“Remember The Dead And Fight For The Living” is the slogan for International Workers Memorial Day, a day to remember workers disabled, injured, made ill or killed by their work, and a day for solidarity in calling for governments and employers to make all workplaces safe. It is a global campaign for safer, healthier and better work and is an opportunity to highlight the preventable nature of most workplace accidents and work-related sickness. Of the many songs which could be used to mark the day, one of the most powerful and inspirational must be Alistair Hulett’s He Fades Away, about people dying of mesothelioma following employment in the blue asbestos industry in Australia.
Punk group X Ray Spex’s frontwoman Poly Styrene has died from breast cancer at the age of 53. Often attributed with helping create punk, Poly Styrene’s strong feminism was reflected on many of her songs. Released in 1977, X Ray Spex’s debut record Oh Bondage, Up Yours was hugely successful as an early punk-feminist anthem.
The Chinese Global Times reports that the municipality of Chongqing is urging people to learn songs promoting patriotism and socialist values as part of strengthening links between the citizens and the Communist Party of China. A total of 36 “red songs” are being broadcast frequently on local television and have been uploaded onto major Web portals, while lyrics are being published in print media from April 10 to May 20 to make it easier to learn the songs. A local official, Xu Chao, explained the term “Red” as meaning not only “revolution, communism or socialism. It also includes elements that represent happiness, harmony, being positive and healthy. The term is actually quite inclusive.” The songs are all contemporary works, and include “Country,” performed by Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan and mainland singer Liu Yuanyuan in praise of the ties between every household and the fate of the entire country.
Jayce Kingstone has released Radioactivity (A Nuclear Outcry Song for Japan) about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan. The song has been described as a “clear message to humanity that we are not in control of our destiny.” But the message is, perhaps, ultimately one of hope, and a rallying call for action “clear message to humanity that we are not in control of our destiny.”
Jayce has, more recently, released another powerful and inspirational song. You’ll Find Your Way (A Song for Freedom, Peace and Equality) was, as Jayce says “inspired by the recent calamities that face our world (such as the fight for peace Libya and catastrophe in Japan). In this video I attempt to portray the extreme contrasts between the classes and nations, the differences in opportunities and the segregation that has become a part of our everyday lives.” But again the overall mood of the song is one of optimism.
Kiwi singer Tiki Taane was arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence after singing a protest song made popular by the hugely influential American rap group NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) in the late 1980’s, as reported in the New Zealand newspaper The Press.
In Tangata Whenua.com (Maori News and Indigenous Views) Tiki has described the incident, which took place in a Tauranga night club, thus “I could see them [the police] doing their walk through the crowd. I welcomed them in and said “Yo, yo the boys in blue are here, everyone, heads up … I sang out, `If you know this lyric help me out’, and I sang the first two lines of F**k the Police by NWA.”
The lines in question are: “Fuck tha police and Ren said it with authority because the niggaz on the street is a majority.”
The You Tube file of the song Libya Don’t Be Sad may be a few weeks old now, but the message of the song and the video images are as powerful now as the day the song was first streamed. The song was written by a political prisoner of the Gaddafi regime, and sung by an opposition leader.
Other recent songs in support of the Libyan revolution include Libyan revolution - I hope by Sami Yusuf, Libya Tea Freedom Song From Martyrs Square Benghazi recorded at a rebel party, and Libyan Rebel DUBSTEP.
London based podcast and Internet radio station Kooba Radio, hosted on the 7th April The Strawberry Thieves very melodic gospel-inspired song “We’ll Fight On” as a recommended track. The Strawberry Thieves Choir is based in South East London and is named after a design by William Morris; they are involved in a movement called Carnival Against Cuts, based in Lewisham.
Both praise and condemnation have followed Bob Dylan’s concerts in China. After a lot of speculation about whether the Chinese authorities would allow Dylan to perform, the concerts went ahead in Beijing on April 6th and Shangai on April 8th. Amongst others, Heather Horn in the Atlantic Wire criticises Dylan for going ahead with the concerts (with up to 2000 Ministry of Culture security staff in attendance) just days after the prominent dissident Ai Weiwei was taken into custody, and she accuses Dylan of “a cave in”. But the politics of cultural boycotts are difficult. Certainly in this case it would appear that Dylan has outsmarted the Chinese censors to the delight of much of the “young, enthusiastic and knowledgeable“ crowd, as one reviewer described the audience. From the concert in Beijing, one or two examples of Dylan’s messages of dissent and hope:
From “Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall” – an outstandingly powerful song of rich imagery and deep meanings which must have resonated with many in the audience:
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my songs well before I start singin’
From “Ballad of a Thin Man” (repeated in Shangai) – as Dylan covertly taunts the authorities:
And something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
In “Forever Young” performed by Dylan as a rare second encore in Beijing, and as the final song in Shangai, and in which Dylan expresses his empathy with, and encouragement of, the audience
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong …
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
And of course both concerts started with “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”, in which almost at the start of the song Dylan notes:
So much oppression
Can’t keep track of it no more
Libyan-American hip hop artist Khalid M has released a powerful new rap in support of Arab Spring protests and uprisings. “Can’t Take Our Freedom,” which also features Lowkey. The song is an anthem for desperate measures against oppression:
When your voice is illegal
Only Choice for the people
Is to stand up proudly
In the face of death
It ain’t a waste of breath
When you speak up loudly
Khalad M has understandably strong personal feelings about the violence of the Gadhafi regime as he makes clear in part of the song:
Dad escaped jail and he dedicated..
His life to the cause but he never made it.
This ain’t about my father gettin’ retribution,
All my uncles gettin’ tortured with electrocution,
Other uncles gettin’ hung in public executions,
Just simply comin’ up with the best solution.
And I don’t know why it seems..
This guy’s regime keeps pushin’ through the silent screams,
Will take you half an hour to figure that this coward
Can only get his power through violent means.
The situation vis a vis the song seems very fluid – whilst still, apparently, available on YouTube, there is also a petition being circulated by Care2 on the grounds YouTube have taken down the clip because, YouTube says, of the violent scenes portrayed. The Petition is gathering signatures.
Following the decision by RBS to sponsor the recently held Climate Week, People and Planet groups across the U.K. held demonstrations to protest against RBS hypocrisy. P&P Edinburgh used songs as part of their impressive protest.