Political music: Here are 10 new albums too good to ignore
By Mat Ward
Here's this month's radical record round-up, with an emphasis on International Women's Day. It actually features far more than 10 albums (count them). What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment on Twitter or Facebook. Videos not playing? Try a bigger screen.
1. FEMALE:PRESSURE - MUSIC, AWARENESS & SOLIDARITY W/ ROJAVA REVOLUTION
The month began with male world leaders "mansplaining" International Women's Day on March 8. Russian President Vladimir Putin called women "tender, unforgettable and full of charm". Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured the world that "a woman is above all a mother", in stark contrast with Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is still jailed by Turkey and deliberately views women as leaders of the revolution, not as sisters, mothers or lovers. Released the same day, the latest album from radical women's label Female:Pressure celebrated the Kurdish female fighters being targeted by Erdogan as they lead the feminist revolution in Rojava. In Olivia Louvel's army drill-sampling track "Afraid Of Women", one such soldier says: "When they see women they go weak at the knees, because according to their belief, they must not be killed by a woman. When they see us, they prefer to run away, not to be killed by us." LISTEN>>>
2. AZIZA BRAHIM - ABBAR EL HAMADA
Australia's Indij Hip-Hop radio Show celebrated International Women's Day by interviewing Aboriginal rapper Kaylah Truth, who released her girl group's revolutionary track "No More Silhouettes" to mark the day. The Global Intifada show on Melbourne's 3CR radio arguably went one better, spinning the day into a whole month of women-only specials, including Western Saharan artist Aziza Brahim. Her new album Abbar El Hamada is named after the desert where thousands of Saharawis live in the refugee camps where she was raised. It joins last year's album Homeland by Hindi Zahra in speaking out against Morocco's occupation. Also speaking out against occupation was the Musicians without Borders compilation Rap Across The Wall - Palestine released on March 1. On the track "Girls Song", one young emcee breaks into English to rap: "My name is Sophie, I'm a Palestinian and that's my trophy. I have my own rights. I'm living in the dark, it's time to turn on the lights." MORE>>>
3. FATIMA AL QADIRI - BRUTE
Israel has exported its police tactics in the Palestinian occupation worldwide, from the US to Sri Lanka. This month, shortly after riot police violently repressed an anti-TPP demonstration in Peru, the US city of Cleveland said it was buying an extra 2000 sets of riot gear in preparation for Donald Trump hitting town. A few days later, subwoofer-shaking dubstep artist Fatima Al Qadiri released her new album, Brute, whose music and sleeve artwork focuses on the militarisation of police. On the track "Blows", the Kuwait-raised artist samples a broadcaster reading the words: "This weekend a few troublemakers turned a peaceful protest against Wall Street greed into a violent burst of chaos. The troublemakers carried pepper spray and guns - and were wearing badges." Also out this month was a reissued EP from veteran British crusties The Levellers, whose track "Barrel Of The Gun" shoots back: "No matter what country under the sun, you can't mete out justice from the barrel of a gun." MORE>>>
4. JPEGMAFIA - BLACK BEN CARSON
The only Black candidate in the US presidential race, Ben Carson, dropped out this month to support the race-baiting Donald Trump. The kiss of death perhaps came when Rupert Murdoch - who likes Black people with white politics - hailed Carson as a future "real black president". Or maybe it came when Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA - who served years in the army to avoid jail after attacking a racist - released his piss-taking new album, Black Ben Carson. The album doesn't spare Carson's political nemesis either. On "I Smell Crack", JPEGMAFIA mocks: "You niggas delusional trying to vote for Bernie Sanders. That nigga ain't get shit done, he fuckin' crazy." Also out this month was the new album from country artist Grant-Lee Phillips, a member of the Creek Native American tribe. He is a direct descendant of those who walked the Trail of Tears and tells their story on the track "Cry Cry". It's a reminder that First Nations people hardly get a mention in the race-obsessed US presidential race. LISTEN>>>
5. RODRIGO STARZ - FREE FAMILY PORTRAITS
US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton inevitably used International Women's Day to promote her hip feminist credentials. But in many ways she is far less politically progressive than even the openly chauvinist Donald Trump, as author William Blum and journalist John Pilger pointed out this month. Her dubious record includes supporting the 2009 coup in Honduras, whose murder rate has since rocketed, including the killing of award-winning environmentalist Beta Caceras on March 3. A week later, Rodrigo Starz of rap duo Rebel Diaz, the son of Chilean activists, used the release of his solo record to draw attention to Clinton's record. "The Democrats and Republicans are two wings of the same capitalist bird," he said. "Donald Trump is a white supremacist and Hillary Clinton has blood on her hands for her involvement in Honduras." At the end of the month, another environmental activist was killed, this time in South Africa, after he protested against an Australian mining company. LISTEN>>>
6. KNUCKLEDUST - SONGS OF SACRIFICE
While much of the Western media were looking at the size of Donald Trump's hands, US president Barack Obama quietly drone-bombed 150 people in Somalia on March 5. Glenn Greenwald was a rare critic of the bombing among journalists. Meanwhile, London hardcore punks Knuckledust released their radical new album, whose opener "Humanity's Nightmare" roars: "How can you justify your killing in the name of peace? How can you justify your killing in the name of me? No, you can't justify humanity's nightmare." On March 16, a drone-promoting arms fair in Cardiff came under fire from Welsh record label Afiach, who protested by releasing 43-track album Prosecute The Arms Dealers. Label star Efa Supertramp kicks it off with all guns blazing like a female Axl Rose as she hollers: "All my friends are freedom fighters!" At the end of the month, Western media outrage at the 31 deaths in the Brussels terror attacks far outweighed the 150 deaths in Somalia, laying bare their bias once again. MORE>>>
7. NELLIE MCKAY - MY WEEKLY READER
Barack Obama not only reportedly tells aides he is "really good at killing people", he has also boasted of boosting US oil output through fracking. In contrast, musician and comedian Nellie McKay used a show in the US on March 18 to urge support for Bernie Sanders, saying he is the only mainstream US presidential candidate against fracking. For the encore McKay sang her much-loved sarcastic line "Feminists Don't Have A Sense Of Humour", though other events this month came as a reminder that sexism is rarely a laughing matter. In accepting an award on March 5 for standing up for LGBT rights, pop star Kesha delivered an emotional address about alleged sexual abuse by her producer. In touring Australia from March 18, US singer Rhiannon Giddens drew attention to sexism in the music industry, saying: "Being a woman musician, you're in the minority... where you start to really notice the divide is when you get into management and producing and labels... very isolating." MORE>>>
8. VARIOUS ARTISTS - BUY THIS FRACKING ALBUM
Coal seam gas companies' have admitted that the main obstacle stopping them from poisoning water supplies is protests by activists. Little surprise, then, that this month, New South Wales joined other Australian states in moving to ban all political protests. They know what they're up against - coal seam gas unites people of all political persuasions in protest, best reflected by US artist Patti Jo Roth-Edwards, who sings against fracking and for gun rights. In Australia, Urthboy's new album out this month looked at the bigger picture of climate change as he rapped about unseasonal bushfires. It followed the latest offering from nomadic Australian country artist Luke O'Shea, Caught Up In The Dreaming, which speaks of his enduring love and laments for the land. Meanwhile, the compilation Buy This Fracking Album bucks the usual trend of political punk and hip-hop by opening with some gospel-tinged offerings. MORE>>>
9. REV SEKOU AND THE HOLY GHOST - THE REVOLUTION HAS COME
Also as gospel-tinged as ever are Scottish rave-rockers Primal Scream, whose new album scales the heights of their 1991 hit Screamadelica. Long-outspoken singer Bobby Gillespie used its release to hit out out yet again at neoliberalism. But if you want the real deal when it comes to politically-charged gospel, check out new album The Revolution Has Come by real-life reverend Osagyefo Sekou, whose truly blue blues wail against the injustices meted out against African Americans. On the stinging "Goodbye Baby", the dreadlocked preacher hollers: "Baby I hope this letter finds you doing better than I am. I know it's been a while since you heard from me, but I've been busy trying to get free. I'm writing you from some godforsaken place where they'll soon as kill a man, woman, boy or little girl because of their race. And every other day, a mother has to say the words that no mother should ever have to say. She gotta say, 'Goodbye, baby. Why'd they take you away so soon?'" MORE>>>
10. THE HAYMARKET SQUARES - LIGHT IT UP
The shocking rate of Black incarceration in the US doesn't escape even white artists. The country's world-beating jailing rates are one of the many topics illuminated by radical Phoenix "punkgrass" band The Haymarket Squares on their new album, Light It Up, which somehow manages to be fun as well as angry. The incendiary, but humorous, murder ballad "Let's Start A Riot" puts the call out to worker drones everywhere with the words: "Sitting at a cubicle, staring at a screen, playing with the lighter in the pocket of my jeans, let's start a riot, let's start a riot. I'm tired of trading hours for so little in return, don't want to take a sick day, man, I want to watch it burn, let's start a riot, let's start a riot." As up to 40 per cent of jobs look set to be wiped out by robots, there were renewed calls this month for a universal basic income, whether people work or not. No doubt it will take more than a few riots to get that happening. 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.
To read about more political albums, click here.
To stream Green Left TV's political music playlist, click here.
3CR radio's Global Intifada show is a great source of topical political music. To listen to it online, click here.