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Curzon Cinema, Soho, London.  6.30pm Tuesday 21st December

This is really the best film relating to ‘agit disco’ themes I’ve yet seen.

Sounds Like a Revolution is a feature length doc directed by Summer Preney and Jane Michener. The main voices are those of  Michael Franti, the US punk band Anti-Flag, the rap artist turned producer Paris, old David Crosby (of Still & Nash). Tom Morello of RATM we also get some time with Ani Defranco and Jello Biafra amongst others.

Protest music alive and well in the USA, as well as being heavily repressed, censored or silenced. The  most interesting voice for me was MC Paris who takes on the Music corporation business bigwigs at their own game. Surprising for me was David Crosby who is a right old lefty and more political than I knew.

Followed by a panel discussion…with:

John Robb vocalist from punk rock band, Goldblade, and presenter of the arts show ‘Zeitgeist’.

and a samba band woman I missed the name of. The chair was Edward Dallal a young director who has recently completed a ‘rebel dread’ doc on Don Letts – called ‘Superstonic Sound’.

Alhthough I was enamoured with the film and full of how good it was, the discussion afterwards focused on some interesting critical points. The range of material in the doc was impressive for what surely must have been a low budget production. Still people pointed out the lack of key music and what there was tended to be agit cartoon sloganizing lyrics rather than the more poetic. Why was there no Ani Defranco music? Probably something to do with permissions, which are notoriously hard to come by and often owned by the big corporations that doc was criticising. Also the need to drive the film along with punchy lyrics even if some of them are cringe worthy. Poetics might need a different film style and pace. Linked to this were ideas of the political effects of music. The situation and the discussion that follows is as important as the hearing (as was true with this film showing). Music can have a deeper effect on out thinking rather than just to Do or Not.

I inevitably raised the point that class was not mentioned by the film or by the panel. The feeling in the audience if I can interpret what was largely silence was that talking about ‘working class music’ could be devisive… of course the annoying confusion about who is and isn’t really’ working class was probably contributing to this opinion.   Altho this film represents some middle class people (as John Robb pointed out… he seemed to know the class identity of many of the films ‘actors’) who can be  there as allies, but who pose dangers of putting the revolution off-course (e.g. reduced to an end result of more young voters), and coming from an insulated place so participating to offer leadership and thinking (rather than enabling w/c people themselves to lead and think as a good ally should). Maybe even offering simplistic talking down to you slogans rather than more complex poetics….

There were complaints about who was left out … Immortal Technique’s name was mentioned… but any film is going to leave out more that it includes. At least it did cover a wide range of musical genres and didn’t veer away from the more extreme gestures that those such as the apparently fearless Paris had been party to.

The conclusion focused on how music campaigns had contributed to getting more young people voting than ever or at least since the 1970s. Not the most exciting side of radicalism. My own conclusion is “Paris for President”. He’s a cool dude.


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