Do you think there's no good protest music these days? So did I, until I started looking for it. The truth is, it's always been out there, but it's sometimes a bit difficult to find. Every month, I search it out, listen to it all, then round up the best of it that relates to that month's political news. Here's the round-up for August 2022.
1. ARCHIE ROACH - LIVE AT KEY LARGO '92 AND DARWIN '93
Years ago, as a new immigrant to Australia, I watched a movie about Aboriginal massacres. The film, The Tracker, was powerful. But it was the soundtrack by Archie Roach that really hit me. In 2009, while in Adelaide to start an outback tour of Aboriginal communities, I caught Roach performing with his wife, Ruby Hunter, at an Indigenous music festival. She died just weeks later, at 54. This album of their live performances was released on August 1 this year, two days after Roach's death at 66. On it, he describes getting into an altercation with police because they wanted to fingerprint his 11-year-old son, who they'd arrested. The arrest depressed his son, so Roach wrote the song "Life Is Worth Living" for him. On August 15, an activist faced court for protesting against the jailing of Indigenous children as young as 10 at Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Many attempt suicide. LISTEN>>>
2. NATAANII MEANS - GROWTH
3. SHEMEKIA COPELAND - DONE COME TOO FAR
On August 19, Grammy-nominated blues singer Shemekia Copeland released her new album, which addresses the terror that non-white kids face. On "The Talk" she describes the discussion all African-American parents must have with their children to try to keep them safe. "I held my breath as you took your first steps," she sings. "I was proud as a mamma can get. Now it's been years you've grown tall, but I'm still worried you're gonna fall. Got to have The Talk." Such a talk could not save Black nurse Breonna Taylor, shot to death by police in her flat. On August 4, after years of protests, four officers were charged with her death. The new album Songs Of Slavery And Emancipation recalls the roots of such oppression, as does the new album by chart-topping folk rocker Ben Harper. And on August 5, Welsh ragga-rockers Dub War's comeback album addressed the racist cop killing of George Floyd. LISTEN>>>
4. MUSE - WILL OF THE PEOPLE
Floyd's death and the protests it sparked worldwide also inspired the new album by British political stadium rockers Muse, released on August 26. Discussing its song "Liberation", singer Matt Bellamy said: "[It's] leaning towards what I felt seeing the Black Lives Matter protests. I'm not gonna try to claim to have any understanding of what that culture's been through or anything, but 'intend to erase your place in history' was that feeling of anger... that emotion that you feel in the moment of revolution, where you just want to tear it down." The record, hailed as "the band's most politically on-point album to date", closes with the urgent anthem "We Are Fucking Fucked". "We're at death's door," Bellamy seethes. "Another world war. Wildfires and earthquakes I foresaw. A life in crisis, a deadly virus. Tsunamis of hate are gonna find us. We are fucking fucked." LISTEN>>>
5. HNIDA - FIRES OF FURY
Echoing that sentiment was a study published on August 16 that said a nuclear war could wipe out 5 billion people. It came as Democratic US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi taunted nuclear-armed China by visiting Taiwan, sparking military drills by Beijing. US President Joe Biden distanced himself from Pelosi's grandstanding, as it made Biden's unhinged Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, look relatively sane. Meanwhile, Biden continued to taunt nuclear-armed Russia by funnelling arms to Ukraine as its Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant came under fire. Damning such recklessness is the new EP from Belarusian band Hnida, who have moved to Poland due to the repression in their country and the war in Ukraine. On the EP's closing track, "Nuclear Horizon", they sing: "The nuclear horizon will light up the road to nowhere." All proceeds from the record will be donated to help political prisoners in Belarus. LISTEN>>>
6. PUSSY RIOT - MATRIARCHY NOW
On August 5, Russian former political prisoners Pussy Riot released their long-awaited debut album, which rails against the patriarchy spreading war and oppression worldwide. "I love matriarchy," explained singer Nadya Tolokonnikova. "And I think now is the best time to bring it on. Our rights are being attacked, and that's just not cute." Noting how Russian President Vladimir Putin's jailing of the band only increased their popularity, she said: "I think it's a good lesson to every dictator who wants to silence activists and artists. If you put them in jail, often they will get out even stronger, and they will have a bigger platform, more influence. That's what happened with us. We ended up in jail, being a small movement. We had perhaps just a few dozens of members, and then got out of jail to hundreds and thousands of people identifying themselves as Pussy Riot." LISTEN>>>
7. NAVICULA - ARCHIPELAGO REBELS
On August 19, it was reported that the early release of Bali bomber Umar Patek was being discussed. The news sparked outrage in Australia, since the 2002 Islamist terror attack killed 88 Australians. The context is that the West has been raining terror on Muslims for centuries, from the Crusades to wars in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Palestine and Afghanistan. But that does not excuse the Bali attack, as Balinese rockers Navicula pointed out in a new podcast series discussing their 25 years of music activism. The band say their song "Aku Bukan Mesin (I Am Not a Machine)", recorded in response to the Bali bombing, was "just the pure reaction as a human being, as a Balinese ... thinking about the people who have losing their heart, losing their entity as a human to do such a cruel, unimaginable action. It just destroys everything. The effect of the destruction is affecting everybody." LISTEN>>>
8. THE CHATS - GET FUCKED
Meanwhile, Australian bosses continued to destroy Australians' lives as they used the excuse of inflation to cut wages, despite reporting record profits. Announcing a cash net profit after tax of $9.6 billion on August 10, Commonwealth Bank CEO Matt Comyn took a 35% pay rise, but opposed wage rises for his staff as "inflationary". On August 17, public servants rallying in Western Australia begged the government for fair pay, saying: "We’re asking for the bare bloody minimum." Summing up the anger is the new album from Aussie punks The Chats, released two days later. On "Paid Late" they seethe: "Starin' at the ATM. It says insufficient funds. That's just not good enough. 'Cause right now I wanna get drunk." And on "The Price Of Smokes", they spit: "The price of smokes is going up again. I could already barely afford my rent. Those bastards in parliament ought to be hung by their necks." LISTEN>>>
9. IN HEARTS WAKE - GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK (OFFICIAL SOUNDTRACK)
On August 24, "those bastards in parliament", the supposedly climate-friendly new Labor government, released 10 new sites for oil and gas exploration. The same day, it was reported that "China's fragile economy" was "being hammered by the driest riverbeds since 1865" as droughts spread worldwide. A week earlier, Australian resources company Santos announced it was drilling for oil in Alaska, just days after it was reported Antarctica was losing ice even faster than first thought. That news came on August 11, the same day that it was reported that no rainwater that falls anywhere on Earth is now safe to drink. Answering back is the new album from Australian hardcore band In Hearts Wake, which soundtracks their new documentary about the climate crisis, their bid to make touring environmentally-friendly, and their recording of the "first carbon offset album" to hit the top five in Australia. LISTEN>>>
10. KING STINGRAY - KING STINGRAY
Also despairing at Australia's environmental vandalism are Indigenous surf rockers King Stingray, who released their debut album on August 5. The Arnhem Land band were nominated for the Environmental Music Prize for its lead single, "Hey Wanhaka". It carries an ancient songline about the celebration of nature and Yolngu way of life. “We don’t own Mother Earth, the Earth owns us," said singer Yirrnga Yunupingu, whose uncle led legendary Indigenous rock band Yothu Yindi. Guitarist Roy Kellaway, whose father was also in Yothu Yindi, said: “Yolngu people are perhaps the original conservationists of Earth. They’ve been looking after country since the beginning. So there’s a lot that Westerners and other people, I reckon, have to learn from Yolngu people … Like what Yirrnga was saying: without the environment, we don’t exist. I don’t understand how humans have lost sight of that.” LISTEN>>>
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward has been writing for Green Left since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country and makes political music. This year, Mat Ward released his new album based on protest chants, Why I Protest. Stream or download it free for a limited time.
Stream our new "Best protest songs of 2022" playlist on Spotify. This replaces the previous "Political albums" playlist, that was getting too big at more than 700 albums.
Read about more political albums.
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