A slave master, not a stage master
September 23, 2020

Slave trader association dropped - Bristol's Colston Hall renamed

Bristol venue Colston Hall is dropping its name following decades of protests and boycotts over its association with the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston. A statue of Colston was toppled by Black Lives Matter protesters and thrown into the harbour in June. The process of renaming the hall began in 2017, following protests by civil rights campaigners, music lovers and artists, including the Bristol band Massive Attack, who refused to perform in the venue. From now on it will be known as Bristol Beacon.

Fiddle in the middle
September 21, 2020

Country artist Tyler Childers rises against racism

Tyler Childers has dropped a powerful statement with his new album 'Long Violent History' where he stands against racism and violence, and calls for universal values. He introduced the album with a video explaining his concept, best summarized with these words: "What if we were to constantly open up our daily paper and see a headline like ‘East Kentucky Man Shot Seven Times on Fishing Trip?' and read on to find the man was shot while fishing with his son by a game warden who saw him rummaging through his tackle box for his license and thought he was reaching for a knife?... If we wouldn't stand for it. why would we expect another group of Americans to stand for it? Why would we stand silent, or worse, get in the way of it being rectified?". The album consists of 8 songs played on a violin, 7 of which are instrumental covers, and the last one 'Long Violent History' the only with lyrics, and the only one written by Childers. American Songwriter explains the concept; NPR loves the album.

Ordinary people needed for extraordinary goals
September 21, 2020

'White Riot' documentary - punk, ska and reggae against the far right

"An excellent brief documentary about a heroic grassroots political movement whose importance reveals itself more clearly in retrospect with every year that passes" - Peter Bradshaw writes about the new documentary 'White Riot'. Director Rebecca Shah mixes archival images and interviews with key figures of the grassroots organization Rock Against Racism that bonded together punk, ska, reggae and new wave scenes to stand against the far right. The documentary closes with images of the Carnival Against Nazis, which drew in an audience of 100,000 in support of their cause.

The Poland government is arguably one of the most conservative in Europe, recorded acts of homophobia happening on a weekly basis in the country, and there were also recorded incidents of police brutality. How systemic homophobia is can be read from the fact that a third of Polish towns have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”. Guardian brings a story about Polish DJs and musicians fighting for the rights of the minority.

Level talked to four women from different parts of American culture to discuss how hip-hop should change its attitude and behaviour toward women. "A lot of these C-suites and the music industry needs to be torn down and rebuilt with the younger people and people who are not complicit in decades of rape culture and abuse" - music producer Drew Dixon said. Journalist Clarissa Brooks is hopeful"I do feel like things are getting better, though, because people are making art for themselves and their communities. People aren’t interested in celebrity in the same way". Author Danyel Smith put it simply: "Good people have to do good things and good work".

The Show Must Be Paused initiative made a list of demands for the music companies, Billboard reports, asking for, well, not too much really. Health insurance benefits to artists and road crews; addressing internal pay disparities and converting long-term temp jobs to staff jobs; adding anti-racism and anti-sexism clauses to touring contracts; actively recruiting Black employees and make internships available to people who aren't in college. The Show Must Be Paused initiative made a list of demands for the music companies, Billboard reports, asking for, well, not too much really. Health insurance benefits to artists and road crews; addressing internal pay disparities and converting long-term temp jobs to staff jobs; adding anti-racism and anti-sexism clauses to touring contracts; actively recruiting Black employees and make internships available to people who aren't in college...

"A political activist in the US civil rights movement - before it was even a movement" - biographer Robert Atkinson said about Babatunde Olatunji, Nigeria-born drummer who spent his life in the US playing drums, and staging anti-racism protests. BBC recollects how Olatunji, in 1952, three years before Rosa Parks helped spark the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama, staged his own protests on public buses in the south. His protest was brave and clever - he and a group of students boarded a racially segregated bus in Atlanta wearing traditional African clothes and were allowed to sit anywhere they wanted because they were not identified as African Americans, who had to sit at the back. Day after they boarded the same bus in their Western clothing and refused to sit in the back. Olatunji was, however, better known for his music - he became a pioneering drummer, releasing 17 studio albums, including his 1959 debut 'Drums of Passion', widely credited with helping to introduce the West to "world music".

Entrenched in tradition, the classic music industry has allowed its outdated systems to endure, largely unchallenged; Black musicians still make up less than two percent of the orchestral members in the US - Grammy.com reports about the important issue. One Instagram account, Orchestra Is Racist, lies at the epicenter of the movement to end racism in classics, with musicians of color coming forward to share their stories of racial injustice. The page provides a platform for musicians of color to share their stories of experienced racism in classical music, from education to orchestral hiring processes to dealings with arts' administration.

Fiona Apple has narrated a new short film about how to safely document and record U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests, Vulture reports. Apple said she "felt really lucky to be able to read it aloud and learn it. It’s such valuable information".

“I kept waiting for someone to do something that moved or inspired me, but I began to realize that I’d have to do it myself" - Brazilian artist Linn da Quebrada told Guardian about being black and trans in a repressive country (130 trans people were killed in Brazil in 2019, more than anywhere else in the world). Linn and her musical partner Jup do Bairro make brave music with vulnerable lyrics, tongue-in-cheek statements, and genre-bending dance rhythms. They're fighting the system which is "so narrow, we have to come in through the cracks. And as we come in, we also widen these gaps so that more and more people can start occupying them, too”.

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 […]

1 2