Alexander Billet

It has been a year since the death of Black teenager Michael Brown, a year since the rebellion in Ferguson, a year since the Black Lives Matter movement began to shift the conversation in just about every avenue of US life.

That shift can be seen in culture — music, in particular.

Not surprisingly, hip hop has led the way — not just through a predictable barrage of tweets by musicians and artists, but a sustained, meaningful wave of creativity engaging with a bold, sometimes chaotic movement.

As with all advertisements, there are a few deceptions at the heart of Apple's commercial for U2's newly released Songs of Innocence. The most immediate is that it ends with the tagline “free on iTunes now”.

Given that the album was delivered ― without permission ― into the digital libraries of over 500 million iTunes users, implying any kind of choice in the matter seems at the very least misleading. A better version of the ad might read “yours whether you like it or not”.

’Boycott Israel'
By Immortal Technique, Don Martin, Tumi, Eltipo Este & Tonto Noiza
Free download
www.donmartin.no/boycott-israel

The ongoing slaughter in Gaza has brought a great many artists, musicians and celebrities out in support of Palestine.

This is nothing new. In fact, every major Israeli offensive seems to grow the number of artists willing to speak up and stand against the crimes of the apartheid state.

Matangi
M.I.A.
N.E.E.T. Recordings
November 2013

The arrival of a new M.I.A. album is always a thing to behold. Music critics are sure to be polarised, as are the usually ham-fisted attempts to better categorise her work to make it less controversial than it is.

Snide remarks about her latest, Matangi, however, have been relatively muted in the months since its release.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They don’t say what a gif is worth, but as if for good measure, we’ve gotten both out of the performance by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke at MTV’s Video Music Awards on August 25.

Left-wing Welsh rockers The Manic Street preachers were the first British rock band to tour Cuba and have dedicated songs to radical miners union leader Arthur Scargill.

Now the Manics have filed a suit against the English Defence League — the well-organised fascist street gang known for organising large anti-Muslim marches — for using their song “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” to promote an upcoming demonstration in Birmingham.

As if we needed proof that the acquittal of George Zimmerman was -- in the words of Jay Smooth -- going to create more George Zimmermans. A mere hour before that shameful verdict came down, the great Lester Chambers was assaulted, on stage, by a crazed attendee at the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival. What did she assault him for? Dedicating a song to Trayvon Martin.

It's been almost ten years since she became a fixture on the indie music scene. Since then she's been nominated for Grammys and sold hundreds of thousands of records. But music journalists still have no idea how to treat M.I.A.

Lately it seems that we can’t get away from the hard, simple fact that art requires labour — both in the actual creation and in the conditions that make it possible.

Where there’s labour there’s normally a lot of hard work and sacrifice. And where there’s hard work and sacrifice, there’s normally some bastard at the top looking to squeeze as much as they can out of those of us who actually work.

Much as some of us would love to act like art exists in a separate realm from all of this, it doesn’t.

The strike of musicians at the San Francisco Symphony has already had an immediate impact on the institution.

Only a few days after walking out, management called off a large East Coast tour. For the Symphony, which has posted a deficit for each of the past four seasons, this will hurt.

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