To say that Darro Chea has faced an uphill battle would be an understatement. Three days after returning to the US from grad school abroad, the Asian-American singer, guitarist and producer was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The rehabilitation process sent him back to square one. “I had to completely relearn everything,” he explained. “How to eat and chew, how to talk and sing. But I knew that I needed to keep on going because of the music.”
For the alternative/rock musician, music has always been a part of his DNA — “I eat, sleep and breathe it.” Based in New York City, and originally from York, PA, he was exposed to music as a child. His father performed in a Cambodian wedding band, which spurred his interest in guitar virtuosos like Steve Vai, Carlos Santana and Joe Satriani. Honing his skills early on, Darro attended Berklee College of Music and has worked with HOAX, Al Joseph, Daniel Yoong and Garry Willis. In 2017, he released his debut EP, Nostalgia. With poppy melodies and crafty guitars, he taps into a realm of progressive and pop rock, integrating anthemic elements from bands like Paramore and My Chemical Romance with emotionally-expressive guitarwork inspired by John Mayer and wizards like Steve Vai.
His newest video is called, “Paralyzed” and it has an incredibly interesting idea to it. The entire video is filmed in his kitchen, and it shows a ton of creativity in times of quarantine. On “Paralyzed,” Darro states, “I wrote this song after having my first panic attack in New York City. I had only been in the city for about two months, and I only had two friends in the entire city, and I just had brain surgery like less than six months ago. I definitely moved here way too soon because I was still dealing with PTSD from the whole tumor situation, and it was in the middle of winter.”
He continues, “I was doing something really boring, like walking to the grocery store, and I just remember seeing all of these faces in the street and no one was looking at me or noticing me, and it just felt like I didn’t exist. And I was really scared because I just left the comfort of my home after the surgery and decided to move to one of the biggest cities in the world, and I felt really small and alone. And then I felt really guilty because my mom wanted me to stay longer but I was too restless, and now I felt like I needed to prove to her that it was a good decision to come to New York. And I also felt anxious about failing, and having gone through all that trauma for nothing. This song sort of encompasses a lot of those feelings for me. I like to describe the track as the feeling of screaming at a wall but no one is around to hear you.” This song is a great song to listen too when you are feelings stressed as it reminds you that even in the worst of times things do get better and work themselves out.
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Batalá Washington DC discuss their impact, favorite songs to perform, and how being a part of the DMV creative scene influences the collective’s approach.
Within an industry that is historically dominated by men, all-women Afro-Brazilian percussion ensemble Batalá Washington DC is here to show us what they are made of. Launched in 2007 as the newest branch of the Batalá band and the first-ever in the United States, Batalá Washington, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, brings its powerful, invigorating sounds to the nation’s capital and across the globe as a means of empowering women to be change agents in their respective communities.
Join contributing writer Cynthia Gross as she connects with Marly Perez, board president and musical conductor of Batalá Washington DC, to discuss the collective’s impact over the years,