The world is a dark place in August 2019, but it's inspiring some great protest music to give you hope and raise a smile. Here are the best new albums that related to this month's political news. What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
1. VARIOUS ARTISTS — DEADLY HEARTS 2
From July 7 to 14, Australia held NAIDOC week, which seeks to increase awareness in the wider community of the status and treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Yet on July 12 the Wangan and Jagalingou Family Council lost its Federal Court challenge against mining company Adani, whose coal mine threatens to destroy their land and the Great Barrier Reef. Hitting back was the new compilation album Deadly Hearts 2, released to celebrate NAIDOC week. On it, Murrawarri drummer and vocalist Dobby covers fellow drummer and vocalist Bart Willoughby's "We Have Survived", adding his own rap twist: "This identity's not happening by chance, and now our racial relations not gonna be romance, and nothing is gonna change if you ain't part of the plan, so why the hell do our lives reside in white hands?" The album also features Yuin rapper Nooky, who also appears on the new album by Canadian Indigenous rappers Snotty Nose Rez Kids, out this month. MORE>>>
2. ARIVU — THERUKURAL
The Great Barrier Reef-threatening mining company Adani is headquartered in India, where revolutionary Tamil rapper Arivu released his new album on July 12. Discussing its anti-nationalistic lead single "Anti-Indian", the emcee said: “A lot of young people are writing political songs now and I can see that a new team is forming. I think they are moving out from the cliched songs on love, friendship and ‘Tamil gethu’ [Tamil coolness]." Also hitting out at Indian chauvinism is the new album from Mumbai-based Swedish dance music artist Peter Wallenberg, who said: "When I arrived in India, as a gay man, I was a criminal. I started collaborating with Indian singers on the album 'Rainbow Riots India' to fight against oppression. When India decriminalised same-sex relations it became the biggest victory for human rights in our time. It will inspire and influence other countries to do the same." It opens with "India's first Pride anthem" "Love Is Love". MORE>>>
3. MAU POWER — BLUE LOTUS THE AWAKENING
At the northern tip of the threatened Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait Islander rapper Mau Power released his new album on July 12. Among the many issues it tackles is the appallingly high suicide rates of Aboriginal people, which even prompted the right-wing government to announce it was taking action this month. "Tree Of Life" features guest artists Joe Williams and Jimblah, who has previously written about one of his best friends killing himself. "See, people judged me," says Williams on the track. "They called me selfish, called me weak, but do you realise how broken and how silenced you feel? You can't speak. Suicide isn't weak. Leaving the ones you love is the hardest choice that anyone could ever make. You see, when the pain is so strong, so terrifying, the only way for it to end, you feel it's your life you must take. But suicide isn't the answer to end this pain. The answer is in each other's eyes, in our minds, in our hearts. The answer is love." MORE>>>
4. THELMA PLUM — BETTER IN BLAK
On July 19, a key supporter of the Adani mine, coal-loving former prime minister Tony Abbott, used the radio show of racist shock jock Alan Jones to declare that wind farms are "the dark Satanic Mills of the modern era". A week earlier, the woman who once publicly challenged Jones "to a duel", Thelma Plum, released her catchy, sassy new album which is as tough as it is tender, showing she'd lost none of her fire. Explaining its lyric “in 1967 I wasn’t human, and in 1994 I was born” the Gamilaraay singer reminded listeners that before 1967, “Aboriginal people were not recognised as human beings, they were recognised as flora and fauna”. On the album's title track, she sings: "Do you know what it feels like, to be told that you are never right? If I had a lighter skin maybe I would win." But if she's won one battle with whites, it's that with Jones. It seems he was too scared to take up her challenge of a duel. MORE>>>
5. THY ART IS MURDER — HUMAN TARGET
Abbott and Jones' fellow Sydneysiders Thy Art Is Murder released their new album on July 26, proving the only thing they have in common with both men is the city in which they live. On "Make America Hate Again" the deathcore band lash "both campaigns in the most recent US presidential election" by roaring: "The propaganda machine spills its patriotic pus in the streets. We lap it up, drunk on fantasy. You never practice what you preach. A servant's life is incomplete. What will it take to be free?" Expressing the same exasperation with US politics are punk popsters Sum 41, who can't even bring themselves to sing US President Donald Trump's name on their new album. On “45 (A Matter Of Time)” they opt for his nickname of 45 to remind people that he's just the 45th president and will soon be gone. Opting for the same epithet is actor Titus Burgess, whose song "45" on his new EP, asks: "How about we take those bricks and magically build a wall around him?" MORE>>>
6. SKIP THE NEEDLE — WE AIN'T NEVER GOING BACK
Also calling time on Trump is patriarchy-smashing US blues artist Karyn Kuhl, who taunts him on her new EP with the lines: "The end is near and it’s what you fear, because the future is female, black and queer. You know it’s over, you can’t stop time. You can’t stop the power of the people’s revolution." Meanwhile, her fellow heavy blues revolutionaries Skip The Needle launched their powerful, feminist debut album in California on July 26, opening it with the words: "Try to suppress, try to objectify — in your dreams, you hear my battle cry." And on "Black Lives" they seethe: "These black lives mean something to me. Brothers and sisters murdered in the street ... Lock up those killer cops and put them in jail." The album's release came days after the the Newcastle Coroner’s Court in Australia found police responsible for the death in custody of Aboriginal woman Rebecca Maher, but laid no charges. LISTEN>>>
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS — MEHDI RAJABIAN: MIDDLE EASTERN
As the Trump administration pushed ever closer towards war with Iran this month, Iranian artist Mehdi Rajabian released a new album of collaborations with artists from across the Middle East, often in defiance of their regimes. Rajabian is serving a three-year suspended sentence for his protest music, having spent two years in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where he went on a month-long hunger strike. The new album is in direct violation of his parole. “I’m forbidden to make music in Iran,” he said. “The Iranian regime is unpredictable. I could be arrested at any moment.” But anyone thinking a US war with Iran would improve the situation need only look to Iraq, where musicians are receiving death threats it was reported this month. Composer and singer Faress Hassan was killed in May in Najaf province, possibly because of the Najaf Sanctity Law, which prohibits music, singing and makeup. A similar sanctity law in Karbala went into effect in December. MORE>>>
8. TROY KINGI — HOLY COLONY BURNING ACRES
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Morocco's occupation of Western Sahara hit headlines on July 15, when it was revealed activists were tracking a ship bound for New Zealand that allegedly contained stolen Sahrawi phosphate illegally mined and exported by Morocco. Three days earlier in New Zealand, Maori actor and activist Troy Kingi released his strong new album Holy Colony Burning Acres in solidarity with indigenous people worldwide. As the liner notes put it: "The third instalment of Troy Kingi’s aspirational 10|10|10 Series (10 albums in 10 genres in 10 years), Holy Colony Burning Acres delves into the dark corners of worldly Indigenous politics, namely colonisation and its (c)rippling effects on today’s social climate... Holy Colony Burning Acres is a motivated commentary on indigeneity wrapped in an electrifyingly '70s-styled deep roots/reggae offering reminiscent of such bands as The Abyssinians, The Upsetters and The Congos." LISTEN>>>
9. AFRICA EXPRESS — EGOLI
On July 23, it was announced that Britain's new Prime Minister was Boris Johnson — a grown man who refers to women as "totty", gay men as "tank-topped bumboys" and Africans as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles". Just a day earlier, pop star Damon Albarn had slammed US-based British pop star Morrissey for his Boris Johnson-like, pro-Brexit politics, saying: “If you don’t live in the country, then you shouldn’t be dabbling in its politics.” That came after the release of Albarn's latest album with Africa Express, a project that teams up African and western musicians, with the African artists getting the vast bulk of the proceeds. Ian Birrell, who started the project with Albarn, said: "The project’s core message remains the same — and it feels like one never more needed at a time when divisions are widening in society, walls are being erected and the nasty virus of nationalism rages through democracies. We are stronger together, not riven apart into silos." MORE>>>
10. MAT CALLAHAN and YVONNE MOORE — WORKING-CLASS HEROES: A HISTORY OF STRUGGLE IN SONG
On July 24, an accountant determined that the Great Barrier Reef-threatening coal mining company Adani was "a corporate collapse waiting to happen", despite receiving taxpayer funds. The news came as a heatwave threatened to melt the Arctic. Underlining the insanity of subsidising the coal industry was the new album from Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore, which revives protest folk songs from the past. On "I Hate The Capitalist System", Moore sings: "My husband was a coal miner, who worked hard and risked his life, just trying to support three children, himself, mother and wife." And on "Come All You Coal Miners", she sings: "Coal mining is the most dangerous work in our land today, with plenty of dirty, slaving work, and very little pay. Coal miner, won't you wake up, and open your eyes and see, what the dirty capitalist system is doing to you and me. I am a coal miner's wife, I'm sure I wish you well. Let's sink this capitalist system in the darkest pits of hell." MORE>>>
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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