The 10 new albums that sum up this month's politics
By Mat Ward
Here's a look back at this month's politics and the best 10 new albums that related to it (plus a few extra - count them). What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. KND - MUZIK IZ 4EVA
At the start of the month, Native American activists were brutalised by police while protesting in Santa Fe. Days later, pop star Tori Amos released her "most political album yet", drawing on her Native roots. It came days after Texas's Black Metal Alliance released a fundraising album for the Indigenous Environmental Network and Lakota rapper Frank Waln released his new album, citing the many broken treaties with indigenous peoples in the US. In Australia, Nyoongar man Clinton Pryor arrived in the country's capital on September 6 after walking 6000 kilometres for a treaty. He was instead offered "a nice cup of tea" by the PM, but didn't even get that. Aboriginal women suffer worst from such racism, as addressed by a recent forum and the new album by Aboriginal rappers KnD, which takes an unflinching look at abuse. Meanwhile in Norway, Sami woman Sofia Jannock released her defiant new album and in NZ, Maori woman Earthfeather released an election protest song. LISTEN>>>
2. BEN IOTA - JAZZ
KnD's fellow Northern Territory Aboriginal rap veteran Task appears on the pensively political new album from white Australian rapper Ben Iota. The album, which connects the political dots between jazz and hip-hop, was released as artists got back to jazz's political roots at the Monterey Jazz Festival, followed by the release of outspoken jazz artist Kamasi Washington's new EP. That came as more Aboriginal deaths in custody were ignored by Australia's media, a blight that inspired Ghanaian-Australian rapper Citizen Kay's new album. Meanwhile, Australian miners continued to plunder his mother continent, selling themselves as saviours at the "Africa Down Under" mining conference in Perth on September 3. The nature of their business was laid bare on September 23, when another unionist was shot dead at a mine in South Africa, the fifth such slaying since July. Slamming such corruption was the latest album from South African rap collective Soundz Of The South. LISTEN>>>
3. LUKA BLOOM - REFUGE
In Australia, miners continued to threaten the drinking water of millions up and down the country, just as plastic was found in tap water on five continents, from Trump Tower to Lake Victoria in Uganda. Days later, new studies revealed plastic in table salt worldwide just as activists lobbied to have the floating plastic "Trash Isles" recognised as a new country, issuing its first passport to controversial climate campaigner Al Gore. In Ireland, folk singer Luka Bloom released his new album, opened by the song "Water Is Life", which reaches out to the indigenous "water protectors" at Standing Rock, Dakota. "The blood of our mother flows through our veins," he sings. "We poison her rivers and bring her great pain. I pray that our love will soon be unlocked, tribes have assembled at Standing Rock." It came after a Facebook post he wrote with the same title, "Water Is Life", struck a chord with fans in slamming the privatisation of his country's water. MORE>>>
4. BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH - REVOLUTIONARY MINDS
Across the waters of the Irish Sea, British Jamaican Benjamin Zephaniah unleashed his latest album of dub reggae-backed political poetry at the start of the month, which opens with the environmentally-themed "Earth Liberation Sound". "Gather all the children, stand your ground," he sings. "If we stand together then we nah fall, we tell yah this your Earth liberation sound." The same day, New Delhi-based producer Ravana also released an album of political dub reggae, United States Of Dub, addressing India's "British-administered provinces and nominally autonomous princely states", which were abolished in favour of new states based on language and ethnicity. Days later, Indian politician Dr Shashi Tharoor hit headlines worldwide when he told a Melbourne writers festival that former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "has as much blood on his hands as some of the worst genocidal dictators of the 20th century" for what the British did in India. MORE>>>
5. WYCLEF JEAN - CARNIVAL III: THE FALL AND RISE OF A REFUGEE
21st century genocide reared its ugly head as Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi stayed silent while her government slaughtered Rohingya in Burma this month, causing hundreds of thousands to flee as refugees. As Rohingya rallies were held from Sri Lanka to Australia, Haitian-US rapper Wyclef Jean released his new album The Fall And Rise Of A Refugee, calling for unity and warning that people were living on "borrowed time". As activists in Sierra Leone noted how much better than Haiti Cuba coped with disasters due to its educated population, Havana had to dispatch aid across the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean while Western powers dodged their duties. As hurricanes also hit the US, Oregon-based singer David Rovics noted the shame felt by ordinary people about climate change. The media, meanwhile, avoided any discussion of climate change or US President Donald Trump's eco-vandalism, instead preferring to concentrate on the stilettos worn by his wife Melania as she visited flooded areas. LISTEN>>>
6. SLøTFACE - TRY NOT TO FREAK OUT
That media obsession with female beauty was skewered on September 15 with the release of the debut album from feminist Norwegian punk activists Sløtface. On album opener "Magazine", frontwoman Haley Shea sings: "Picking you up just to put you down again. What the hell is an IT-girl anyway? Thoughts that aren't mine keep running through my head. Thunder thighs keeps reaching for the measuring tape. I should be dropping you like you're hot, but you're that habit I cannot shake. Patti Smith would never put up with this shit. Now I've got you staring at me from the cover of a magazine and I'm not getting roped in." It was followed by the new album from Canadian Cold Specks, which dives into her Somalian roots with lyrics about an African queen who castrates men, and the new LP from Cuban sisters Ibeyi, which also takes a stridently feminist bent. This month, Sløtface's fellow Norwegian Susanne Soundfør also released her new album, dedicated to people suffering worldwide. MORE>>>
7. ENTER SHIKARI - THE SPARK
One of the few politicians to address that suffering this month was British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who proved to be rousing sample material on Cobby's recent For The Many EP. At the Trade Union Congress conference in Brighton held from September 10 to 13, he outlined Labour's vision of a "jobs-first Brexit" that would include the banning of zero-hour contracts, raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing unions the right to access workplaces and defending the rights of EU workers and migrants in Britain. That sentiment was backed up with the release of the new album from electronic hardcore punks Enter Shikari, which hollers: "I don't want to take my country back, I want to take my country forward!" Jealous of Corbyn's rapturous reception at Glastonbury music festival this year, the Conservative Party hit back with the "Tory Glastonbury" on September 22, but admitted defeat when embarrassing photos of the piss-poorly attended event were mocked on social media. MORE>>>
8. SAVAGE - BURNT INSTITUTIONS
Also attending the Trade Union Congress conference was Huber Ballesteros, a Colombian trade union leader and former political prisoner who was released from jail in January after a prolonged campaign for his freedom, backed by the TUC. He vowed that the Colombian trade union movement would continue fighting corruption in the public sector and the assassinations of unionists by far-right paramilitary forces. As left-wing Colombian guerrillas continued to lay down their arms to take up politics, the Trump administration sought to block the transition to peace on September 12, by trying to resurrect the "war on drugs" under the long-discredited Plan Colombia. Railing against such dishonesty was Burnt Institutions, the heavy new album from brutal Bogota band Savage. The album, sung in Spanish and English, expresses "the political corruption and its relation with violence, stigmatisation and social inequality in the country and the world". MORE>>>
9. LIONIZE - NUCLEAR SOUL
Meanwhile in Trump's America, country singer Katie Layne shot a homeless Nashville man who asked her to move her Porsche, police said on September 13. The move didn't help the stereotypical image of country music recently parodied in the song "Bro Country" on Brett Newski's album Songs To Sink The American Dream. Country stars doing their best to fight that image were Rick Trevino, with his song "I'm A Mexican", and Meghan Linsey, who sang the national anthem on one knee in solidarity with the Black football players repeatedly attacked by Trump this month. Also breaking southern stereotypes were Lionize, who set Lynrd Skynrd-style southern rock to socialist lyrics on their new album, Nuclear Soul. It came as an album was also launched for International Day Of Peace on September 21, while Trump continued to ramp up his nuclear rhetoric against North Korea. To simply survive such oppressors would be a resounding victory, said US indie rockers Deerhoof on their new album. MORE>>>
10. PROPHETS OF RAGE - PROPHETS OF RAGE
As Trump-emboldened fascists protested in Australia and were elected in Germany, long-time antifascist punks Propagandhi released their new album, noting that "fascism is — among a certain crowd — suddenly trendy". On September 20, an antifascist headbutted former Australian PM Tony Abbott. Wrongly branding his headbutter a same-sex marriage campaigner, the homophobic Abbott then hit out at US rapper Macklemore, who was due to perform his same-sex anthem "Same Love" at the NRL grand final. PM Malcolm Turnbull then attempted to upstage long-time rival Abbott by trying to rap live on TV. We kid you not. The far better rap news was the release of the new album by hypergroup Prophets Of Rage, made up from members of Public Enemy, Cypress Hill and Rage Against The Machine. If only one song sums up this month's politics, it's album highlight "Unfuck The World", which takes a slogan long emblazoned on activist T-shirts and turns it into a protest anthem for the masses. MORE>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also makes political music and wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country.
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