The legendary Nigerian singer and activist Fela Kuti said ‘music is the weapon’. People’s demands and desires are expressed through the visual, sound, words, music, dance and performance. Music can be inspiration, instigation, unification and expression in people’s movements and in protests.
At the Protest Salon held at the Info-Activism Camp we asked our five speakers to bring a slogan, an image and a song through which they could frame the context and histories of the peoples’ movements they are part of. We wanted to expand this into something everyone else from Camp could also contribute to so we crowdsourced a list from all our participants. Listen and enjoy!
Gil Scott Heron ‘The revolution will not be televised’
Peg & Awl ‘Carolina Tar Heels’ – from Niko
Representing the American Coal Miners’ struggle. Click here for another song of the coal miners’ struggle.
Skip & Die ‘Riots in the Jungle’ – from Niels
KRS One ‘Sound of the Police’ -another contribution from Niels
Kenya Ni Kwetu’s list of protest music. Thanks Sasha!
Gidi Gidi Maji Maji – ‘Unbwogable’ – also from Sasha
Peremen – Thanks Gleb!
Fish Samak – In the arms of occupation; from Mushon who says this is
“an interesting and complex protest song about the Stockholm syndrome of Palestinians with an Israeli citizenship in the light (or darkness) of the Arab Spring.”
Ngere Ngere – from Carter
“A natural shoo in for protest songs in Nigeria is Aduke’s Hear the voice (listen here)
but for most revolution songs, it was always the legendary (and perpetually naked) Fela Kuti” – from Azeenarh
And some more Fela and stories about Fela from James. ‘Zombie’: his attack on military rule in Nigeria.
“Zombie irritated the military so much, they send soldiers to attack and destroy Fela’s commune. In the course of which, Fela’s mother relieved injuries which resulted in her death. In protest, he took her coffin to the barracks of the commanding officer, along the lines of “you killed her, you bury her”. All this he tells of in ‘Coffin for Head of State.’”
“The song is somehow more than its extraordinary backstory – it combines righteous anger and funk, building from a slow start into an excoriating attack on the institutions – monotheistic religions, corrupt elites, and the military junta which killed his mother. Here’s an article about ‘Coffin’”
Rio Reise & Ton Steine Scherbe ‘Rote Front’ – from Jean who says“Its about anarchist squatters fighting the system and never giving up”
System Ali ‘Building the house anew’ – from Hagit.
“A ten-piece hip hop outfit which raps in Arabic, Russian, Hebrew and English sits down with Café Gibraltar to talk about the power of the genre, normalization, revolutionary Arab street poetry and the need to struggle for justice in their home city.”
You may also want to read the online magazine Muftah’s recent special issue to commemorate and look back on three years since revolutions started in the Arab region and one of their feature stories was on music from the Arab spring.