After UeL: zeitgeist music vs zeitgeist politics – and protest bashment
(image by the brilliant Deterritorial Support Group)
Here’s the audio of the University of East London Fight Back! seminar on the sound and art of protest. Among other things you can hear me, Jesse Darling and Adam Harper talk about some amazing protest visuals and videos - which might lose a little in the translation I fear.. still, the mp3s are there if you missed out; sorry it had to be on a week-day afternoon. In Fight Back! news, we've had over 10,000 downloads of our free protest e-book in a month, 2,500 online Scribd reads, some Kindle purchases, articles across the mainstream press, several free events, and the proper book isn't even out til 6 April. Keep spreading the word: http://www.bit.ly/fightbackUK
One point Steve Goodman/Kode9 made in his response to our papers at UeL on 2 March was that overtly (i.e. deliberately, lyrically) political music was just boring. It was a usefully provocative suggestion, which everyone carefully picked holes in – thanks to Frances Morgan for being the first to do so, when she raised Fela Kuti. Steve also complained that British politics was boring: that’s something I answered from the platform in a couple of sentences, and I will soon be answering at slightly longer (10,000 word) length in continuous, less stuttery prose. Watch this space.
Back to politics and the London music scene. I’ll be honest: incredible spontaneous protest grime raves aside (see the 17 odd articles I've written on these already), I’ve been disappointed by the large swathes of the London club scene who don’t seem to have looked up from their Serato to even notice what’s happening. Now, I’m not John Harris – I don’t believe it’s a journalist’s role to didactically call for anyone with a musical instrument or cracked version of Ableton to gather round the camp fire and make a fucking 'Kum Ba Yah Refix' in the name of social justice. No-one wants that. No one wants cringey-earnest hand-wringing wrong-pop like The Agitator. Or, my god, my god, Scroobius Pip.
But when good musicians and DJs engage, and they get it right, it’s really refreshing. After a day of running (around) London in the snow, avoiding the kettles on the #dayx2 student protest, me and my boy Chris (DJ, producer, wordthecat.com) ran into The Heatwave dancehall collective's host/MC Benjamin D outside the Trafalgar Square kettle; he'd come down to see what was what, before heading off to the UCL occupation - though not until we’d had a pint and a chat about the crazy winter protests we were seeing and involved in.
So how come the dancehall team are so on it, when everyone else involved in the London rave scene has expressed at best a passing interest?
"Dancehall speaks to the Bogle message of rebellion, which is why it is sometimes feared, scrutinised or demonised by our post-colonial masters and their subordinates" - Vybz Kartel, last week (Kartel was played in the Parliament Square EMA rave on #dayx3)
This fantastic section of the weekly Heatwave Rinse FM show aired the following week, 5 December 2010, in which the London-based dancehall team's chief DJ, Gabriel Heatwave, brilliantly re-purposed Jamaican dancehall for the UK protests.
The Heatwave - Protest Bashment - Rinse FM 5 December by mos dan
Serve and protect dem nahhhhhh
So much #solidarity to Benjamin D and Gabriel for the tunes, the commentary and the hilarious shout-outs in that clip above:
“Send it out to Philip Green, Top Shop boss man, you know his taxes aren’t rising – they’re nice, comfortable! He owes about 125 million quid mate! Tell you what, if he owed me that money I’d be going round to his house – not in a violent way, just to say ‘bruv, what’s happening? Where’s that 125 million pounds you owe me?’”
“This one’s going out to Nick Clegg and David Cameron” (Busy Signal - Bigger Heads)
“Send it out to everyone who thinks education is just about preparing for the job market” (Warrior King - Education Is The Key)
“Send this one out to the Metropolitan Police” (Busy Signal - Uniform Bad Bwoy)
See you all on #march26.
- dedicated to Smiley Culture, RIP