Is Donald Trump melting your brain? Then listen to these 10 albums
By Mat Ward
Do Donald Trump's racist ramblings make you want to saw your ears off with a rusty, blunt penknife? Then listen to this month's political albums round-up - it may stop you wanting to do that. Then again, it might not. What albums would you suggest? Comment on Twitter, Facebook, or email. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. LYRICSON - REVOLUTION TIME AGAIN
On February 2, French police raped and bashed a 22-year-old Black man, sparking days of angry protests. The unrest served as a reminder of simmering tensions in neighbourhoods with big immigrant populations and the rise of French racism against the very people the French have colonised. Days later, Paris-based reggae star Lyricson, from the French colony of Guinea, west Africa, released his aptly-titled album Revolution Time Again. The video for album highlight "Burning" features the singer as a newsreader presenting real-life footage of rioters throwing petrol bombs. Fine reggae also flowed this month from border-hopping band Meta And The Cornerstones, whose new album, Hira, "seeks to trespass boundaries and embrace cultural and religious differences... to create meaningful and necessary change in the world through reggae music". MORE>>>
2. WIREPHOBIA - KURDISTAN
Also calling for unity across borders was the CEO of Bandcamp - a free-to-use music platform that prefers to only pay artists rather than charging them upfront - with his pledge to donate 100% of proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union on February 3. The move came in response to US President Donald Trump's ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Releasing a playlist of seven Bandcamp artists from each of the countries affected, Ethan Diamond, who founded Bandcamp in 2007, stressed: "Like 98% of US citizens (including the President), I am the descendant of immigrants." The playlist included Wirephobia's album, Kurdistan. But as the situation for Kurds looked ever more dire, there was at least global mainstream recognition for them in the unlikely launch of Kurd Idol as part of the Pop Idol franchise on February 11. It came after Australia announced plans to ramp up arms sales and Russia showed off weapons "battle-tested" in the Kurdish battleground of Syria. MORE>>>
3. RAVANA - EVOLUTION
Trump's racism reaped its evil harvest with the killing of an Indian in a US bar on February 22, prompting the victim's father to urge fellow Indians not to work there. Back in India, viral rapper Sofia Ashraf led her fellow Tamils in protests across the state of Tamil Nadu. Off its coast, the persecution of Tamils continued in Sri Lanka as Tamil refugee rapper MIA released a new single protesting Trump. In Delhi, prolific political producer Ravana released his latest album Evolution, which states: "Repeated formation of new species (Birth), change within species and loss of species (extinction) forms the basis of evolutionary history of life on Earth." Its release came as biologists ramped up warnings of mass extinction events and India's air was named the most polluted on Earth due to industrialisation. In Australia, refugee-baiting and environmental vandalism continued as politicians held up a lump of coal in Parliament to promote fossil fuels amid a record-breaking heatwave. LISTEN>>>
4. TOBY MARTIN - SONGS FROM NORTHAM AVENUE
Australia's coal-loving PM Malcolm Turnbull welcomed genocidal Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to the country on February 22 with the surprisingly truthful words: "We have a lot in common." Netanyahu's much-protested visit came as Australian indie artist Toby Martin released a concept album made in Sydney's western suburbs. The album covers unemployment and racism, but also celebrates Australia's rarely-championed multiculturalism. "Part of the project for me was realising that these suburbs are the most interesting parts of Australia," he says. “White, mainstream Australia is pretty ignorant of the depth and diversity of its own country.” It came a week after Sydney rappers Thundamentals released their new album, which already sounded dated as it laid into state premier Mike Baird, who had resigned days earlier. Yet its gripes remained depressingly relevant as Baird's identical successor, fellow former banker Gladys Berejiklian, looked set to continue all Baird's hated policies. MORE>>>
5. HANNI EL KHATIB - SAVAGE TIMES
Back in the US, Berejiklian's fellow environmental vandal Trump continued to whip up protests from musicians. Some, such as Lady Gaga and Beyonce, were expected. Others, less so. Notoriously apolitical rap superstar Drake blasted Trump from the stage and bubblegum pop titan Katy Perry surprised many when she bolstered A Tribe Called Quest's explicit political performance at the Grammy Awards with a less explicit statement of her own. She followed that with a more explicit performance at the Brit Awards, which was widely mocked by the media when one of her protest dancers fell off the stage. Yet few can mock the potential political power of Perry's Twitter following, which - at 98 million - dwarfs even Trump's. Garage rocker Hanni El Khatib, who normally steers clear of politics, took the gloves off on his new album with the song "Born Brown" addressing the "anti-immigrant sentiment spreading everywhere". "Being half-Filipino and Palestinian, I feel it anywhere I go," he says. MORE>>>
6. THE VIRUS - SYSTEM FAILURE
This month, a slew of new political albums also poured from the more expected genres of punk and metal. Thrashers Iron Reagan kicked things off with Crossover Ministry, whose track "More War" fit the arms race rhetoric simultaneously spewing from Trump. The brutal militaristic theme was carried further by heavy metallers First Blood with their rule-breaking album Rules. Similar sentiments could be found in the angry metal of "End This War" on No Turning Back's new album. Noise punks Career Suicide took a seeming swipe at Trump on their new album with "No Walls No Curtains". In promoting Power Trip's radical new album, vocalist Riley Gale said: "Growing up into punk, I always saw music as a political weapon." US punk diehards The Virus returned after 13 years with their super-strong new album System Failure. The month was topped off with similarly-titled album The Broken from US post-hardcore band Youth In Revolt. LISTEN>>>
7. ANI CORDERO - QUERIDO MUNDO
Also addressing youths in revolt was US-raised Puerto Rican artist Ani Cordero, last seen on her album Recordar, which covered Latin American protest songs. Her new Spanish-language album Querido Mundo ("Dear World" in Spanish) features "protest songs as well as love songs, as a reaction to current political turmoil". "I wrote these songs to work in a crowded situation, such as a protest or march," she says. "So I started with the rhythms first, and built the arrangements around the rhythmic movement." Fellow political Caribbean musician and long-time activist Harry Belafonte also put out a new album this month, which kicks off with a highly topical hymn to multiracial unity in "When Colours Come Together". Also holding it down in the non-English political music sphere was Tunisian protest singer Emel Mathlouthi, who rose to prominence during the Arab Spring and released her new Arabic album this month, Ensen (Human). MORE>>>
8. A.D. CARSON - OWNING MY MASTERS
On February 14, dance and punk music star Moby claimed Washington insiders had showed him documents that could impeach Trump. Days later, African American PhD student A.D. Carson presented his doctoral dissertation as a rap album, featuring the track "Impeach The President". The well-produced album is packed with powerful political poetry and pulls no punches, even taking down his university's racist history in the bold "See The Stripes". Surprisingly, at least some of his tutors already seemed to approve of the project before he was up to defend it on February 24. Some may be sceptical about its huge 34 tracks, but there's not a dud song on it. Others may dismiss it as a gimmick, but its quality is way up there with this month's new albums from big political rappers such as Lupe Fiasco and Wyclef Jean, whose new long player includes the track "If I Were President". LISTEN>>>
9. MOOR MOTHER - FETISH BONES
Dropping Black politics in an equally original way is experimental electronic artist Moor Mother, whose album Fetish Bones is a synth-trashing assault on the senses. "I'm not trying to forget that I grew up in the housing projects," she says. "I'm trying tell all of the stories of the people that were there." African-American folk music star Rhiannon Giddens also returned this month with her rousing new album Freedom Highway. It was matched in strength by the new long player from long-time blues guitarist Otis Taylor, Fantasizing About Being Black, which he released days after Trump held a bizarre press conference in which he asked a Black reporter to put him in touch with the Congressional Black Caucus. On the album, Taylor, whose great-grandfather was lynched, sings about Deep South slavery. The lyrics resonate under a president who has sent private prison stocks soaring amid record rates of Black incarceration. LISTEN>>>
10. LOS FASTIDIOS - THE SOUND OF REVOLUTION
Over in Europe, incarcerated Australian activist Jock Palfreeman defended the right of victims of fascist violence to self-defence as a fascist protest loomed in Bulgaria on February 18. He was wrongly jailed for the murder of a neo-Nazi in Bulgaria in 2007 after coming to the assistance of a Roma man being assaulted by a gang of fascist football hooligans. Days earlier, Italian anti-fascist football fans Los Fastidios released their latest album, which sounds like every song was designed to be chanted on the terraces. Flipping effortlessly between English, Italian and French, it's great fun. Never has a band sounded happier about being angry... except for Britain's fun-poking Cabbage, whose debut album also came out this month. on "Free Steven Avery (Wrong America)" they gleefully sing: "Death to Donald Trump, death to Donald Trump, there's something about politics in America" like they're reciting a joyous nursery rhyme. 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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