Trident Ploughshares are organising a three day protest at the Faslane Naval Base, home to Britain’s nuclear submarines. Recognising the power of song as a weapon of protest and resistance, the programme for the weekend is centred around songs and singing-related activities.
Playing to a crowd of almost 60,000 at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Bruce Springsteen spoke out against bankers and fat cats before singing Jack of All Trades from his album Wrecking Ball. Springsteen told the crowd “In America a lot of people have lost their jobs. But also in Europe and in Berlin, times are tough. This song is for all those who are struggling.” The lyrics include a scathing attack on bankers and speculators, but also a note of hope for the future:
The banker man grows fatter, the working man grows thin
It’s all happened before and it’ll happen again
It’ll happen again, they’ll bet your life
I’m a Jack of all trades and, darling, we’ll be alright
Now sometimes tomorrow comes soaked in treasure and blood
Here we stood the drought, now we’ll stand the flood
There’s a new world coming, I can see the light
I’m a Jack of all trades, we’ll be alright
The Anti-Capitalist Roadshow: Celebrating Subversion and Republicanism is touring various venues commencing 21st April. Each show features a host of top performers drawn from a pool of singer/songwriters renowned for their activism and campaigning – including Frankie Armstrong, Peggy Seeger, Leon Rosselson, Roy Bailey, Rob Johnson, Reem Kelani, Sandra Kerr, Ian Savile, Grace Petrie and Janet Russell.
By the way – Whilst checking out Reem Kelani’s website I came across what I think is one of the best summations of the power of song I have yet seen. Reem recalls a conversation she had with an Armenian man whose parents died in the Armenian Genocide. ‘He said: “You can burn a book, you can burn a piece of antique furniture, but our music, our songs, our poetry, you can’t burn; it travels, it goes everywhere”.’
Following up an earlier news item on this blog, I have now been sent a link to the completed satirical music and song video about Donald Trump (whose actions to establish a golf course near Aberdeen have been described by Brian May as ‘a horrible example of bullying the defenceless by a rich man who apparently can buy anyone or anything he wants’).
Following permission from Brian, the song adapts Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody to great effect; as the introduction to the video puts it “This is a story of destruction and greed, a story of lies and treachery, of how one man has used power and money … in his [Trump] battle for The Great Dunes of Scotland”.
As debating in Parliament, campaigns by health care professional organisations, and protests on the streets continue, the governments NHS “reforms”, as advanced in the Health and Social Care Bill spearheaded by Health Minister Andrew Lansley, cause further turmoil and anguish. And of course campaigns generate campaign songs, such as “A Song For Andrew Lansley and His Pals”. The ConDem Coalition would do well to heed the message in the chorus :
“It has its faults our NHS, but still it’s up there with the best We didn’t vote you in for you to leave it such a mess In Europe and the poor U.S. they pay much more and get much less Your Bill will kill our public health and make us like the rest We’ll never re-elect you if you wreck our NHS.”
On Wednesday 18th January 2012 many internet sites intentionally blacked out for the day in protest against the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act] and PIPA [Protect IP Act] legislation now being advanced in the USA. The day of protest has been judged a success by some of the major organisations involved. Wikipedia stated:
More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge. You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. From all around the world your messages dominated social media and the news. Millions of people have spoken in defence of a free and open internet.
Meanwhile Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg urged people to protest saying:
Tell your congressmen you want them to be pro-internet. We can’t let poorly thought out laws get in the way of the internet’s development. Facebook opposes Sopa and Pipa, and we will continue to oppose any laws that will hurt the internet.
Of course the internet with sites like YouTube, Facebook and the rest is a powerful tool for distributing activism against social injustice, including using songs as a vehicle for protests. Needless to say the SOPA / PIPA protests have led to the creating and posting of songs. The following examples demonstrate just how easy it can be to make protesting voices heard – no expensive equipment is required, no record industry moguls have to be grovelled to, no media pawns of government have to be persuaded – just do it and post it.
The first sample uses the age old method for creating a song of social justice – the adoption and adaption of an existing well known tune and lyric – in this case Don Maclean’s American Pie. Created by LaughPong, The Day The LOLcats Died – #SOPA #PIPA Protest Song includes some pertinent lyrics:
Why, why are laws a thing you can buy?
They got paid off, should be laid off, re-election denied
Our web means more than lawyers, lobbies and lies
So speak up before the internet dies
Speak up before the internet dies.
The next song – SOPA Cabana by Dan Bull seems to morph some South American musical influences with RAP delivery:
The American Government wants to CENSOR the Internet is pure rap by Okwerdz:
Finally in this brief selection Stop the SOPA Song is just a guy in his room with an acoustic guitar and some very clever lyrics.
Amnesty International, (described on its website as “a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than three million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied”), is celebrating its 50th anniversary by issuing a 76 track compilation of covers of Bob Dylan songs. Issued as a 4 CD set on 24th January, and available for downloading, the set is called Chimes of Freedom – encapsulating the ethos of Amnesty, as well as highlighting one of Dylan’s greatest and most powerful songs; the original 1964 recording by Dylan concludes the set.
Among the contributors are Pete Seeger (singing Forever Young), Ziggy Marley, Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Joan Baez, Seal, and Jeff Beck. The set ranges across genres including rock, rap, hip hop, pop, folk, country, jazz, and blues.
Chimes of Freedom Chimes of Freedom is produced by Jeff Ayeroff and Julie Yannatta, who have stated “This album is a powerful fusion of the music community’s respect for Amnesty’s life-affirming work and for Bob Dylan’s enduring brilliance.” Karen Scott, Amnesty International’s Manager of Music Relations, comments:
Bob Dylan’s music endures because he so brilliantly captures our heartbreak, our joy, our frailty, our confusion, our courage and our struggles. His words convey a depth of meaning that few artists can equal, inspiring us and always moving ahead of our expectations. We at Amnesty International are deeply grateful to this legendary musician and to all of the artists who have contributed to this project.
Following being awarded the 2011 Freemuse Award, Egyptian singer and songwriter Ramy Essam is releasing Al Midan, an album of Tahrir Square songs. The Freemuse Award Committee described Ramy as playing “an important role during the Egyptian revolution and suffered severe beatings and torture as a consequence. He personifies the powerful role that music played in the Arab Spring.” In his acceptance speech in Stockholm Ramy said “My dream is to spread the voice of Egypt all over the world. Thank you for helping me in that … I’d like to dedicate this award to the revolution and the Egyptian protesters. Please, a moments silence for the martyrs.” Ramy’s song Irhal (Leave), became an anthem of the protests. A quote from the lyrics makes Ramy’s message very clear:
We are all united as one,
And what we ask for,
Is just one thing: GET OUT! GET OUT! (x3)
Down, Down Husni Mubarak! (x4)
The people demand: Bring down the regime! (x4)
He is going away. We are not going anywhere! (x4)
We are all united as one,
And what we ask for,
Is just one thing: GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT! (x4)
By releasing their single, a rousing version of Let’s Work Together The Workers, a group of individuals working in different parts of the public services around the UK hope to promote the day of demonstrations taking place later this month. To quote from their website “the Workers came together to record this song in solidarity with colleagues taking part in the Day of Action for Pensions Justice on 30 November. The song was released yesterday (November 20th) on Nova Music, and is available for download for £0.99 on many online music stores.
It is well known that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a keen writer of both political and non-political songs, as evidenced by his CDs released in 2007, 2009, and 2010. One of his songs about the environment was played as a prelude to his speech to business leaders at an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Honolulu this weekend. In a very interesting comment about his songwriting, and about the power and purpose of political song in general, the President is quoted as saying
This is my way of communicating to the people. If I use political language, there is always some misinterpretation. But if I use (songs) as a communication it is more easily accepted by anybody.
Certainly, his song about protecting the environment makes his message very clear:
Come with me now to save this mother land
From the forest to the oceans to the sky
If we all just believe we could change everything
For the future of our children.