Historical poet: dowagiac artist using music to teach local history – Leader Publications


Historical poet: dowagiac artist using music to teach local history

Posted at 2:28 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20, 2022

DOWAGIAC — A Dowagiac resident uses music and media to educate listeners about local history.

Ellis “LIILEL” Bethea, a local music producer and hip-hop artist, has used the history of local communities to create music. Its content can be found at Youtube, Facebook, ICT Tac and instagram.

A recent graduate of Benton Harbor Secondary School, Bethea moved to Dowagiac where he has spent the past year and a half combing through page after page of local history books and newspaper articles researching local communities for future projects. An avowed lover of antique and thrift stores, Bethea estimates he bought around $12,000 worth of vintage vinyl records to use for archiving and sampling.

“A lot of people throw away older books,” he said. “(A book) still has information, it still has a soul. Reading allows me to travel in time, to learn and to study it. I show gratitude to people who came before me and use that knowledge to educate and make it interesting for the younger generation.

His most recent song, “Twin Cities”, delves into the history of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. The music video, shot with a VHS recorder camera, has over 8,000 views on YouTube.

Bethea said her process began by reading newspaper archives and history books. After studying and asking questions, he breaks knowledge down into sound form by producing an instrument and writing lyrics. After shooting the video at relevant locations, he then uploads them to social media.

According to Bethea, the feedback it has received has been positive.

“A lot of people say ‘I never knew that’,” he said. “Exploring and finding new, creative ways to present information has always been a passion of mine. You can make a song or a creative entity out of anything.

Bethea spent countless hours at the Dowagiac District Library researching local history for a future project. Keeping the story alive through music is something he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I feel like I’m going deeper than the high school and college history books,” he said. “I feel like the older generation is passing me the baton. When they see me and what I do, I want them to know that the information will be in good hands.


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