Hachalu Hundessa / Diamond Platnumz / Bobi Wine

From Senegal to Kenya to Algeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a new generation of artists is giving voice to the grievances and aspirations of hundreds of millions of people - Guardian says in an article about African musicians fighting oppressive rules. Hachalu Hundessa was a popular Oromo singer and activist in Ethiopia, who was murdered last month. Tanzania’s highest-selling artist, Diamond Platnumz, had songs banned and was arrested. Rapper Falz from Lagos raps about country’s political class. Bobi Wine is a popular reggae star and opposition MP in Uganda and will release a new album next month that addresses “the real issues people are facing – the injustices, corruption, high taxation, misrule, abuse of human rights, dictatorship”.

“Pop music tends to smuggle in a lot of contraband lyrically. Words that would cause outrage if spoken often get a pass or go unnoticed when sung" - Record producer Ian Brennan told Rolling Stone about racially violent songs. He pointed out 'Brown Sugar' by The Rolling Stones - "almost undoubtedly, the majority of their audience would claim to be ‘liberal’ and ‘not racist,’ but 60,000 people singing along to those words is not an entirely innocent act. That it is tolerated or dismissed is yet another smaller, but nonetheless meaningful example of systemic racism”. Brennan, who’s written several books about racism and inequity, says The Rolling Stones’ well-known track glorifies slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia.

Century of violence
June 30, 2020

A century of black music against state violence

Sara Martin / Leon Bridges

NPR Music has published a massive project documenting A Century of Black Music Against State Violence - a 50 songs list describing specific acts of police violence, and some of the ugliest stories with which America - and, since it goes international, the world - has to reckon. It is a story of Black American music and its response to oppression, and particularly, state-sanctioned violence. It starts with 1927 Sara Martin's 'Georgia Stockade Blues', continues with John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., and dozen others from the Afro-American canon, to finish with this year's Leon Bridges' 'Sweeter'.

Serj Tankian / Axl Rose

There are numerous examples of metal bands supporting #BlackLivesMatter and the fight for good in general: Black Sabbath have printed T-shirts altering the logo from their 'Master of Reality' album to read Black Lives Matter; Serj Tankian of System of a Down took a very clear stand: “Coordinate online and block every street everywhere and force the regime to resign. The time has come. Your time has come @realdonaldtrump”; Guns N’ Roses gave support to BLM on Instagram and Axl Rose unequivocally took a side against Donald Trump. But, there are black sheep: John Dolmayan, System of a Down’s drummer, used Instagram to offer his support for Trump’s claim to be the greatest friend to minorities America has ever had; Sandra Araya, the wife of Slayer’s Tom Araya, has been posting racist memes to Instagram. Guardian reports on the clearly dividing issue.

Dave Grohl, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Mavis Staples, Willie Nelson, Coldplay, André 3000, Trent Reznor, St. Vincent, Kamasi Washington, Leon Bridges, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith, Brittany Howard, Bon Iver, Mitski, Leon Bridges, Vampire Weekend, David Byrne, Aaron Nevill are among 600 musicians and comedians who have signed an open letter to US Congress asking federal assistance to independent music venues and promoters across the United States, according to Billboard. The letter urges Congress to “remember we are the nation that gave the world jazz, country, rock & roll, bluegrass, hip hop, metal, blues, and R&B”, adding that “entertainment is America’s largest economic export, with songs written and produced by American artists sung in every place on the globe”. The signees emphasize that if the shutdown lasts six months and there’s no federal assistance, 90% of independent venues will never reopen again.

Street fighting women
June 19, 2020

An introduction to women's music

Ani DiFranco

Women's music was born, NPR argues, in May of 1969 when Maxine Feldman wrote a song 'Angry Atthis' about the very injustices and indignities that, one month later, would lead to the Stonewall Riots, the uprising credited with kickstarting the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Since then, there were plenty of women, singing about women - Linda Tillery, God-Des & She, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, Tracy Chapman - in an effort to make the world fairer place.

When Johnniqua Charles, 27, was detained in front of a strip club for, as she believes, no reason at all, she sang the officer "You about to lose your job", while dancing. Her detaining routine was taped, released on social media, and has inspired several remixes, memes and dance videos. It has since become a chanting regular at protests. Charles told the NBC "It feels so overwhelming to me. It’s just heartwarming to know that my song is being used for something so powerful". But it has also changed her quality of life for the better - Charles' sister, Andrea, created an Instagram account for her and is helping her trademark "You About to Lose Your Job". Charles, who has a 3-year-old son, said that she was struggling with homelessness and addiction before the video went viral, and that she is planning to use the money people have donated to her via GoFundMe to rent an apartment and start her own business.

Billie Eilish shared her anger over the killing of Rayshard Brooks in an Instagram post - “man FUCK. watching this video made me so fucking angry”, she wrote aside a photo of Brooks. “FUCK THIS SHIT. JUSTICE FOR RAYSHARD BROOKS. FUCK THIS SHIIIIIIIIT. #justiceforrayshard !!!! WHY ISNT EVERYONE TALKING ABOUT THIS??”, Billie Eilish added. On Friday, Brooks was shot in the back and killed while fleeing after Wendy’s employee called police to report a man sleeping in their drive-thru, Billboard reports. Eilish’s brother Finneas also reacted to the murder via Instagram: "Asleep in his car in a parking lot. Shot to death. Don’t let yourself be numb to this. Don’t let the world stay this way”. In similar news, Beyoncé has shared an open letter on her website to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, seeking swift justice for Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old emergency room technician who was killed in her home by Louisville police, Time reports. Also, Barbra Streisand has gifted her Disney shares to the young daughter of slain Minnesota man George Floyd, CNN reports.

Mark Hoppus of Blink-182

Fulltone, the guitar and bass effects company behind the popular OCD pedal, received heavy backlash after company's founder, Mike Fuller, went on an offensive social media tirade slamming the ongoing protests for justice following George Floyd's murder at the hands of police. "What is this like night 4 of looting with 100% impunity. The pussy Mayor and Governor don’t give a shit about small businesses, and it’s never been more clear" he wrote in a since-deleted post. After this post, music retail store Guitar Center announced they won't do business with Fulltone anymore, and numerous musicians - members of Blink-182, Indigo Girls, etc. - said they are planning to stop using Fulltone's equipment.

The Black Music Coalition, a newly formed organization comprised of Black music industry executives from the UK, have published an open letter calling for immediate action to end systemic racism within the music industry, IQ Magazine reports. The signatories made five requests in the open letter: mandatory anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all non-Black staff; setting aside an amount of money each year to support Black organisations and projects; career development opportunities for Black staff and addressing the lack of Black staff in senior positions; replacing the term ‘urban music’ with ‘Black music’; establishing a task force that reviews the company’s diversity and equality goals.

Blood Orange's Dev Hynes

Universal Music Group has established a $25 million “Change Fund” that will be invested across six areas of focus, including aid/charitable giving, global, internal/institutional change, legislative/public policy, partners and programming/curation, Billboard reports. Spotify has pledged to match $10 million in donations, after being called out by its employers, and give $1 million worth of advertising to social justice groups, Digital Music News reports. Blood Orange's Dev Hynes helped raise $500,000 in just two days, with a limited edition t-shirt, Uproxx reports.

Little helpers...
June 05, 2020

What to do to help racial justice

Vice suggests a handful of ways to get involved in the fight for racial justice in the music industry. One way is to purchase music and merch directly from Black artists and Black-owned labels (especially today Friday, June 5, on Bandcamp when the platform is once again waiving their revenue share on all merch and music purchases made on the site; DJ Techtools made a spreadsheet of 1,000-plus black artists and producers whose work you might consider buying). Another is reading and sharing works of Black journalists. A broader action music lovers can undertake is lending their voice to the wider fight for fair pay in the recorded music industry. The Movement for Black Lives suggests ways to help as well.

Johnny Cash from the inside
May 31, 2020

'San Quentin Mixtape Vol. 1' - an album made in prison

Rapper Maserati E arrived in San Quentin state prison in 2017, and after seeing fellow prisoner David Jassy rapping, the two started making an album with other inmates. They wanted “a real opportunity to change the narrative” around incarceration, Rolling Stone reports. There were two rules - no swearing and no glorifying the criminal lifestyle. Their first mixtape is out now. Jassy is out of prison (sentenced reduced partly thanks to that mixtape), but he continues to make music with prisoners still in San Quentin.

Billie Eilish has released a short film 'Not My Responsibility' with a spoken-word track addressing public perception and opinion of her body and clothing choices. The video, premiered at the start of her American tour this spring, features Eilish slowly removing layers of clothing before sinking into a dark, viscous liquid that consumes her. “Do you have opinions?” she asks in a voiceover. “About my opinions? About my music? About my clothes? About my body?... Is my value based only on your perception? Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?”.

Numerous musicians - including Justin Bieber, Ice-T, Ice Cube, Common, Ariana Grande, Snoop Dogg, Madonna - have spoken out after a video of yet another incident of the US police brutality against the American black community surfaced on social media. Family attorney George Floyd was arrested on Monday (May 25) on suspicion of forgery. In the viral clip, Floyd was unarmed and cried out that he couldn't breathe as an officer kneeled on his neck. He later died at the hospital.

A self-described “social experiment”, Rave Reparations is demonstrating the power of small-scale reparations, striving to make it easier, and safer, for black people to attend Los Angeles dance parties, held at secret underground locations across the city. The problem is, as the Guardian reports, LA’s nightlife scene – once home to a host of standout black queer venues has grown increasingly homogeneous, overtaken by “white DJ bros”. Rave Reparations work closely with party promoters to offer discounted tickets to black, brown and queer people (typically 50% off full price), and organize crowdfunded donations for free tickets. The ultimate goal: To be seen, felt, and heard.

The Resistance Revival Chorus is a New York collective of women protest singers, founded in the wake of the 2017 Women’s March. Since then, they’ve backed Kesha during her chill-inducing Grammy performance, sung Spanish lullabies to detained migrant children outside a New York holding facility, and been shouted-out by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. This spring, the female activist collective will play Bonnaroo and release their debut album.

A dollar for every grain of sand
January 21, 2020

Dubai added as seventh city for Global Goal Live

Dubai has been announced as the seventh host city for the massive September 26 event Global Goal Live: The Possible Dream that will call on governments, philanthropists and the private sector to provide the $350 billion needed annually to achieve the goals to end extreme poverty, tackle climate change and reduce income equality by 2030. The 10-hour, six-continent telecast is being billed as one of the largest live broadcast cause events in history, and it will include performances by Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Cyndi Lauper, D'banj, Eddie Vedder, EXO, H.E.R., Janelle Monáe, Lizzo, Metallica, Miley Cyrus, Muse, Ozuna, Ozzy Osbourne, Pharrell Williams, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shawn Mendes, Tiwa Savage, Usher and more.

Matt Healy of the 1975 urged band's fans to plant trees in the band’s honor and commitment to climate change, NME reports. The project was about to star at a special event in New Orleans on November 26, and, in a message to fans, Healy wrote: "People are starting to set these up and it’s […]

Girlpool

Over a thousand artists - including Sheer Mag, Chastity Belt, Deerhoof, and Girlpool - have signed a letter No Music For ICE pledging to not participate in Amazon-sponsored events, or engage in exclusive partnerships with Amazon due to corporation's ties with law enforcement in the US. Amazon works with Palantir, a Silicon Valley data mining company that […]

Around 2,000 festival-goers have joined climate change campaigners Extinction Rebellion in a procession across the Glastonbury festival site, paying tribute to indigenous people who have led the fight against global heating. Dr Gail Bradbrook from ER said it is "not a protest. It is not a campaign. It is a rebellion. We are in active […]

British climate activist Extinction Rebellion will lead a march through the Glastonbury festival on Thursday June 27. The ‘Extinction Procession’ will begin at The Park Stage at 4pm, it then heads to the Stone Circle, where at 5:30pm, the largest-ever human hourglass sculpture will be attempted. The hourglass is also Extinction Rebellion’s logo, Independent reports.