10 new albums that aren't on Obama's Spotify playlist
By Mat Ward
This month, the corporate media swooned as "cool" US president Barack Obama released his Spotify playlist. Here's this month's radical record round-up, featuring 10 albums that thankfully weren't on it, from Black Brazilians to Blackfoot Native Americans. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment on Twitter or Facebook. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. ELZA SOARES - THE WOMAN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
At the start of the month, Australia showed off its dislike of dirty foreigners as its athletes slammed the conditions at Brazil's Olympics. If you'd prefer to hear a Brazilian criticise Brazil, try the new album by samba legend Elza Soares, which got a worldwide release a few weeks earlier. At 79, she sounds more lithe than most Olympians as she blends elements of punk and noise into her Black perspective on the country's corruption and poverty. The Olympics were rife with protests against the country's recent coup and the fact the event had plunged its host into debt, as it does everywhere. None of which stopped former Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone showcasing Australian ignorance yet again, by using her Fairfax column to call for Greece to host the Olympics permanently - to solve its debt problems. Such a move would also, she said, bring the Greeks something of the German work ethic - despite the fact Greeks already work the longest hours in Europe. LISTEN>>>
2. CECILE DOO-KINGUE - ANYBODY LISTENING
Conditions aren't much better for Blacks north of Brazil, where riots erupted in Milwaukee on August 13 after yet another African-American was shot dead by cops. A fittingly fierce soundtrack is "Riot & Revolution" on the new two-part album by searing blues guitarist Cecile Doo-Kingue, who recently blasted US politicians. Milwaukee has one of the highest rates of Black incarceration in the US, a country whose world-beating prison statistics are addressed by radical deep south rapper Genesis Be on her slick, soulful, poppy EP out this month. On "My GCK" the emcee sends love to her "Gulf Coast Kings" the Black men imprisoned in her Gulf Coast state of Mississippi. Genesis Be, a lifelong activist whose grandfather was murdered after he spoke out against the Ku Klux Klan, recently hit headlines by fashioning the Confederate flag into a noose on stage. MORE>>>
3. AWKWORD - THE BEST OF AWKWORD
Also laying into the Ku Klux Klan is white US rapper and activist AWKWORD. On "I Am", one of a handful of new and unreleased tracks that appear on his new best-of compilation, he raps: "AmeriKKKa, that's with three Ks. We need a man in a cape in the land of the brave these days. Always been the same, new ways to lynch a slave. We can march a million miles, make sense but no change. While bastards build a billion bars to break us with the cage." The album was released on August 1, a few days before the US announced it was ending contracts with private prisons. The move came after a 35,000 word expose, written by a Mother Jones reporter who worked as a private prison guard, went viral. Guantanamo, meanwhile, stayed open as prisoners came up for review, including "Indonesia's Osama Bin Laden". Days later, Indonesian choir Dialita marked the country's Independence Day by releasing an album of songs written by prisoners jailed by the murderous, Western-backed Suharto regime. LISTEN>>>
4. AMERICAN PIONEER SINGERS - THE CANDIDATES FROM NEW YORK
On August 3, it was reported that US presidential hopeful Donald Trump had asked a security briefing three times why he couldn't use nuclear weapons. Yet it is Trump, not his rival Hillary Clinton, who is calling for peace with Russia and China. The dire decision faced by US voters is parodied on the new album by American Pioneer Singers, who record in the style of political songs from 100 years ago. On the title track, they sing: "Donald punches Hillary, she hits back even worse. Whoever ends up president will probably be our curse." On August 26, political supergroup Prophets Of Rage released their first EP, The Party's Over, whose title track slams voters' false choice. As their guitarist Tom Morello says, Clinton and Trump play good cop-bad cop, but they're still "both cops". DJ Shadow captured the mood, hyping his new album with a video featuring a political punch-up, and on August 22, indie band Miike Snow pierced the nuclear tension with a Cold War-themed clip. MORE>>>
5. BLACKFOOT - SOUTHERN NATIVE
On August 19, Native Americans were banned from protesting against an oil pipeline on their own land. A fortnight earlier, southern rockers Blackfoot, founded by Native American Music Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Medlocke of the Blackfoot Tribe, had released their new album, which pleads: "Politician money man, leave alone our sacred land." Weeks earlier, protesters marked the 10th anniversary of LA's South Central community farm with a protest album featuring strong indigenous themes. Similar battles against gentrification raged on in Australia, where Aboriginal anti-development protesters rallied in Brisbane on August 21. On the same day down in Sydney, the Aboriginal Waterloo Tent Embassy was taken down after a two-month fight against gentrification, days after Aboriginal south-west Sydney rappers Dbl Vision released their new mixtape. It features the anti-Captain Cook track "Dear Captain", which asks, "When will you understand that it's more than just land?" MORE>>>
6. THE MEOW MEOWS - GO BOOM!
Australia's world-famous racism is rivalled only by its sexism, which was on full display in the news and at gigs this month. Luca Brasi laid into a punter at one of their gigs for groping a female fan, a heckler caught singer Abbe May off-guard by yelling at her to "show us ya tits" and police appealed for public assistance after a teenage girl was assaulted at a Selena Gomez gig. That's the same police whose own rates of sexual harassment were revealed to be double the national average on August 22. Two days later, British ska band The Meow Meows hit back at the worldwide War On Women with a powerful new video from their new album. In "Pretty When You Smile", vocalist Danny Girl tackles sexual harassers in the streets, lasering one in the crotch, taunting another with a flick-comb, then putting the boot into three at once as she wears a jacket emblazoned with the words "SMASH THE PATRIARCHY". MORE>>>
7. GINNI MAHI - GURPURAB HAI KANSHI WALE DA
Another female fighter, 17-year-old Punjabi pop star Ginni Mahi, also rails against inequality on her new album. Describing a classmate, she says, "When I told her I was from the Scheduled Caste community, she asked 'which sub-caste?' I replied I was a Chamar, and she said Chamars are dangerous." Mahi then wrote "Danger Chamar", a 2015 hit that made her a leading voice in "a new generation of Dalit pop musicians". Her latest track from her sixth album, "Fan Baba Sahib Di" is a tribute to Dalit politician BR Ambedkar. On August 15, London-based Indian-Spanish hip-hop producer Agent Of Change released Indian themed beat-tape Sub-Continent, to mark "Indian Independence Day (15 August 1947), when India achieved independence from one of the most brutal political entities the world has ever known: the British Empire". Today, India is embracing colonial-style extractive capitalism, valuing all its forests this month at $1.7 trillion - more than the GDP of Russia or Canada. MORE>>>
8. NEW MODEL ARMY - WINTER
The irony of the British colonists is that they are now complaining about being colonised, a theme found on the 14th studio album by New Model Army, released on August 26. On "Die Trying", singer Justin Sullivan conjures up images of the Jungle refugee camp at Calais with the words: "You can end the journey anywhere. You can lose your hold on the axle frame and fall into the road and under the wheels. You can fall right through the world and disappear." Jeremy Corbyn, who visited the Jungle this year, battled to hold onto the Labour Party leadership this month as the pro-austerity establishment fought to unseat him. Britain's austerity-fuelled inequality is mocked by Manchester band Cabbage, whose new song "Dinner Lady" describes a low-paid worker's revenge at a private school. "One day I got so bored and idle, served enough sausage rolls to make me suicidal. To combat this state I had a wank in the quiche, and watched the headmaster get it stuck to his teeth." MORE>>>
9. IMANY - THE WRONG KIND OF WAR
Like the British, France's colonists were also complaining this month about being colonised. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended a ban on burkinis on August 25, saying the full-body Muslim swimsuit represented a "battle of cultures". The next day, French former model Imany - whose family come from Comoros, one of the many Muslim nations colonised by France - released her new album. On "There Were Tears", the chart-topping soulster sings: "Freedom fighters, here I am, you can knock on my door. Don't stop till some hearts are beating. Don't stop fighting while they keep on lying. The truth never lies, they will fall apart. If there's no justice, there will be no peace." Imany, whose name means "faith" in Arabic, has promoted the album with pictures of her standing in front of a billboard for the Black Panthers. Her family's home country now holds the depressing title of suffering the worst inequality in the world. MORE>>>
10. THE SHABBAB - GARLIC
Another country in the clutches of colonisation, Palestine, suffered its "worst attack since the 2014 war" as Israel carried out 30 air strikes on August 21. A week later, Melbourne garage rockers The Shabbab - who hail from Israel, Lebanon and Australia - released their debut album. It seems the band are more aware of colonial ironies than the British and French. They dedicate the album to the people of the Kulin Nation on whose stolen land the album was made and open it with the track "Running Away From An Apartheid State I Found Myself In That Colony". On "We Keep Coming", they sing: "Everybody's talking about a problem. Sounds like they talking about you and me. I hear the fear in their voices as we farewell white hegemony. They call me an immigration flood. I am a terrorist attack. I'm why your father lost his job and I got pockets full of drugs. And we keep coming, but don't worry mate, we won't do to you, what you did to the Indigenous of this land." LISTEN>>>
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mat Ward is an Australian-based journalist who has been writing for Green Left Weekly since 2009. He also wrote the book Real Talk: Aboriginal Rappers Talk About Their Music And Country. To read it online, click here.
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