Like so many people these days, I’ve been following the unfolding disaster of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with fascinated dismay. I’ve also been following the responses to the oil spill, with at times something more like hope.
The online world – Public Sphere2.0 – has been quick to respond with things like the various images, videos, graphics and data mashups listed on thedailygreen.com – 7 Shocking Ways to Visualize the Gulf Oil Spill. And in a still developing story, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming pressured BP into releasing a live video feed of the gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. According to a report in The Huffington Post, the live feed should be available through the Select Committee website later today/tonight.
And of course the environmental catastrophe of the BP spill has provided rich fodder for political commentators and talk show hosts on TV and radio – both left and right, the serious and the not-so-serious – ranging from Rush Limbaugh saying The Sierra Club is responsible to Jon Stewart’s take, as usual one of the funniest and most incisive: ‘We’re All Going To Die!’.
And Keith Olbermann on msnbc has a nice YouTube-inspired video mashup on the spill:
And in one of the best cyberactivism efforts to come out of the spill so far, the “Louisiana Bucket Brigade” and students at Tulane University have come up with a crowdsourced Oil Spill Crisis Map:
This map visualizes reports of the effects of the BP oil spill submitted via text message, email, twitter and the web. Reports of oil sightings, affected animals, odors, health effects and human factor impacts made by the eyewitnesses and the media populate points on a this public, interactive, web based map. The information will be used to provide data about the impacts of the spill in real time as well as document the story of those that witness it.
What we haven’t had yet is a musical response.
In the past, folk musicians have been fairly quick to jump in with rabble-rousing tunes on war, racism, political violence, logging and other issues of concern (“It’s as easy as C-F-G”), so I went looking for something on oil spills – after all, this BP spill off Louisiana may be the biggest in history, but it is by no means the first oil spill we’ve seen or which has grabbed the public’s attention.
You’d be surprised how hard it is to find a good song on oil… I did find one track called “Oil Spill” – from the soundtrack by Leonard J. Paul to the excellent Canadian documentary, The Corporation – but it’s not really what I had in mind.
One of our best topical troubadors, Billy Bragg has a song about oil, but it’s not aimed at oil spills – rather at the role that the insatiatable appetite for oil in the USA, and Europe, has played in the conflicts in the Middle East and the wars in Iraq : Billy Bragg, “The Price of Oil” – released as a free download on his official website ( Billy Bragg ).
The closest I could get to something that really captured my feelings about this spill was a song from Nigeria. Nigeria is a country that has long suffered from problems associated with the oil industry there – ranging from spills and environmental damage to political corruption to the assassination of political and environmental activists.
Nigeria is also the source of Afrobeat music and one of my favorite musicians, Fela Kuti. And Fela has a song attacking the impact of foreign corporations that I thought would do – at least until the folk musicians get off their collective ass and give us something inspiring we can sing along to. Given how BP is stealing the Gulf of Mexico from the future, despoiling it for generations, and trying to evade responsibility – financial and otherwise – they certainly qualify as an “International Thief Thief.”
Fela Kuti, “I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)” (the song starts out quiet, so don’t be fooled into thinking there is a problem with the link)