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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Two-Man Musical Pushes Looping Technology to Its Limit

Matthew McCarney

From a largely untold perspective of North American history, hip-hop musical, “Mexodus,” at Baltimore Center Stage in Mt. Vernon sheds light on a population of slaves in the United States that fled to Mexico between 1820 and 1865. 

On the set, outdoor string lights ran along the ceiling in place of traditional house lights, and the primarily wooden props and set pieces submerged the audience into the time-period. An array of instruments such as the upright bass, a pair of acoustic guitars, a trumpet, and a piano and keyboard scattered among the set with precision for the coming performance. 

But in contrast to this rustic set, a number of cables and looping technology ran slyly around the set pieces. This equipment all linked to a music production software called Ableton. With this equipment, the performers picked up instruments one by one to set up the beats and hooks for each number throughout the night. All these pieces of the loops were made live and cued in by both the performers and the sound engineer.

“They have full control over where they put those loops in. But sometimes the sound effects, to sort of alleviate them and have the moments be kind of special, I handle the looping to free them up to act,” Sound Producer on “Mexodus” Simon Briggs said.

The musical starred only Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson, who were the musical’s playwrights, composers, instrumentalists, and actors for the performance. Carolyn Habigger ’27 was impressed by their ability to wear so many hats for the production.

“They have more talent in their pinky finger than I have in my whole body,” Habigger said.

Robinson and Quijada met in 2020, just before the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, and bonded over a shared interest in this Underground Railroad to Mexico. The two began writing and sending each other instrumental tracks which resulted in a wide palette of genres, including 90’s hip-hop, melodies calling hauntingly back to slave work songs, Mexican boleros, contemporary musical theater, and sounds that reflect folk and R&B of the 60s and 70s. 

As for the plot of “Mexodus,” Robinson played the role of Henry, a man who fled to freedom in Mexico after killing his master in self-defense. Quijada played Carlos, a Mexican farmer who hides Henry from authorities. The characters build a friendship and ultimately build a network to house other slaves attempting to find freedom in Mexico. Scenes between music numbers ranged from quick-witted dialogue between the characters to periods of silence as they build the atmosphere for the next song while in character. 

“Carlos and Henry’s relationship is definitely a good reflection of Brian and Nygel; not knowing each other that well, but coming together and setting their sights on this goal of like let’s make this musical project and let’s make this network to help people be free,” Briggs said.

As “Mexodus” ends, Robinson and Quijada perform a reprise of the opening number, extending the conversation of freedom to the modern day. They reflect on the systems still in place and prominent today and ask the audience, “Is this freedom?” 

“Mexodus” will continue performances at Baltimore Center Stage until April 7. Tickets are available for purchase at and at the Center Stage box office.

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