Music

Carnival: party or protest

Author: 

By Elizabeth Butterworth

This year Notting Hill Carnival will be held on 24-25 August.

In between the photographs of smiling policemen and the swathes of tourists, it’s important to remember Carnival’s history of anti-racism.

In August 1958, there were riots in London and Nottingham after racist murders such as that of Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane. Young white men, numbering in the hundreds, attacked the houses of Caribbean residents on Bramley Road, West London. Oswald Mosley and other fascists were also spreading hatred.

Carnival's history of anti-racism

Publications: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Solidarity Sounds: an evening of music and spoken-word in support of Rainbow International

Date: 

30 July, 2014 - 18:30 to 21:30

Location: 

Union Chapel (Upper Hall), Compton Avenue, London N1 2XD

Description: 

Tickets will be £10/£6 (waged/unwaged) on the door

Featuring:

The Ruby Kid
Hailing from Nottingham (via Sheffield, and with roots in New York), The Ruby Kid is a spoken-word poet and hip-hop artist based in East London. He cites the US indie rap of Aesop Rock, WHY?, and Cannibal Ox as his key musical influences, and co-runs the monthly performance showcase "Out-Spoken" at The Forge in Camden.
The Ruby Kid's website

Elia Rulli
Elia combines funk, soul, and electro to create sound lauded as "extraordinary" by BBC 6's Tom Robinson. Whether appearing with his band The Low Tears, or performing stripped-down solo sets, Elia's music has what Attitude has called "the wit of Wilde [and] the voice of Wonder".
Elia's website

Nyakio Kung’u
Nyakio is a singer/songwriter from Kenya with a unique and fresh afro-soul sound. Her music speaks from the African and European cultures that she comes from, connecting humanity to the greatness that we all have inside of us.
Nyakio's website

+ more acts to be announced!

The gig will raise funds and awareness for Rainbow International, an activist collective set up to raise funds and support for LGBT+ struggles around the world. For more info, see here.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

The business of folk

Hollywood has a long history of taking a real person and creating fictionalised versions. ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Sunset Boulevard’, and ‘The Godfather’ all did this. The Coen Brothers did it themselves in ‘Barton Fink’ and they have done it again in their new film — ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.

A review of the film Inside Llewyn Davis.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

“Blurred Lines”, playlists, bans and debate

A number of student unions have decided they will not allow Robin Thicke’s number one single “Blurred Lines” to be played in their commercial venues.

A number of student unions have decided they will not allow Robin Thicke’s number one single “Blurred Lines” to be played in their commercial venues.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Trade Unions: 

Publications: 

Remembering Paul Fyssas

Paul Fyssas, killed by a fascist in Piraeus on 17 September, grew up in the working class neighbourhoods of Keratsini.

Paul Fyssas, killed by a fascist in Piraeus on 17 September, grew up in the working class neighbourhoods of Keratsini.

The son of a shipyard worker in Perama, he in turn went to work in the yard.

From his school years he loved hip hop and from a listener quickly he turned into an artist. He continued to work from time to time in the yards, was a member of the Piraeus metal workers’ union, and consistently participated in its mobilisations.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Born in the NHS benefit gig

Date: 

24 August, 2013 - 19:00

Location: 

The Cluny, Ouseburn, Newcastle, NE1

Description: 

Newcastle Workers' liberty supporters have been involved in organising Born in the NHS gig with Dog Years, Waskerely Way and DJs.
Its Sat 24 August - from 7.30/8pm at the Cluny, Ouseburn, Newcastle
https://www.facebook.com/events/489570824457784/

all funds to support coaches to TUC Save the NHS national demo

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

"The Witch Is Dead" - sexist or not?

Excerpts from a discussion among Solidarity readers about the using the phrase "The Witch Is Dead" about Thatcher's death.


I'll admit to laughing when I first saw "The Witch is Dead". But then I spoke to a comrade pointed out all the language being used to describe her was sexist, and she felt there would not be as much hatred if Thatcher had been male.

Excerpts from a discussion about the using the phrase "The Witch Is Dead" about Thatcher's death.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Save Lewisham Hospital benefit gig

Date: 

21 March, 2013 - 19:00 to 23:00

Location: 

The Stretch, Goldsmiths College Students Union

Description: 

Come and listen to some of the best in live music and spoken-word poetry - including from campaign supporters, south London residents, and Goldsmiths students - and help raise funds and awareness for the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign.

More details, including line-up and ticketing information, is on its way. For now – save the date!

Facebook event here.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Marxism and art

This is the text of a speech given by hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet The Ruby Kid at a Workers' Liberty meeting at Goldsmiths University in November 2012. He was speaking alongside the screenwriter Clive Bradley.

Text of a speech given by hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet The Ruby Kid at "Can art change the world?", a Workers' Liberty meeting at Goldsmiths University in November 2012.

Culture and Reviews: 

The Establishment Blues

Sixto Rodriguez is a Mexican-American singer-songwriter from Detroit.

His life story is incredible. A construction worker who drifted around the city’s working-class districts writing about poverty, alienation, drug abuse, and class struggle, he was discovered by Detroit-based music producers in the late 60s who hailed his songwriting talent as comparable to that of Bob Dylan’s.

Sixto Rodriguez is a Mexican-American singer-songwriter from Detroit.

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Return for GYBE!

After re-forming in 2010 for a series of live shows, Godspeed You Black Emperor! (GYBE!) returned to the recorded music scene following a decade of silence, slipping their latest album “Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!” on to the merchandise table at a gig in Boston on 1 October.

This gesture, a refusal to play the commercial game, is symptomatic of the band’s approach to the music industry and capitalism in general, balancing somewhere between sullen indifference and outright contempt.

After re-forming in 2010 for a series of live shows, Godspeed You Black Emperor! has returned to the recorded music scene after a decade of silence.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Beats, Rhymes, & Picket Lines IV

Date: 

24 November, 2012 - 20:00 to 23:30

Location: 

The Star of Kings, York Way, London, N1 0AX

Description: 

Beats, Rhymes, & Picket Lines IV - musical and poetic dispatches from the frontlines of industrial unrest.

Saturday 24 November at The Star of Kings - York Way, N1 0AX, Kings Cross. Doors at 8pm. £5/£3 (waged/unwaged) on the door.

With words and other sounds from...

The Ruby Kid & Dan Angell - alt.rap, inc. material from new EP 'Strange, Lively, & Commonplace'. (http://www.therubykid.com/)

Hibaq Osman - spoken-word from the 2012 Roundhouse Poetry Slam Champion (http://hibaqandtheweb.wordpress.com/)

Skribbo - Franco-American hip-hop cooked in Glasgow from tHe bEiNg MCs stalwart (http://soundcloud.com/skribbo)

Sarah Weston - performance poetry from BlueDragonFly Productions member (http://bluedragonflyproductions.wordpress.com/)

AltTrack - trip-hop/punk from West Yorks beat combo (http://www.facebook.com/alttrack)

Hosted by The Ruby Kid. Brought to you by Workers' Liberty and Women's Fightback. More info at http://www.workersliberty.org and http://www.therubykid.com

Facebook event here.

Culture and Reviews: 

Soweto Blues

Miriam Makeba's song Soweto Blues, written by her ex-husband Hugh Masekela, is a lament for the victims of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa.

On 16 June, police fired on demonstrations led by high-school students protesting the ban on non-Afrikaans languages. Over 200 protestors were killed and many more were injured. The song's use of the language of black South Africans is itself an act of defiance.

Miriam Makeba's song Soweto Blues, written by her ex-husband Hugh Masekela, is a lament for the victims of the 1976 Soweto uprising in South Africa.

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

New York City Cops

On 19 July, Simon Harwood, the policeman who killed Ian Tomlinson, was found “not guilty”. No police officer has ever been brought to justice for the killings of Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan, Jean Charles de Menezes, or any of the other victims of police shootings.

In America, Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo of Anaheim, California, recently became the latest additions to a long list of individuals — invariably black or Latin American — killed by the police in suspicious circumstances, sparking riots in response.

A song in memory of those killed by the police.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Marley as artist and activist

Jade Baker looks at the life of Bob Marley and how it is portrayed in a new biopic of the musician, directed by Kevin MacDonald.


Bob Marley was and remains one of the world’s most popular musicians. He was also an advocate for the rights of black people, spoke up against poverty and a fighter against western oppression. Bob Marley, the film, tells the story well.

A review of a new film about Bob Marley.

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

9-5ers Anthem

While perhaps less accessible than some of hip-hop’s more obvious “protest songs” (Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ or KRS-One’s ‘Sound of da Police’, for example), this brooding, imagery-heavy piece from Aesop Rock’s seminal album ‘Labor Days’ finds the rapper in his most explicitly “political” register.

The “We the American working population” chant (performed acapella on the recorded track) is a stark, no-frills attack on the shackling effect of work on human creative potential, and contrasts brilliantly with the dense, figurative content of the song’s other verses.

Aesop Rock’s seminal album ‘Labor Days’ finds the rapper in his most explicitly “political” register.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Two views on Plan B's "iLL Manors"

Daniel Randall, aka The Ruby Kid, is a hip-hop artist and spoken-word poet. He has been a member of Workers' Liberty for over ten years. He has previously written on the subject of music and social struggle here.

Rapper and poet The Ruby Kid and student activist Hamish Yewdall discuss Plan B's new single "iLL Manors" and the reaction to it.

Culture and Reviews: 

What did Amy Winehouse leave us with?

Amy Winehouse seemed to walk willingly into the mould of rock’n’roll cliché, but what is her legacy?

Her songs were largely self-penned, so credit is due for that. And having listened back to a few of them in the last week, some of them are very good; she really could sing. But, in the end, is her undeniable talent the thing that allowed her album sales to rocket or her image to sell magazines?

Amy Winehouse seemed to walk willingly into the mould of rock’n’roll cliché, but what is her legacy?

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Gil Scott-Heron and the prison system

David McDonald (Solidarity 209) says that nobody of Gil Scott-Heron’s stature should end up in jail (in Heron’s case, for cocaine possession).

I think I know what David is saying here — that it is a shame to see such a talented musician get so low. However, Heron would never have claimed any privileges for himself and neither should we. Nobody, no matter who they are, should go to jail just for using drugs, particularly if, as in Heron’s case, drugs are making them ill.

Gil Scott-Heron spent his life railing against this system and the social conditions that lead to the drug addiction that ultimately killed him.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

The other America

In the Deep South and the Midwest of the USA, poverty is ubiquitous.

I have harboured the usual Hollywood and rock ‘n’ roll-inspired English white boy road trip fantasies ever since my teenage years, and a couple of weeks back, I finally found myself out on Highway 61.

As I approached the celebrated Interstate — top down on the bright red Mustang convertible hired for the occasion, the inevitable choice of Dylan CD blaring from the speakers — I was met by a sign reading “lane closures in both directions”. That’s not quite how I imagined it was going to be.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Around the world: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Gil Scott-Heron: a man of many pieces

May saw the passing of Gil Scott-Heron, a musician and activist whose talent and importance cannot be over-stated. “The Godfather of Hip Hop” tag was one he shunned; besides being a cliché it also fails to do justice to a career of over 20 albums and an artist who refused to compromise.

Gil Scott-Heron was a musician and activist whose talent and importance cannot be over-stated.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Dylan at 70: his 1960s "Protest Songs" revisited

This month the American singer and songwriter Bob Dylan marks his 70th birthday. In the early 1960s he was reckoned to be a “protest singer”, a direct voice of the left. His songs referred straightforwardly to political issues — the black civil rights movement in the USA, anti-militarism — and he performed at political events like the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.

Since then he has produced a long stream of new songs, and repeatedly been charged with “selling out”, first when he used an electric rather than an acoustic guitar in 1965.

As a tribute to Dylan on his seventieth birthday, and in an attempt to show that Dylan did not stop protesting in 1964, a brief account of some of his Sixties "protest" songs.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Don't follow leaders: Bob Dylan in China and Vietnam

Bob Dylan recently performed in China and Vietnam for the very first time, prompting critics to denounce him for “selling out” — and not for the first time.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd led the charge. In a recent column she denounced the singer, ending with these powerful lines:

Maybe the songwriter should reread some of his own lyrics: “I think you will find/When your death takes its toll/All the money you made/Will never buy back your soul.”

Strong stuff indeed.

Bob Dylan recently performed in China and Vietnam for the first time, prompting critics to denounce him — not for the first time — for “selling out”.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Inquiry needed into Smiley Culture’s death

The family of dancehall-reggae pioneer Smiley Culture are demanding a full and open inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death.

After the police raided his home in connection to a drugs bust, Smiley Culture allegedly stabbed himself in the heart with a kitchen knife.

The family of dancehall-reggae pioneer Smiley Culture are demanding a full and open inquiry into his death in a police drugs raid on his home.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Bieber fever

Type the words “Justin Beiber” into Google and you’re presented with 139 million results; page after page of gossip, photo shoots and the occasional online shrine in the 17-year-old “sensation’s” name.

A wave known as “Bieber Fever” has swept the world. This “fever” and the influence he has over (mostly) teenage girls are somewhat worrying after his recent interview with Rolling Stone.

Teenage singer Justin Bieber recently gave an interview to 'Rolling Stone' magazine in which he outlined his views on abortion, rape and sexuality.

Issues and Campaigns: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

Searching for a more tolerant England

The average anti-war song is often a pretty basic affair and they often work best like that.

Edwin Starr’s version of “War” is the archetype of this. It is literally a shout of pain. And then there are songs about soldiers returning to a land that would rather forget, as with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” or most memorably in Eric Bogle’s “And the band played Waltzing Matilda”. But in Let England Shake Polly Jean Harvey has attempted something more considered and nuanced, something more lyrical, poetic and thoughtful.

A review of Polly Jean Harvey's album 'Let England Shake'.

Culture and Reviews: 

Publications: 

A "soundtrack for the movement"?

Author: 

The Ruby Kid

The Ruby Kid, aka Daniel Randall, is a political activist and hip-hop artist. He has been a member of Workers' Liberty since 2002 and has been recording and performing music since 2007. Here, in an article originally published on his MySpace blog, he responds to an ongoing debate around the meaning of "protest music" in 2010, and whether the new youth and student movement needs "a soundtrack". For more info on The Ruby Kid, visit his website.

Hip-hop artist The Ruby Kid responds to a debate around the meaning of "protest music" in 2010, and whether the new youth and student movement needs "a soundtrack".

Publications: 

Culture and Reviews: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Music