Monday, May 08, 2006

Love Music Hate Racism

Love Music Hate Racism is the snappily titled campaign that is aiming to use music as a tool to combat racism and the rise of the BNP and far right in the UK. In these increasingly fraught and heavy days I am continually astonished by the lack of any kind of political discourse in the world of music. The NME in the late 70’s and early 80’s was aflame with political passion. Every band and artist featured in its pages seemed to stand in opposition to the right wing agenda of the time. Manifestos seemed more common than bass players. Compare that to the present day where being famous and rich enough to develop a serious drug habit seems to be the limit of most bands ambition.

The talk of the current crop of big name ‘indie’ bands picking up the baton from the post punk artists always seems to neglect one fact. The artists in the first wave of post punk were mixing complex cultural criticism, Marxism and melody. The love song was deconstructed, the economic system questioned, the fabric of consumerism torn to shreds. Now we get songs about pulling at a party, taking drugs, how much we hate our old band mates…. all fairly shallow and self-centred. Where are all the protest songs? Where are those standing up for the disenfranchised?

Red Wedge seemed to give this sort of thing a bad name. Mixing pop and politics seemed to be regarded as the realm of the arcane and old. Bless Billy Bragg for still composing impassioned songs about the issues of the age. I worried that the Bard of Barking was a throw back to a bygone era. Just a single man and his cheap guitar battering back the forces of fascism. Thank heavens he kept the faith.

See Billy Bragg has always been a huge fan of soul music and has learnt from it’s power. Music can unite, heal, and win hearts and minds. It is a powerful tool for progress and I am glad that people seem to have remembered that at last. Love Music Hate Racism is staging a number of gigs in the coming week to spread the anti-racism message before the local elections.

Stars of the Grime scene, Lethal Bizzle, Roll Deep and DJ Statik along with the likes of Mylo, David Gray, Pete Doherty and Carl Barat are lending their support to the cause. In a week that has seen yet another racially motivated murder, this one in Sheerness in Kent, then the gigs can’t come soon enough. I can only hope that this flowering of political consciousness will result in a volatile mix of music and politics coming back into vogue. From the moment Richie Edwards disappeared any kind of wider debate about culture or politics begin to disappear from music. Even leftfield music. The Manics began an all too understandable retreat into self doubt. Post-Riche the politics were still there but they became less biting and more reflective.

You can fully understand why the Manics pulled back, but the retreat of Primal Scream seems less understandable. Bobby Gillespie has always talked a good fight and they have been very supportive of left wing issues. Yet somehow Gillespie’s politics have always felt more like a gesture than a real commitment. I can’t see it any other way after they renamed the track previously titled Bomb the Pentagon. If the sentiments of the track were true before 9/11 then surely they were true after it. If they hated American Imperialism before 9/11 and they still hate it now then why suddenly keep quiet? Or was it just teenage rebellion dressed up as politics? When the reality hit home the band had a change of heart? Maybe or maybe they just shat their clich├ęd leather kecks thinking it could end their career. Then they would have to stop taking drugs, hanging out with supermodels or going to Elton John’s wedding. Nothing more than the musical equivalent of wearing a Che Guevara t-shirts down the student union bar.

But not everyone bottles it. The hostile reactions that have followed acts as diverse as the Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen in The States are testament to that. Some artists seem to be willing to risk their livelihoods in the name of an ideal. To stand up and be counted whatever the cost. Who would have dreamed that the Dixie Chicks are more rock n roll than Primal Scream?

So if you live near one the gigs in the coming weeks then get down there and show your support. On www.lovemusichateracism.com there is a wealth of information about helping out, staging your own gig, etc…Agitate, educate, organise…….

2 comments:

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