Songwriter's Corner|

Photo: Claud Kasiah (from his Facebook page) | By Maggie Donahue, Denverite | “I’m not a victim here. But I want people to understand that there’s real human beings that are in prison that can still contribute positively to the world around them, given the opportunity.”

Claud Kasiah began writing a composition for Playground Ensemble’s latest concert while he was in prison, and finished it after his release in October 2021.

“I love music,” Kasiah, who is from Denver but now lives in New Mexico, said. “But that chance to put something out and show that those of us who’ve gone to prison, or are in prison, are more than just their crime, or their sentence — I couldn’t even pass that up.”

Writing a musical composition in prison has its difficulties. Kasiah didn’t have access to the instruments or tools he needed to write. He developed a rapport with some of the captains and lieutenants, and Conrad Kehn, Playground Ensemble’s founding director, worked with the chaplain’s office to get Kasiah access to an electric keyboard. Kasiah said the computers in prisons are reserved for things like resume writing, so he had to write his composition by hand, playing some notes on the keyboard and scribbling down his thoughts, revising as he went.

“I took some of my feelings, my emotions and some of my experiences while I was doing this time and, to the best of my ability, I just put that in music,” Kasiah said.

The piece is called H.M. 212, a reference to the number of Hamburger Monday meals Kasiah had in prison. The piece itself is broken into four movements that convey the passage of time, Kasiah’s journey towards personal growth and the repetition of life in prison — the same meals on rotation, the same routines, the same sights and sounds day after day.

“The different sections, they’re really kind of almost like looped samples of thought,” Kasiah said. “Because that’s what prison is like. There’s minor variations and stuff like that. There’s emotional highs and lows. There’s violence, and then there’s huge periods of inactivity. But under it all, there’s repetition. Not much changes.”
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[See details below] Reenter, Remerg, Reform will take place Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Savoy in Curtis Park. Tickets are $20. Masks and proof of vaccination are required.

Read the rest of the interview and story here:


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Reenter, Remerg, Return presented by The Playground Ensemble This Friday at 7:00 p.m.

In partnership with Remerg, this unique concert program will feature multiple pieces of music that involve texts written by people that were or are incarcerated. The evening will also feature two brand new Playground commissions, including a work written by a recently incarcerated composer. Remerg will feature a video montage that arcs the journey of despair to hope, emphasizing that people do start over after incarceration and become successful, especially when there is an organization that provides that path. All of these organizations are featured on Remerg.com, the free re-entry hub for all formerly incarcerated people in Colorado.

Proceeds from both shows will go to Remerg to support their work providing Remerg.com as a public service re-entry website to over a thousand people every month for free.

This event is supported by a Denver Music Advancement Grant from Denver Arts & Venues with the purpose of building a more equitable and connected city, and creating positive social change through music-centered programs.

Use the code REMERG to claim your discount.

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