackled to an English elm tree also brings this connection to light in the short story. The story is quick paced, resembling the original poem in the needless manner it addresses plot. There is no need to add superfluous scenes or nuances in the story because everyone at the time the poem was published would make the necessary connections. For a modern audience at all familiar with European history as well, added context is unnecessary to understand how the Irish perspective is presented in this story. The change in medium from a poem to a short story makes the presentation of this tale more modern, but music is still a present force in the final lines of the story. Moore’s poem begins Part II by calling the poem itself the last song woven by the narrator and the harp; likewise, this rendition calls to a final song before the harp goes to sleep again. The elements of the original “Dear Harp of my Country” are present in this short story, with the simplistic writing of the rendition adding to its ability to connect with a present-day audience.

-Meredith Leonardo

If Coachella Only Had Harps

Harps are often synonymous with symbols of peace. We see them often in paintings and stained art pieces depicting angels, many whom are carrying these harps. So, when looking at The Harp Of India by Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, we note that the harp comes to be representative of a nationalist agenda. In the first three lines it mentions how there is now silence, one that used to be filled with music which as we know, music has been a tool in bringing together people, a symbol of unity. If no one can no longer hear the strings then it must mean that there is no unity, thus no peace.  Even the breeze who could gently brush the strings to make a sound cannot since the strings are no longer there. This would mean that whoever wanted to destroy the peace did so intentionally as they have deliberately cut the strings, leaving the harp with just it’s body. Now mute, the harp can no longer bring people together, likening it to that of an image of a monument, thus trying to say that the scale in which this is impacting is country wide which we come to realize at the end of the poem. The poem then paints the speaker to be very patriotic of their country as they long for the unity that once was, feeling the need to have to take up the harp and lead their country to be the might that it used to be. This can be an allusion to the Indian empire and how it prospered in the past, showing how they have fallen where the speaker wishes to be like that again. Thus, the speaker embodies the nationalist perspective to try and unify their country as if they are the one to do it by being the “mortal wakened” one who will “strike the strain” and not just little by little but all at once if we are to focus on the specific punctuation that ends the poem (Jesus Christ much?).


-Xotchitl Marisol Garibay

The Getaway

Unfortunately, the Irish Harp had only been appreciated for a short period of time. It was typically played for those of a higher class and for the elite who were granted special privileges. Harp playing would even be accompanied with poetry and other types of high-class singing. Harp playing had become very popular until the high-class, kings, and noblemen no longer desired to have them around, leading harpist to travel which also lead to the near extinction of harp playing. The harp had also been known as an instrument used to resist the crown and England, then leading the harp to be banned.

The poem that had stood out to me most as I was reading up on the history of the harp had been Dear Harp of My Country by Thomas Moore.

Dear Harp of my Country! farewell to thy numbers,

This sweet wreath song is the last we shall twine;

Go, sleep, with the sunshine of Fame on thy slumbers,

As I read this small portion of the poem, what had instantly come to mind had been how harp playing was coming to an end and dying out, how it had no longer been valued although it has a major symbol to it in Ireland.

I was but as the wind, passing heedlessly over,

And all the wild sweetness I wak’d was thy own.

As I continuously read through the poem, I read it in a soft, smooth, calming tempo. Which also reminds me of how a harp is played. The sounds of a harp are soft, calming, slow tempo. These lines of the poem and all throughout this poem also sound as if a person had been in a depressed state and that harp playing had brought them out of that. In the lines above where it states how the speaker is like the wind just passing buy until the had been awakened by the harp is a sign of happiness perhaps, but now that harp playing is dying out so is the speaker of the poem. The harp had been the getaway.

But, so oft hast thou echoed the deep sigh of sadness,

That ev’n in thy mirth it will steal from thee still.

I am Free. No More Blog Posts.

Thomas Moore uses the harp in his poem as a way to extend its significance. He addresses the harp as the symbol of his country in the first line. He finds the harp in darkness, as he describes, which I find as a him using the harp as the pride of the Irish. It is stated that in the history of the harp, “…the skill of the Irish harpers as the sole redeeming characteristic of an otherwise barbaric race” as stated by the Welsh cleric Giraldus Cambrensis. The poem Dear Harp of my Country is a statement of pride for Ireland and the Irish. The harp is considered a source of pride and is a respected aspect of the otherwise demonized Irish. Much more as a source of pride, “…the harp icon became increasingly prominent as a symbol of Ireland under English rule and later as a marker of identity in contemporary Irish politics and culture”. Therefore, the harp is an identifier for the Irish, for those deemed worthy. Moore writes, “If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,/ Have throbb’d at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone”. It is perhaps the harp that reigns above the life of all else as the harp, the heart and soul of the Irish, that is most worthy and influential.

—Joseph Rojas

Irish and the Harp

In the poem Dear Harp of My Country Thomas Moore, I sense that there is a form of understanding of what has occurred to the role of the harp. “farewell to thy numbers” Here I see Moore give an image to the reader that just because now we don’t see people feel strongly towards the harp that it wasn’t always like that. There was a time when the harp was very important, when the Irish were being colonized the use of the harp was always there (well trying too). There was people who even had the use of the harp be part of the “hybrid musical tradition” which was important because it allowed for the use of the harp to be modernized in the new ways of music, it kept up with the changes that were occurring. “when proudly, my own Island Harp! I unbound thee, And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song!”

While there is an understanding of the role of the harp, Moore has a sadness towards the future of it “This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine” The sadness that Moore is coming to an understanding that while trying to keep up with the changes it ultimately didn’t help. The understanding that the use of the harp has been decreasing is connected to the colonization that occurred towards the Irish therefore the way Moore comes to see the harp in those last lines “the last we shall twine” is his way of saying goodbye to the Irish culture since the harp was a big role to the people.

  • Maria Mendiola

Don’t Ask About the Harp, the Irish will Go on for Ages

Esther Quintanilla

Historically, the harp has been an important object to the Irish. Many believe the harp to be connected to their so-called “Irishness”. I think that this idolization of the harp in Ireland is valid because it saved the Irish from being considered barbarians. It was regarded as a symbol of status for musicians. As a musician myself, the respect of any instrument allows for my interests and passions to be taken seriously, especially as a great influencer of culture and society.

The poem “Dear Harp of my Country” by Thomas Moore focuses greatly on the harp as a symbol for Ireland and Irish culture. The name alone makes the poem appear as an ode to the country through the appreciation of the harp. In the first line of the poem, Moore compares the harp to a light found in the darkness. With this harp, the speaker is able to create light, freedom, and song, creating a major correlation between these three concepts and the harp. This is important to the identity of the harp because it allowed people to see the importance of having such an instrument being used in their country. Mirroring the idea of freedom, which was almost infeasible to the Irish because of their religious identities, was significant because it was able to give the hope of freedom to those who were in bondage.

Overall, the harp is a pretty cool instrument that was (and still is) very important to the Irish.

It’s about more than a Harp!

The harp very clearly played an important part in the development of society in Ireland. It was a clear marker of dedication and commitment both for the instrument and the the beloved country of Ireland. Not only were many Irish patriots committed to learning the harp for the sake of patriotism but many literary works were created in honor of the harp.

One such work of literature is DEAR HARP OF MY COUNTRY written by Thomas Moore. In my analysis I found there to be many levels to the poem.

First and foremost, Moore begins his poem as an ode of sorts. He states:

“The warm lay of love and the light note of gladness
Have waken’d thy fondest, thy liveliest thrill” 

he invites the reader to feel how lovely the instrument is and reminding all of how much it means. It means freedom and love and light and patriotism and so many critical things to the Irish culture. However the poem quickly turns as the narrator realizes the harp no longer “belongs” to them. I can only imagine that Moore is addressing the colonization of Ireland by the English. In his poem he states:

“Go, sleep, with the sunshine of Fane on thy slumbers, 
Till touch’d by some hand less unworthy than mine”

in this instance he shows the level of love he has for not only the harp for for his country. The narrator not only wishes well to the harp but also that the hands that gain access do better than he could – he is a martyr for the harp (Ireland).

I believe that Moore showcased just how much devotion he had for Ireland and he did it beautifully in his poem.

-Maricruz Rivas

Moore Music

Irish Melodies written by Thomas Moore, highlight the true symbolism a harp carries for the Irish community. The short poem “Dear Harp of my Country” is a cry for the loss and stagnation of a crucial national symbol. The harp is a guide for light for this author, which hints that it gives a sense of home and security. By identifying with this article of instruments he entwines a future hope while personifying the harp. He has freed the harp from shadows and like a good friend, so did the harp open up the country to “The warm lay of love and light note of gladness”.  Now historically the Irish may be considered barbaric but this delicate and beautiful instrument supports other opinions on the Irish true forms. These people brought themselves joy and identify from the music that was produced when well played “  This sweet wreath of song is the last we shall twine”. Removal from this native instrument causes the author to conclude his poem is aa farewell that creates sadness for all parties. The harp misses the  Irish, the Irish miss the harp and the readers can interpret just by reading the poem slowdown in pace and use sad words. Overall this poem complicates the idea Irish are barbarians but extends future on the fact this culture was tied to this lovely instrument.

Forgotten Strings: A Close Reading of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio’s “The Harp of India”


(This is more a lyre than a harp though…)

From its inception as “the epitome of Gaelic aristocratic culture” to its eventual inseparable ties to Irish culture as a “quintessential musical, visual, and metaphoric representation of Ireland and the Irish people,” the harp only flourished as much as it did “due to the ingenuity and versatility of Irish harpers to adapt constantly to social and cultural changes” (Harp Spectrum). Without its dedicated following, the harp fell into obscurity and struggled to persist in the musical realm. In his poem “The Harp of India,” Henry Derozio conveys the stringed instrument’s difficult task to remain relevant thought history.

The beginning of the poem sets up the harp’s drab and dilapidated status as a forgotten artifact as it “hang’st…lonely on yon withered bough…unstrung for ever, must thou there remain.” Being an older instrument, there no longer remains anyone willing to pick up and play it as it is seemingly now used as a dusted decoration on a damaged wall. With its main instrumentalists no longer around the modern world, it remains “neglected, mute, and desolate,” utterly stripped of its sole purpose to produce sound despite its past prevalence as a nationalistic icon for the Irish.

Yet not all hope is gone for a chance of the instruments revival, as the speaker acknowledges “thy harmonious chords to sweetness gave, And many a wreath for them did Fame entwine,” alluding to the harp’s incredible potential to produce unrivaled “sweet” music and cementing its place in the musical realm. Ultimately the speaker believes, just as the harp’s devoted followers before, “if thy notes divine may be by mortal wakened once again” as the “harp of my country,” indicating the harp’s influential power to expand outside the mere realm of music as a national symbol once more as it was for the Irish. While its strings produce moving melodies, Derozio’s poem shows the harp’s importance as not only an instrument that has brings the musical community together, but an inspiring symbol that binds entire nations together with its crucial cultural significance.

You earn a spot in history harp.

–Jose Ramirez

Source: (Harp Spectrum Site: https://www.harpspectrum.org/historical/Irelands%20Harp%20A%20Story%20of%20Survival%20and%20the%20Shaping%20of%20Irish%20Identity.shtml )