Tag Archives: Music

I wonder what it will take for my city to rise

Ani DiFranco, “Subdivision” – from Revelling/Reckoning

For more…

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A Soundtrack for Black History Month: How Fares the Dream?

It’s that time of year again: Black History Month — and below is my updated playlist/soundtrack for the civil rights and black power movements… But first a few remarks.

Black History Month: the one month of the year when, traditionally, American school children get to learn about George Washington Carver (our “black Leonardo”) and Booker T. Washington, and maybe if they’re lucky W. E. B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall.

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Hey Public Radio – Africa is a Big Continent

I love that the World Cup is bringing attention not only to football (soccer), but also to Africa in general and to South Africa in particular – attention that is not just on some massacre or famine, which seem to be the dominant tropes of news coverage, showing just how much Africa is still “the dark continent” when it comes to awareness and attention in the United States.

But I was dismayed to hear a news report on the World Cup in South Africa on public radio this afternoon illustrated with some music from Mali. Sure it’s on the same continent, but actually it would be almost impossible for it to be further away and still be in sub-Saharan Africa. And, sure, Malian music is terrific, really terrific, but South Africa has terrific music of its own. Remember all that excitement over Paul Simon’s Graceland?

You can see how this would happen – some intern grabs a CD from the “Africa” section and queues up a nice, upbeat instrumental track. But, you know, the fact that it’s plausible to assume there is an “Africa” section speaks to the problem. We are never going to get to grips with the situation there if we keep collapsing the whole continent into one undifferentiated mass.

A Song for Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and Far Too Much of Texas and Arizona

Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose…

John Prine, “Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore” – from the album John Prine (1971)

Chorus:
But your flag decal won’t get you
Into Heaven any more.
They’re already overcrowded
From your dirty little war.
Now Jesus don’t like killin’
No matter what the reason’s for,
And your flag decal won’t get you
Into Heaven any more.

(via jpshrine.org.)

John Prine (born October 10, 1946, in Maywood, Illinois) is an American country/folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a recording artist and live performer since the early 1970s… (via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

BP Oil Spill: Where’s a folksinger when you need her? [updated]

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.com7 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)

Get to Arizona!

The AK Press blog, Revolution by the Book, has a list of links to organizations that can help you find something concrete to do about the crazy immigration situation in Arizona:

Get to Arizona!: “A number of people have asked me about how to support groups doing good work against the nasty immigration shit going on in Arizona. Work that doesn’t limit itself to ‘mere’ reform. I’ve also been sad witness to several toothless Facebook groups that seem to limit ‘support’ to pressing a few buttons on your computer keyboard to register your dissatisfaction…uh, and that’s it….

And remember the words of Public Enemy in ‘By the Time I Get to Arizona’: ‘Neither party is mine, not the jackass or the elephant.’”

(via Revolution by the Book.)

DJ Spooky recently released a remix of Public Enemy’s “By the Time I Get To Arizona” (a track from the 1991 album Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black) as a response to the current situation down there:

DJ Spooky and Chuck D remix “By the Time I Get to Arizona” in honor of anti-immigrant law: “DJ Spooky sez, “I just finished a studio session with Chuck D from Public Enemy. In the wake of Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s appalling anti-immigrant law, me and Chuck D were rappin’ and we decided to put together an update of his classic track ‘By The Time I get To Arizona.’

(via Boing Boing.)

Here’s the remix… It rocks.

Death of Nigeria’s President Umaru Yar’Adua

Nigeria swears in new president: “Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s acting president, has been sworn in as the country’s new leader following the death of Umaru Yar’Adua.

Jonathan took the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital, Abuja, on Thursday, just hours after officials announced the death of Yar’Adua following a long illness.

(via Al Jazeera English – Africa – Nigeria swears in new president.)

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan sworn in as president: “Tens of thousands of men shoved and pushed their way into the stadium in Katsina to pay their respects to Nigeria’s later President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) began as his body – on a bamboo stretcher and wrapped in a Nigerian white and green flag – was carried in by military men.

Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida were among the mourners. Other dignitaries included Niger’s interim prime minister. There was also a government delegation, but Mr Yar’Adua’s deputy, newly sworn-in President Goodluck Jonathan, was not among them.

(via BBC News.)

For another take on Yar’Adua, check out these songs by the great Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti:

For more on Fela, check out the official Fela website or the WikiPedia entry. (And let me give a shout out to my homie, Trevor Schoonmaker, who curated an exhibit on Fela and wrote Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway.)

Arizona, Arizona Über Alles

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

A round up of recent headlines, ledes and soundbites from around the internet on Arizona’s new immigration law…

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May Day – Get off the Computer and Into the Streets

May Day is synonymous with International Workers’ Day, or Labour Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organised by the unions, anarchist, and socialist groups. May Day is also a traditional holiday in many cultures. (via Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Howard Zinn on Haymarket

Music for May Day

Chumbawamba – “Never Do What You Are Told” – Showbusiness!

The Internationale (German)
Billy Bragg – “The Internationale” – The Internationale

The Kingston Trio – “This Land is Your Land” – The Original
Arlo Guthrie with Pete Seeger – “This Land is Your Land” – More Together Again in Concert

Pete Seeger – “Solidarity Forever” -If I Had A Hammer: Songs Of Hope & Struggle
Pete Seeger – “Talking Union” – If I Had A Hammer: Songs Of Hope & Struggle
Billy Bragg – “There is Power in a Union” – Must I Paint You A Picture? The Essential Billy Bragg

Rolando Alarcón – “El Gallo Rojo” – A la Resistencia Española
Billy Bragg – “The Red Flag” – The Internationale

Billy Bragg – “I Dreamed I Saw Phil Ochs Last Night” – The Internationale
Utah Phillips with Ani Difranco – “Joe Hill” – Fellow Workers

Harry McClintock – “Big Rock Candy Mountain” – O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Billy Bragg – “Marching Song of the Covert Battalions” – The Internationale
Bruce Cockburn – “Call It Democracy” – If a Tree Falls  – A Collection of Greatest Songs

Billy Bragg – “The Price of Oil” [free download from Billy Bragg’s website]

Gillian Welch – “A Miner’s Refrain” – Hell Among the Yearlings – dedicated to the coal miners of West Virginia and their families

Carlos Mejía Godoy – “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita” – Grandes Éxitos Vol. 2
Billy Bragg – “Nicaragua, Nicaraguita” – The Internationale

John Lennon – “Power to the People” – Lennon Legend: The Very Best Of John Lennon
Bruce Cockburn – “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” – Stealing Fire
Randy Newman – “Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)” – Sail Away: The Songs of Randy Newman
Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come” – The Harder They Come
Gil Scott-Heron – “Blue Collar” – Moving Target

Elvis Costello – “Welcome to the Working Week” – My Aim Is True
Rage Against the Machine – “The Ghost of Tom Joad” – No Boundaries: A Benefit For The Kosovar Refugees
Tenacious D – “The Government Totally Sucks” – The Pick Of Destiny
Devo – “Working in a Coal Mine” – New Traditionalists
The Clash – “Career Opportunities” – The Clash
The Clash – “The Clampdown” – London Calling
MDC – “I Hate Work” – Millions of Dead Cops

May Day Music

The IWW and Music: Creating a Working Class Counter-Culture

The IWW and Music: Creating a Working Class Counter-Culture – Anarkismo.

“This article discusses how the early IWW used music both as an organising tool and as a means of developing a sense of community among its members. It puts these activities in the context of the politics and practical activity of the IWW during this period.”

Radical Records: Liberals Get It Coming and Going

Over the last few years, the Tea Party and their ilk and predecessors have treated the name “liberal” like a self-evident indictment and a vicious epithet. You can almost hear the undertone in the way they say it, like when someone hides their name-calling in a fake cough – “commie.”

But let’s not forget that they weren’t the first to harsh on liberals…

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Radical Records Revisited: Punk’s Not Dead!

It will no doubt come as little surprise that back in the day (late 70s through early 80s) I was a bit of a punk.

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George Tiller’s Murder – a Missed Wake-up Call?

The man who gunned down one of the few doctors in the U.S. to perform late-term abortions could be sent to prison Thursday for the rest of his life, but he may have gotten what he wanted all along: It is now markedly harder in Kansas to get an abortion.
via George Tiller Murder: Scott Roeder Faces Life Sentence, But Some Argue Abortion Provider’s Killer Got His Way.

The recent sentencing of Scott Roeder to life in prison for the murder of Dr. George Tiller caused me to revisit this painful issue from last year. Given the accelerating craziness of the Tea Party crowd, the arrest of the militia group in Michigan, and the insane responses to the health care reform bill, that act of ultra-rightwing violence now seems like a wake-up call that we hit the snooze button on.

Here’s something that is both topical and positive on the topic:

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Black History Month – a Playlist

A playlist of tunes that inspired and energized and outraged me during this Black History Month just past. Continue reading

“I’m New Here” – a new album from Gil Scott-Heron

At 60 years old, Gil Scott-Heron has a new album out, his first in 16 years. “I’m New Here” was released by independent label XL Recordings in early February.

Gil Scott-Heron - "I'm New Here"

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