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 - it's just 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 February 2022.
1. SOLE & DJ PAIN 1 - POST-AMERICAN STUDIES
On February 2, a Nazi flag-waving "freedom convoy" in Ottawa, Canada, claimed its first big political victim. Not Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the leader of the Conservative opposition, Erin O’Toole. He was ousted to make way for the more right-wing Candice Bergen, who had praised the protesters. As copycat convoys spread to the US and Australia, one critic noted that capitalism had created "a vacuum into which the far-right has, quite literally, driven itself". This was no news to US rapper Sole, just south of Canada's border. On his new album, released on February 25, he snarls: "I don't need no Nazi to tell me the halls of the Capitol are empty." Over haunting music by hit-making producer DJ Pain 1, the activist covers a lot of political ground, from philosophical theory and the collapse of empires to feeding his young family on the vegetables he grows in Maine's near-frozen soil. LISTEN>>>
2. THE RESISTANCE COMPANY - THE INNER EAR SESSION
3. LA ARMADA - ANTI-COLONIAL VOL II
Also blasting the white supremacist police state are Dominican Republic expats La Armada, on their new album, Anti-Colonial Vol II. The Chicago-based band, who blend the Caribbean music of their homeland with driving hardcore punk, seek to highlight "the effects of neo-colonialism on vulnerable communities" in their lyrics. They released their latest, bilingual record as a resurgence of leftist politics in South America resisted US colonisation. The album also came as the US spread its colonial tentacles ever further east, pushing Russia to the brink of nuclear war. US president Joe Biden's troop build-up in Ukraine, followed by Russian president Vladimir Putin's attack, made even Biden's unhinged predecessor, Donald Trump, look sane. The reckless action came despite the United States' past promises not to move "one inch further to the east" or to try to make Ukraine a member of NATO. LISTEN>>>
4. HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF - LIFE ON EARTH
Well-versed in "the effects of neo-colonialism on vulnerable communities" is Puerto Rican-American musician Alynda Segarra, who has worked to free refugees. Their artist name, Hurray For The Riff Raff, is a tribute to activists everywhere. They call the music on their environmentally-themed new album, released on February 18, "nature punk". But its subjects are not confined to the climate. On the song "Precious Cargo" they sing: "We made it to the border. I jumped and I was detained. Split me from my family. Now the light begins to fade. They took me to the cold room, where I sat down on the floor. Just a foil for a blanket. For 17 days or more." The album came as activists pointed out refugees in Australia have been detained longer than some murderers. It also followed the new album from metal band Confess, who fled Iran as refugees after being sentenced to 12 years and 74 lashes. LISTEN>>>
5. FERHAT - TURKISH DELIGHTS
As Turkey continued to bomb Kurdish refugees, popular queer Turkish musician Ferhat released his defiant new EP, which includes the lyric "an ill wind is blowing through Istanbul". Discussing the record, which blends traditional bouzouki riffs with electronic beats, he told Germany's Beat magazine: "What makes my relationship [with Istanbul] difficult is that the politics have changed drastically in the last few years. Istanbul had one of the biggest gay pride scenes of any eastern country in the past... But since 2015, the government has been doing everything possible to remove the foundation from the community. It closes many of the bars where transgender people can meet." Yet in early February, Australia's government showed it was hardly more progressive as it tried to push through its Religious Discrimination Bill banning trans kids from schools. LISTEN>>>
6. WILLIAM CRIGHTON - WATER AND DUST
On February 8, the Australian Conservation Foundation released research finding that the federal government had approved 63 projects that would result in the clearing of more than 25,000 hectares of koala habitat since the species was declared vulnerable to extinction 10 years ago. It recommended that the status of vulnerable populations of the iconic Australian animal should be changed to endangered. Summing up the despair was the new album from alt-rocker activist William Crighton, released three days later. On the irrepressibly catchy "Your Country", he bellows over rasping didgeridoo: "I don't understand why they're still clearing the land, why they're poisoning the water. I don't understand why our elected leaders become bottom feeders to the corporate man, I don't understand! Hey, this is your country!" LISTEN>>>
7. MIDNIGHT OIL - RESIST
Given William Crighton's strong songs, sharp politics and respect for Indigenous culture, it was no surprise when he was announced as the opening act for the final tour by Australian protest music legends Midnight Oil. Their new album, released on February 18, is incandescent with rage at Australian politics. Over typically robust riffs, singer Peter Garrett slams politicians' "coal-fired erections" and the song titles say it all: "Rising Seas"; "The Barka-Darling River"; "To the Ends of the Earth"; "Reef"; "We Resist"; "We Are Not Afraid". The elephant in the room is that many of Garrett's lyrics could be directed at his past inglorious actions as federal environment minister for the Labor Party, which is still promoting coal and gas. His more forgiving fans might conclude that it's a lot easier to sing about political change than it is to effect it in a Labor government. LISTEN>>>
8. VARIOUS ARTISTS - NEW MOONS, VOL XVI
On February 16, a swimmer was eaten in the first fatal shark attack off Sydney since 1963. Scientists said "changing environmental conditions might now be driving bigger sharks closer". But one Sydney ocean swimmer put the threat in perspective by writing: "Roughly every week, a woman dies at the hands of a current or former partner." Her comments came as an album was released to support Reclaim These Streets, which aims "to use legislation, education and community action to ensure no woman has to be asked to 'Text Me When You Get Home' again". Opening the album are acclaimed Australian punks Amyl And The Sniffers with their song "Knifey". Singer Amy Taylor, who appears fearless on stage, said: "That song to me is just about my experiences feeling afraid to walk around at night... I would rather carry a weapon and seriously hurt somebody than have something horrible happen to me." LISTEN>>>
9. SMALL ISLAND BIG SONG - OUR ISLAND
On February 13, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was struggling in the polls as his Liberal party battled accusations of misogyny. Liberal donor the Nine network decided to help out by broadcasting a 60 Minutes interview with him from his home. The plan backfired when Morrison pulled out a ukulele and began to butcher Dragon's hit "April Sun in Cuba", reminding the entire nation of the time he fled to Hawaii during devastating bushfires. Dragon slammed the widely-ridiculed performance, saying: “It is a cynical move for a politician to co-opt music in an attempt to humanise themselves come election time." If you'd prefer some real island music from the kind of people suffering as Morrison continues to promote fossil fuels, check out Small Island Big Song. The collective's pristine new album, Our Island, aims to promote their plight from rising seas worldwide. LISTEN>>>
10. BODYJAR - NEW RITUALS
On February 1, the Australian Electoral Commission’s annual report on political donations showed Australians what kind of election to expect. The donations were dominated by billionaires, big mining corporations, fossil fuel giants, corporate media firms, developers and gambling and alcohol companies. On February 20, mining billionaire-turned-anti-vaxxer politician Clive Palmer said he would spend 100 times more than big parties on political advertising. Fuming at the corruption were Melbourne punks Bodyjar, with their new album, released on February 4. On the song "Big Shot" they rage: "You got a lie and you know how to use it. You got a dollar and a fiscal plan. Running on the tide of a misconception. You told a lot to everyone... Another slice of Australiana. Another greased up political hand. It’s drier than bone so you drain basin. Coal and cotton what a master plan." 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. You can download it free for a limited time.
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