For a group of Tampa Bay musicians and creatives, the pandemic has sparked a call to action for the greater good: a collaborative, original music video designed to inspire residents of the Tampa Bay Area (and the nation) to “let your voice be heard” by registering and voting by November 3rd.
The Voice Your Vote 2020 music video is the brainchild of St. Pete resident Michelle Passoff, who is neither a singer nor a songwriter but is active in the Tampa Bay art scene. Passoff, a former public relations and media executive in New York, once wrote a book on decluttering. She now runs an estate-sale business in Pinellas County and last spring was contemplating what the whole pandemic meant and what could be done.
“I said, well, I could scream at the television, I can talk to myself or I can do something,” recalls Passoff. After reaching out to several voting organizations to see what they were doing and how she could fit in, she came to the conclusion that the best use of her talents would be to “create an original song-video that would inspire people of both parties to exercise their democratic right to vote.”
So in March, Passoff started gathering local singers, songwriters, composers, music and video producers, audio engineers, a marketeer, a lawyer, a sign language interpreter, and other contributors -- virtually at first -- to form an all-volunteer initiative to create a song that will inspire people to register and to vote. They managed to create the song and video by April 1st. “Our message is a love letter from Tampa Bay to the rest of the country,” says Passoff.
Local talent, big voice
The Voice Your Vote 2020 video highlights a sampling of the diverse talent in the Tampa Bay music scene and mixes dancehall and rap, with both English and Spanish lyrics. There is an ASL [American Sign Language] version, too.
The video features local singer-songwriters Tanya LaReese, Javi D’Rosa, Flavia Rueda, Ashley Smith, 16-year-old Freedom High School senior and rapper Trinity Danielle Sanchez, and 75-year-old dancer Yvonne March, among others, against the backdrop of colorful local cityscapes including Rivergate Tower (the Sykes building) in downtown Tampa, Ybor City, and several local murals including St. Pete’s Black Lives Matter street mural.
Lyrics were a group effort based on brainstorming Zoom calls in March with several local songwriters, musicians, and other creatives (credited on the website). Music producer Nawlage, head of production at Grand Bay Recording Studios/Ndroid Beats in Tampa, pulled together the group’s thoughts and assembled them into lyrics with co-writer SH3. The video was produced by Ryan Justice of Justified Films and Clint Mouriño of Sharp Edge Entertainment, both locally based.
Energized by enthusiasm
Nawlage, a transplant from Massachusetts with a notoriety for his dancehall and hip hop hits in Boston and New York City, who now lives in West Chase in Hillsborough County, says he was drawn to the project when he attended the first Zoom meetings and was energized by the group’s enthusiasm to make a song about voting. “I had never registered to vote,” he confesses.
He was in, and was happy to make it happen.
The guidance on the website also inspired him to vote for the first time.
“It was very simplified, I feel like a lot of people like myself -- and I am speaking from experience -- are afraid of the unknown: Am I going to spend two hours on this and then it’s not even going to count?” He says he hopes Voice Your Vote will continue to touch people like himself. Registering to vote, he says, is not even as “hard as signing up for a gym membership.” And it’s free.
Nawlage is voting by mail this year.
The video resides on the Voice Your Vote 2020 website
, which connects voters from the area and across the nation to nonpartisan voter registration organizations and step-by-step guidance on how to register to vote.