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Tag Archives: Protest Songs

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

Http://www.redpepper.org.uk/raised-voices-the-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:

http://www.singing4ourlives.net

 

 

Someone with screen name ‘Protest Songs‘ has accumulated an interesting collection of protest songs on YT. Anti-war songs have been grouped by decade. There are also groups under subject headings like; activists, big business, change and discrimination.

I notice the website of STOP the War Coalition is collecting anti-war songs and has a side bar devoted to songs. Although their list of British songs to inspire the fight against austerity is a bit dated and looks like it has been put together by a set-in-his/her ways 50 plus year old.

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At last! I got to hear a live set by the great Mancunian Johnny Crescendo, who was over from the uSA, in the basement of the NUT HQ in KingsX, London. Celebrating 25 years of struggle for inclusive education marked by the ILEA publication of ‘Disability Equality in the Classroom: a human rights issue’ that was put together by Richard Rieser and Micheline Mason. and first came out 25 years ago.   <a href=”http://worldofinclusion.com/res/deinclass/text_only.pdf&#8221; rel=”nofollow”>worldofinclusion.com/res/deinclass/text_only.pdf</a>

Johnny was playing with his long term accompanist Ian Stanton who also doubles at being a technician as and when – sometimes quite a balancing act! Their album is on iTunes. I couldn’t find him on YouTube with good quality sound.

Best ever Agit Disco album just republished on SoundCloud in August 2014

It is really great to see this important and little known album re-issued again on SoundCloud after twenty years. It was first issued as a cassette tape for those who frequented 56a Infoshop and its networks in South London. I was struck by its eloquent and radical lyrics and beautiful, inventive instrumental backing when I first heard it. Certainly it was the stand-out album of political songs of the Nineties in South London. I had seen Steve Cope perform his songs solo on a few occasions like at a St Agnes Place squat party, but these recordings of the songs with other talented local musicians frame Cope’s powerful lyrics with a musicianship that makes them works of art as much as heart-felt protest songs.

Each track on Soundcloud now has a carefully chosen image that adds something to the digital presentation that the analogue tape could not of course have. I wondered if this was the result of a particularly magical recording session but Martin says “It was essentially live music, so I never thought of the recording (on Fostex 8 track) as being exceptional, just a different thing.” Also looking at the cassette liner notes it looks like different tracks were recorded at different locations.

The song ‘Animals’ makes me cry every time I hear it. Such a passionate and

poetic song. My favourite of the whole album. It addresses peoples in-humanity in a deeply felt alliance with all animals, with nature even, against the violence of oppression and exploitation targeted by the callous few against the majority of people. It also works as a statement against cruelty to all life. For me it achieves a singular artistic statement that sums up the righteous anger that liberation needs. An important and necessary emotion that is hard to express most of the time. Its key chorus-line: “I’m with the animals” is spat out over a rolling and hypnotic bass rhythm. About 4 minutes in there is some brilliant growling trumpet playing by Martin Dixon that expresses the build-up of outrage in a way that reminds me of the expressive power of some of the best modern Jazz playing.

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Derek Malcolm describes this film as “crammed with protest songs and poetry about the vilification of the lower castes (25% of the population) that is still prevalent now.”

Patwardhan “often works alone and with scant resources… he frequently goes where others in India fear to tread.” http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/derek-malcolm-recommends-anand-patwardhan-8732988.html

Have you heard of Patwardhan? I hadn’t.

Shown twice today at Tate Modern!

One.org a online anti-poverty campaigning organisation headed by Bono with Time Magazine’s Michael Elliott as CEO. Other directors include: Joshua Bolten who is MD of Rock Creek Global Advisors, an international business advisory firm; Howard G, Buffett, President of his eponymous Foundation; Joe Cerrell director of the Gates Foundation’s Europe office; John Doerr from Google and Amazon’s board; Condoleezza Rice, etc etc.

They have made a deal to bring us a selection of the worlds top protest songs via Spotify presented on a high-end slickly designed website complete with spray paint stencil graph style logos. ‘scuze me whilst I put two fingers down my throat… Photo gallery sponsored (and edited?) by Nokia.

They want to ensure that the right decisions are made at the G8 by gettting down with the worlds young protestors. Lovely jubbly!

http://www.one.org/protestsongs/?akid=4027.6250736.ET3JmV&rd=1&t=4

Hang On! Isn’t it just these people we are meant to be protesting against? Did you really sign up to this Elvis Costello? C’mon man!

This is a interesting example of a published agit disco CD.  The selection  is by reggae enthusiast Roger Steffens, who is a Vietnam veteran and ex hippie. He brings Jamaican reggae together with reggae versions of classic North American protest songs, specially recorded for this album. This actually makes for a refreshing mix, for me at least. Buffy St Marie’s ‘Universal Soldier’ a hit for Donovan is here sung by Yvad, with a production by Doctor Dread. It always surprises me emotionally by evoking memories of my Dad, who was a Mosquito pilot in WW2. Bushman’s version of Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ is another good collaboration, as is ‘Eve of Destruction’ sung by Luciano. Trojan (2005)

This is complex and thoughtful cultural mix. And it rocks!

Here’s the playlist: Read More »