Think the world is going to hell? You’re right, but this music might make you feel a bit better about it. Here are the best new albums that related to this month’s politics. (There are actually far more than 10 – count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
On March 1, the Geelong Women Unionists Network kicked off a week of International Women’s Day celebrations in Victoria. A week later, on the day itself, acclaimed U.S. singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer released her “hyper-personal, accidentally feminist, extremely direct” new album. Describing it, she said: “My personal life unfolded, along with abortion, and facing off with the world as a mother, right alongside the rise of [US President Donald] Trump and the extreme right in America. And it made telling the truth feel essential. I think it’s the sharpest, most effective political tool we wield right now, as women. The unadorned, shameless, naked truth of our experiences.” It came as punk Janine Rainforth bounced back with a new album 30 years after a sexual assault cut her music career short, and Beyonce’s sister Solange put out a new record of radical, experimental soul, saying: “I’ll always be a Black woman, and I’ll always create work from this Black woman’s body.” LISTEN>>>
Scooping the prize for world’s biggest dickhead on International Women’s Day was Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who hit headlines worldwide when he told a Women’s Day breakfast: “We don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.” Released the same day was the radical new album from outspoken Australian indie artist Stella Donnelly, who reflects the progressive politics of her leftist suburb of Fremantle in Perth. It includes the anti-assault anthem “Boys Will Be Boys”, which won an award that she sent her dad to collect. “He said something like, ‘I hope this song helps to change the attitudes we have, even if it’s one dickhead at a time’,” she said. How much are dickheads’ attitudes changing? If it’s any indication, on International Women’s Day, the No.1 album in Australia was Lifestyle by Sydney rapper Kerser, which contains dickheaded lyrics like: “Cunts are crying in my ear like when a feminist speaks.” LISTEN>>>
Also hailing from Donnelly’s socialist-sympathising suburb of Fremantle are the globe-trotting, festival-rocking environmental band Formidable Vegetable, who put out their new album a week after hers. The permaculture-promoting record was released on March 15, the same day that schoolchildren worldwide went on strike over adults’ climate inaction, inspired by Nobel Peace Prize-nominated 16-year-old protester Greta Thunberg. New South Wales Labor Party leader Michael Daley backed the students’ strike, a move Liberal state Premier Gladys Berejikilan slammed as “appalling“. But that was as radical as Daley got, before a video him spouting racism against “Asians with PhDs taking jobs” emerged and he botched a live election debate, sending his poll ratings plummeting. Berejikilan was promptly re-elected, while her Liberal Party colleagues in federal government lashed “latte-sipping Greens” for convincing miner Glencore to cap its coal output at present levels. LISTEN>>>
Highlighting the worldwide battle faced by permaculturists is the new film Rongeen, released on the same day as Formidable Vegetable’s album. The movie, which uses hip-hop to comment on the corruption of rural Indian politics, stars rapper Kussum Koilash, who said: “Since I started rapping five to six years ago, I have been weaving social issues in my Bihu-oriented romantic songs, such as the use of pesticides that made leeches disappear from the fields, thus denying farm boys the excuse of courting girls by offering to remove a leech from their feet. The songs in the films were tweaked to hit out at the establishment.” Its director, Shankar Borua, said: “Since the story is that of revenge through the ballot box, we decided to release it before the general elections, likely within two months.” The film’s release came as protesters rallied against the anti-labour politics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while he stoked chauvinist Hindu nationalism to try to win votes. MORE>>>
The nationalism stoked by politicians worldwide exploded the same day, when an Australian white supremacist live-streamed his terror attack on a mosque in New Zealand before the fully-armed coward was scared off by a Muslim wielding only a credit card machine. Largely forgotten in the resulting furore was the fact that whites had invaded the country in the first place – until a reminder came in schoolkids performing a fierce Maori haka for their slain Muslim classmates. Harnessing that same power is the Te Reo Maori language album Tu from Maori metallers Alien Weaponry, who were interviewed by anti-colonial Kiwi musician Dudley Benson as they geared up for a national tour on March 21. Back in Australia, politician Fraser Anning, who had blamed the Muslims for their own deaths, was egged live on TV by 17-year-old protester Will Connolly. For his actions, the activist – dubbed “egg boy” – was offered free concert tickets for life by musicians from all over the world. LISTEN>>>
Stooping to the white supremacist’s level was Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Referencing Turkey’s victory over Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli, he replayed the video of the terror attack at his rallies and threatened that anyone who came to Turkey with anti-Muslim sentiments would be sent back “in coffins”. Dickhead Morrison then responded with a Trump-like “all options are on the table”. Erdogan had already out-dickheaded Morrison on March 8, when Turkish troops tried to shut down rallies for International Women’s Day. Released the same day was the provocative new video from feminist Turkish pop star Gaye Du Sol, taken from her latest album. Hitting out at “a country and world that is increasingly turning inward and becoming a conservatised prison”, she said: “I hope to inspire other women and people who are producing and claiming their own dreams. In this sense this is an extremely feminist, revolutionary and idealist album.” LISTEN>>>
As Turkey continued to wage war on the feminist revolutionary Kurds in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, commonly referred to as Rojava, chart-topping British musician Joss Stone slipped across the border to perform there on March 4. Days later, Palestinian asylum seeker Aeham Ahmad, who spent four years recording viral videos of himself playing piano among the rubble of Yarmouk, a Palestinian refugee camp of on the outskirts of Syrian capital Damascus, spoke about his memoir, The Pianist of Yarmouk. “Finding a new life is not easy… That’s why I play every day, to not think,” he said. “Music can make people forget what happened. Music can’t stop the war, but at least [it] can stop the war in the mind.” After the New Zealand terror attack, Australia-notorious for locking such refugees up in detention centres-announced it was cutting its immigration intake, rather than loosening up its borders. MORE>>>
Standing in stark contrast was New Zealand Prime Minister (and former deejay) Jacinda Ardern, whose country has repeatedly offered to take Australia’s detained refugees. She was praised worldwide for her handling of the terror attack and Americans contrasted her crackdown on firearms with the “thoughts and prayers” usually offered by U.S. politicians lobbied by the National Rifle Association. One New Zealand MP told the NRA to “bugger off” out of the nation’s affairs as it prepared its gun law reforms. Days later, it was revealed Australian anti-Muslim party, Pauline Hanson One Nation, had sought US$20 million from the NRA to try to relax Australia’s gun laws. Prescient then, that the March 8 album by U.S. feminist punks The Coathangers contains an anti-NRA song. “’F the NRA’ was written out of anger with the escalating and persistent gun violence we saw last year, and frustration with the current stranglehold that the NRA and similar groups have on our political system,” they said. LISTEN>>>
One Nation-style Islamophobia has even spread to Scandinavia, as highlighted by Swedish rapper Silvana Imam, whose new album rails against the rise of the country’s far right. “The claim that we can’t afford the refugees isn’t fact-based,” said Imam, the lesbian daughter of refugees from Syria and Lithuania, whose far-left journalist father had to flee Czechoslovakia. Tax avoidance by large companies was a bigger drain on the economy, pointed out the rapper, who has won a Grammi – Sweden’s equivalent of the Grammys. (A documentary about her has also won the equivalent of an Oscar.) One of Imam’s cousins was among the thousands of refugees who fled Syria’s civil war in 2015. “She sent me a photo of her boat, with just water and three sandwiches, and I thought this was crazy,” she said. On March 2, activists protested against the Australian government’s plan to reopen its detention centre on Christmas Island to send refugees from Manus Island and Nauru there. MORE>>>
Elsewhere in the far northern hemisphere, other musicians were taking a more unusual approach to protest music. As activists worldwide called for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision contest because it is being held in Israel, Icelandic techno-punks Hatari said they were taking part to make a statement. “You sign up to a contract that says you’re not allowed to be political in the competition, but if anyone thinks they’re going to Tel Aviv without a political message they couldn’t be more wrong,” they said. “It’s a paradox because all of the songs that make it to that stage will offend the sensibilities of many people by virtue of the context of where the contest is taking place… And you can’t be completely silent about the situation, as the silence in itself is a massive political statement too.” They have also challenged Israel’s prime minister to a bout of Icelandic trouser-grip wrestling, saying: “[If we win] Hatari reserve the right to settle within your borders.” LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. This year, he released a new album about surveillance and an EP with Aboriginal rapper Provocalz. Follow him on Spotify here.
Read about more political albums here.
Stream Green Left TV’s political music playlist here.
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