In this piece by Mark Savage we hear, again, that “Pop is getting a long overdue dose of politics.” but this is really a piece about Jodie Abacus who is a good soul singer who is, let us say, Commercial Hot POPerty. The article is little more than a puff piece. The song in question his latest single:
“Called Keep Your Head Down, it tells the story of a family fleeing a war zone, only to be met with fear and suspicion in the country they had thought would provide safe harbour.”
Which is worthy, I’m not saying it isn’t, but just two points:
1. Music by working class people, including those operating under ‘labels’ like pop and rock, has always been heaving with political intent and content from the ground UP – BUT its just a matter of what we are a-LOUD to H-ear. What is Broad-CAST into ouR homes without any effort on our part. That was the point of the Agit Disco project, just to show what a ‘shed load’ of political musics are out there. If you go looking. If you become a SELECTOR.
2. If you tread a commercial path the impact of your political lyrics becomes swathed in high value smooth production values which trades off the emotive impact of a raw criiiiAYYYY from the streets with more widespread AIR-play.
This goes for MIA whose has very right on political songs in syrupy pop settings. The mixing is super skilled B U T
and LaDeeGaGa is another one (incredible performance!):
and wee StorMZy (a man from my part of town) Will he hold out with this kind of raw power? I hope he can. The forces out to moLLy coDDle us are powerful.
Almost forgot to blog my own Agit Disco dispersal event at Farnham. It was the closing event for the Working Press archiving exhibition ‘Building a Better World’ in the magnificent library social space. The Agit Disco project had arisen organically from the music chapter in 1993 The Conspiracy of Good Taste (Free Download new illustrated edition here)
Using the tiniest record deck in the world that was wired up to a more hefty portable college sound system. It managed to cause a rumpus in the library with the Head Librarian loving the arrival of music (studies) whilst one of her staff was bristling about volume and distraction to the upper reading rooms. They had a little set to and the head of Library had to give the other a stern order to put up and shut up!
The Working Press archive book on the round table above is available for free download from here ‘RISE’
It was a small event but a good crowd with selections from Susan Merrick and Emmanuelle Waeckerle.
“In the month leading up to the U.S. presidential election, Dave Eggers, the author, philanthropist, and founder of the satire site McSweeney’s, enlisted a number of musicians across genres and disciplines for what would become the “30 Days, 30 Songs” project, a vocal gesture against a Trump presidency.” Rob Arcand http://reallifemag.com/sonic-youth/ via http://conversations.e-flux.com/t/noise-sound-as-protest-music/5453
I totally missed this until now.
“unite to coordinate action?” Its difficult to distinguish capitalist rhetoric from old anti-capitalist words that, as soon as they have wide currency are immediately monetised (and that include Bitcoin versions.) by having their meanings reassigned for new purposes.
“…neoliberal protest music — “30 Days, 30 Songs,” like Third Eye Blind, Green Day, John Mayer before it — has come to seem better suited for sharing and agreement among the like-minded than the sort of direct action upon which protest music was once established. The liberal “folk-political” song, steeped in nostalgia for the mass radicalization of the 1960s, invokes an era defined by collective action while serving mostly as a substitute for action itself.” Rob Arcand
What are we to make to this?
Rebecca MCarthy (see Third Eye Blind link above) “Protest songs are out in force: look at Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Beyonce’s “Formation,” J.Cole’s “Be Free,” Kanye West’s “We Don’t Care,” Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage,” even Childbirth’s “I Only Fucked You as a Joke.””
This seems like a good way of packaging Agit Disco songs that does not challenge the everyday exclusion of political material that Agit Disco was attempting to highlight. What it does do is an international selection of banned songs close to the heart of the British Index on Censorship.
Having had that gripe it sounds like a good project and very well designed and presented. It seems like they took the considerable trouble to go and meet the original musicians to photograph them and find out about the songs and it this research that makes the project impressive.
On their website they say: “WHAT MAKES A SONG BANNED? Through history, thousands of musicians have faced censorship, persecution and violent suppression. Often, their stories remain untold. Who were they? Who are they? And what can we learn from their stories?
In this project, photographer Jørgen Nordby and musician Pål Moddi Knutsen set out to trace the footsteps of songs that have, at one stage, been banned, censored or silenced. In countries as far apart as Mexico and Vietnam, we met musicians who have little in common except their tireless struggle for the right to sing.”
So you can buy the album and listen to the songs as well as read the story of the originals on the website. Moddi seems like an accomplished musician and is soon to be presenting the songs played by himself in London.
Skepta is now top of the tree and his Konnichiwa album has protest songs (so says the BBC). But how long can you sing songs about being held by cops; when you are a slick hitmaker? The glamour, the people, the money, the need for minders that surround you… the busy schedule that steals your day away …. he may have got there by a DIY route and kept control late in the day. Will he be able to keep it real when its all red carpets and feigning models. I mean Puffy Daddy has run his own businesses for many years; there comes a point when DIY ceases to mean much. It was cute that just before his album started the Time Out rolled up this house and found it used as a storage place for his business. but even then he wasn’t sticking stamps on himself like wot real DIY publishing means.
How long is he gonna rap “The feds wanna shift man / Wanna put me in a van / Wanna strip a man / I ain’t a Chippendale / Wanna strip a male / Put me in a prison cell / Got me biting on my finger nails.” with any conviction?
The analysis will have to get more political, more theoretical, more abstracted from his personal situation. And probably threatening to his own pro feet ability…
Can integrity survive success? Can a radical message survive institutionalisation or being framed on corporate media?
But for now Ok this Tottenham boy wants people to ‘shed preconceptions’ that’s not bad thing. I’m reading Mike Hales book on ‘Thinkwork’ from 1980 and he had this idea of ‘pre conceptualism’ and it set me thinking about whether cultural works can reach out into that pre-idea stage of thinking. There’s a hope music or art might be able to get past the normalisation of our thinking as it enters onto cultural or intellectual platforms… But to do that it would have use very undercapitalised platform, autonomous underground venues, collectively run shows, illegal shebeens maybe, but not a gallery. How is it done? How is it done?
for more thoughts in this vein see my now FREE ebook…
I found this article in Red Pepper fascinating (and related to both Agit Disco and Conspiracy of Good Taste ):
Raised voices: the UK campaigning choirs movement
Street choirs spring from various strands of progressive politics and protest singing. Many have their roots way back in the socialist and labour movements. The names of Birmingham Clarion Singers and Nottingham Clarion Choir, for instance, are tributes to the movement associated with the Clarion socialist newspaper founded in late 19th-century Manchester. Birmingham Clarion Singers was established in 1940″
Yes but this was a part of the Rational Recreations movement which strove to get working class people involved in ‘respectable’ rather than revolutionary activity. These choirs seem a bit more radical and political.
“Today, the street choirs network numbers more than 50 choirs across Britain.”
Could they turn the tide with song? Could singing in the street return to human activity after being banished by the good taste movement led by Sharp and others plus commoditisation plus mass media?
Is a new kind of songwriting going to emerge?
There is an initiative to make an oral history of the movement see more here:
“A Nigerian singer known for singing about corrupt politicians has been found five days after he was kidnapped.”BBC 29 June 2016
This song, ‘Gyara Kayanka’, is the reason he was kidnapped and threatened. Ado is from the state of Adamawa and I think the song is in the Hausa language. Anyone have a translation of the lyrics?
Michael Kemp writes on F*Bk: “Walked out in the rain a couple of days ago and spied a ‘REMAIN’ poster in the window of the student household at the bottom of the street. That put a spring in my step, so, when I got home, I made them a CD compilation – “A Song for Europe” and lobbed it thru’ the letterbox.”
01 Should I Stay or Should I Go? (3:07) ~ The Clash
02 If You Want Me to Stay (3:01) ~ Sly & The Family Stone
03 Welcome to Craggy Island (2:57) ~ Father Ted
04 A Song for Europe (5:47) ~ Roxy Music
05 Together Stronger (3:48) ~ Manic Street Preachers
06 Boris the Spider (2:30) ~ The Who
07 Mon amie la rose (2:17) ~ Françoise Hardy
08 Stay With Me (By the Sea) (3:23) ~ Al Green
09 Stormy Weather (1952 version) (3:43) ~ Billie Holiday
10 Emotional Weather Report (3:47) ~ Tom Waits
11 Flood (4:47) ~ Jocelyn Pook
12 I Love EU (5:05) ~ Gruff Rhys
13 Café Europa (4:17) ~ Deep Forest
14 The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versailles (7:59) ~ John Cale & Terry Riley
15 Let’s Work Together (3:12) ~ Ry Cooder
The Dixie Chicks haven’t learned their lesson yet it seems and are as political as they ever were. Nice to see them back with a world tour and sold out in the USA too.
Continuing the theme of the big stars that issue political edicts I agree with!