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Songs from Studio East: Vox Vidorra explores race, inequality and religion through music

Benjamin Foote

The debut album by Grand Rapids indie rock and soul band VoxVidorraexplores race, inequality, love and religion.

Molly Bouwsma-Schultz is VoxVidorra’s lead singer and lyricist. 

She says some of the songs on the album were influenced by her upbringing on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. During that time, that part of the city was known for having a lot of crime, poverty and a large African American population. Bouwsma Schultz is biracial and was raised by her mother.

“I think some of our neighbors couldn’t really figure us out because during that time in the late 80's, early 90's it wasn’t as typical to see a biracial kid with a white mother," she says. “We got a hard time from a lot of people, a lot of questioning about identity.”

The song, "Downtown Southside," was inspired by that experience. You can check out a video of their in studio performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMZ5iww6iPk">here, as part of Michigan Radio's Songs From Studio East:

Bouwsma Schultz says she still faces judgment as a black, female artist in Grand Rapids. She expresses this frustration in the song "Let Me Be," with lyrics such as, “You think I’m just colored and complacent, put me in a box because you don’t wanna face it.”

She says the lyrics of that song also delve into broader racial politics.

“I’m really talking about Trayvon Martin and lots of other African American who have been murdered,” Bousma Shultz says. “This idea that black men are just here to be taken out.”

The album also explores issues of love, relationships, as well as religion. Bousma Schultz says the West Michigan "Bible belt" influenced the song "I Saw Love," with lyrics such as, “I’m not afraid of your biblical rules/ I’m not afraid of you hypocritical fools/ I’m not afraid of your universal law/ I ain’t seen everything but I can tell you what I saw/ I saw love.”

Bousma Schultz says she doesn’t agree with the way religious leaders use the Bible to justify forms of oppression.

“We’ve seen it in our historical past as a nation,” she says. “Whether that be slavery to immigration to gay marriage.”

Vox Vidorra’s debut album, Promise Land, will be released April 25. That night, the band will perform at a CD release showat Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids.

In the meantime, check out another in-studio performance by the band here: 

Support for Songs From Studio East comes in part from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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