A lawyer is most often visualized as being a sharply dressed man, briefcase in tow, pursuing case after case in the courtroom. Peter Maybarduk fits part of that bill, but for the most part, he’s anything but your typical lawyer.
When he’s on the clock, Maybarduk is a human rights lawyer for Public Citizen in Washington, D.C. On his own time, he’s a rock musician. Maybarduk independently released his third album, “A Ring Around the Atlantic,” in December 2011.
It may seem like law and music wouldn’t mix, but for Peter Maybarduk, one field reflects the other and vice versa. As the director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines program, he spends a considerable amount of time in the global South, helping citizens fight against the economic and political giant that is Big Pharma. In his art, he explores the injustices he witnesses, but also advocates for peaceful solutions. Music, the universal language, is a way for him to connect with those people who he represents.
The album title and the track, “A Ring Around the Atlantic (First Round),” is a direct nod to his experiences on the job. With lyrics like, “We live a ring around the Atlantic, and its lows, through markets the drug companies control, and the interests of interest in Capital clothes,” it is quite clear that Maybarduk is fired up about the grasp corporations have upon the powers that be in the countries in which he works.
Maybarduk, born to an American diplomat and a social worker in Mexico City, is naturally ingrained in Mexico and its struggles. A world traveler, he’s also spent time in Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador, among other countries. His exposure to other cultures is evident in “A Ring Around the Atlantic.”
Instruments with international origins, such as the talking drum, clave and mbira, are interspersed with piano and electric guitar. “Atlantic in Languages” features several global citizens uttering the title of the album in their native language. The hidden track, “En La Habana,” is not Maybarduk at all, but a Cuban street musician.
“Very Very Suffer” is a field recording of Maybarduk playing acoustic guitar in Guatemala City, combined with a conversation with a citizen of Sierra Leone. The man, Pa Abu Kamara, speaking in broken English, says, “We have too much trouble. Suffer. No good house, no good road, no good water, no good food. Everything, very, very, very suffer.”
These conversations, which probably happen far too often in Maybarduk’s profession, must be of his heaviest influences.
Even with Maybaruk’s worldly imprints, “A Ring Around the Atlantic” qualifies as a rock album.
“Sound” and “Touched by Fire” are both in the vein of ’90s alternative rock. “Something to Believe,” is slathered with feedback-heavy electric guitar and synthesizer, giving it a power pop-punk feel.
Maybarduk is adept at interweaving softer, orchestral arrangements with more forceful, abrasive songs led by electric instruments. Some songs bring the two sides together. For instance, “Conjured Lights” contains cello and guitar beautifully complementing one another.
With a voice very similar to that of Ben Gibbard, Maybarduk is excellent in expressing the sensitivity of his lyrics. Whether somber or urgent, there is no point in the album where Maybarduk appears apathetic about his material.
There are multiple facets to a “Ring Around the Atlantic,” some which certain listeners will not want to wrap their heads around. Maybarduk is an activist above all things, therefore his music is not delivered lightly. His lyrics are esoteric at times, but as a whole convey messages of high importance.
For more information on Peter Maybarduk, visit http://www.maybarduk.com.