non-western musical dissidents – iCorey – June 11

this post is not cohesive at all and just sorta farts around but basically if you wanna know a lil bit about some cool music dudes who also were kewl_politics_dudes then maybe read it please read it

a lot of this was written at work from memory so pls forgive any mistakes

nueva trova, silvio rodriguez and pablo milanés (cuba)

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1) A civilian walking down the street to market gets killed by a cruise missile fired at the market.

ok so the nueva trova movement was a development in cuban popular music beginning around the mid to late 60’s and reaching the peak of its popularity in the mid seventies. it can be distinguished from nueva cancion in general by being a uniquely cuban movement and by less reliance on traditional indigenous sounds and instruments

the early nueva trova musicians grew up during the cuban revolution and received much of their education under the castro administration. nueva trova’s interaction with the post-revolutionary cuban government is long and complicated. basically it began as a countercultural movement and the first wave of artists condemned what they saw to be the stifling of artistic expression by the castro administration and the prevalence of conservative social standards (wrt to dress, hair length, sexuality, etc). nueva trova is still implicitly pro-socialist and anti-imperialist however, and praise for cuban and international revolutionaries is common

nueva trova eventually exploded in popularity in the early seventies and became somewhat coopted by the cuban authorities. although there wasn’t an explicit endorsement of the behaviour there began a clear shift in tolerance for this type of dissent and a recognition of the cultural value in such expression. nueva trova musicians at this stage began to participate in the dialogue over the meaning of socialism and the direction that cuba needed to take

stylistically the development of nueva trova was heavily influenced by imported north american rock and pop. unsurprisingly, pre-revolutionary cuban taste in music largely mimicked that of the u.s, and in immediate post-revolution cuba there was a marked shift in the public’s tolerance for such sounds – those still listening to u.s. artists had to be somewhat circumspect about doing so. the unashamed influence of the u.s. musical canon on early nueva trova artists was therefore itself an act of rebellion, as well as a nod to pre-revolutionary cuban musical tradition

silvio rodriguez

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2) A civilian asleep in their house is killed when their house is targeting by a smart bomb and blown up.

silvio rodriguez was one of the original nueva trova artists and is the most popular and internationally well-known member of the movement

rodriguez’s lyrics are characterised by their heavy use of symbolism, which have allowed him to semi-openly criticise the cuban government whilst still evading censorship. rodriguez’s development as a musician during the late sixties was marked by a number of run-ins with the law and a long stint on the fishing boat, playa giron (which shared a name with the location of cuban resistance during the bay of pigs invasion). it was on playa giron that rodriguez composed some of his most iconic songs, including “ojalá”, which for my money is among the greatest songs ever written.

Compañeros poetas,

tomando en cuenta

los últimos sucesos

en la poesia,

quisiera preguntar

me urge!

Qué tipo de adjetivos

se deben usar para hacer

el poema de un barco

sin que se haga sentimental

fuera de la vanguardia

o evidente panfleto,

si debo usar palabras,

como flota cubana de pesca

y playa girón.

Compañeros de música,

tomando en cuenta,

esas politonales

y audaces canciones,

quisiera preguntar

me urge!

qué tipo de harmonía

se debe usar para hacer

la canción de este barco

con hombres de poca niñez

hombres y solamente

hombres sobre cubierta,

hombres negros y rojos

y azules

los hombres

que pueblan

el playa girón.

Compañeros de historia,

tomando en cuenta

lo impacable que debe ser la verdad,

quisiera preguntar

me urge tanto!

Qué debiera decir?

Qué fronteras debo respetar?

si alguien roba comida

y después da la vida

qué hacer?

Hasta donde debemos,

practicar las verdades

hasta donde sabemos

que escriban pues la historia,

su historia,

los hombres,

del playa girón

Que escriban pues la historia,

su historia,

los hombres,

del playa girón.

-“playa girón”

recommended albums: días y flores, cuando digo futuro, al final de este viaje

pablo milanés

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OK, these two are regrettable innocents being killed- but since the US doesn’t make a habit of targetting markets or houses, they’re very small in number!

milanés was a close associate of rodriguez and also a part of the first wave of nueva trova artists. after rodriguez he is probably the next-most well known member of the movement.

milanés’ music is characterised by less reliance on international sounds and a greater emphasis on indigenous cuban music tradtion. milanés is credited with writing the first nueva trova song, “mis 22 aňos”.

as with rodriguez, in his early career milanés also ran afoul of the cuban authorities and in the mid sixties he spent over a year in a UMAP prison under allegations of homosexuality. milanés has written a lot of subversive and controversial songs, including “la vida no vale nada” (“life is worth nothing”):

La vida no vale nada

si no es para perecer

porque otros puedan tener

lo que uno disfruta y ama.

La vida no vale nada

si yo me quedo sentado

después que he visto y soñado

que en todas partes me llaman.

La vida no vale nada

cuando otros se están matando

y yo sigo aquí cantando

cual si no pasara nada.

La vida no vale nada

si escucho un grito mortal

y no es capaz de tocar

mi corazón que se apaga.

La vida no vale nada

si ignoro que el asesino

cogió por otro camino

y prepara otra celada.

La vida no vale nada

si se sorprende a otro hermano

cuando supe de antemano

lo que se le preparaba.

La vida no vale nada

si cuatro caen por minuto

y al final por el abuso

se decide la jornada.

La vida no vale nada

si tengo que posponer

otro minuto de ser

y morirme en una cama.

La vida no vale nada

si en fin lo que me rodea

no puedo cambiar cual fuera

lo que tengo y que me ampara.

Y por eso para mí

la vida no vale nada.

-“la vida no vale nada”

milanés has also written many songs that have been taken as praise for cuba and her government, including “armor esta isla”, a direct response to the mariel crisis.

recommended albums: canta a nicolás gullién

nass el-ghiwane (morocco)

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3) A civilian working at a chemical weapon factory gets killed when the chemical weapon plant is bombed.

among the best known and enduring icons of moroccan popular music, nass el-ghiwane was formed in 1971 by a group of theatre goers who grew up at the advent of moroccan political independence. their songs are most often characterised as “protest music” however they deny that their lyrics carry explicit political meaning. despite this nass el-ghiwane remains a figurehead of rebellion against the moroccan regime and their early live shows are legendary for the energy and passion that they channelled.

musically nass el-ghiwane incorporates western instruments like the banjo into their own interpretation of traditional gnawan trance music. lyrics are very poetic and draw influence from berber traditions. notably, their songs are sung in colloquial moroccan arabic rather than egyptian arabic, making them a symbol and voice for the moroccan lower class – this is also reflected in their lyrics, with contain a consistent theme of class consciousness.

nass el-ghiwane’s most popular song is “essiniya”, which is often interpreted as a lament to the moroccans disappeared during the political instability of the 1970’s. as with many of their songs, the meaning of “essiniya” is hidden behind a veil of symbolism – the band is very coy about explaining the meaning of their songs.

there are all sorts of rumours about the crackdowns against nass el-ghiwane by the authorities, with some even claiming that the 1974 death of original member boujemaa hagour was a political assassination (though this is denied by surviving members). there were certainly periods in which their performances were banned; this despite the fact that the present king of morocco is a fan (as was his predecessor).

recommended albums: disque d’or 1973

bonga (angola)

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4) A civilian security guard at a weapons depot is killed when the weapons explode.

originally a professional athlete, bonga was involved in the angolan independence movement from an early age and used his football team’s european tour in the 1960’s to deliver illicit communications from independence revolutionaries to exiled members.

bonga was forced to leave angola in the late sixties, some say due to a general intolerance for those perpetuating the angolan music tradtions, others because the government grew wise to his involvement in anti-colonialist groups. it was in exile he adopted the name bonga and recorded his most iconic lp, “angola 72”, which was a polemic against salazar’s colonial government. bonga elected not to sing in portuguese, meaning that the album was able to be distributed within angola for a time. however once the lyrical content became known it was immediately banned.

bonga’s music has always been heavily class-conscious and he would frequently question the spread of poverty and lack of essentials given angola’s vast mineral wealth. this message was maintained after angola obtained self-rule and living conditions did not improve.

stylistically bonga’s music continues the tradition of native semba music (from which brazilian samba was derived), with contemporary european influences. during his time in europe bonga was in turn influenced by samba which can be heard in some of the work from his later period.

recommended albums: angola 72, angola 74

tinariwen (mali)

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5) A civilian contractor repairing a tank is killed by a MOAB dropped on the unit.

tinariwen was first formed in the early 1980’s in a libyan tuareg military camp, though various members had been performing together prior to this. many of the members are former militants who fought for tuareg independence from mali in the early nineties. during the 90’s rebellion tinariwen cassettes reportedly played an important part in passing tactical communications between the various scattered tuareg independence fighters.

the lead singer of tinariwen is ibrahim ag alhabib. irbahim’s father was executed during the 1960’s tuareg rebellion while he was still a child and he was forced to live in exile until his twenties. while living in algeria during this time he constructed his first guitar using an oilcan and a stick, and story has it that during the rebellion he would go into battle with a kalashnikov and an electric guitar strapped over each shoulder. during the rebellion the various members of tinariwen would sometimes be separated for months at a time. these days they tour internationally and have become one of the best known malian groups.

musically tinariwen are an example of the new wave of tuareg musicians trained in the traditional style who during the 1980’s began experimenting with guitars and the american blues tradition. if you dig these guys i’d also really recommend checking out group inerane, who have a couple of live recordings released on the sublime frequencies label.

recommended albums: radio tisdas sessions, amassakoul

william onyeabor (nigeria)

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6) A civilian engineer is killed when the military command center he works at is destroyed.

ok so he’s not exactly a dissident but william onyeabor is wicked cool and wrote one of the all time best anti-imperialist songs, “better change your mind”, a critique of the meddling of both western and eastern states in africa. there’s very little information available on him other than what’s included in the liner notes of a couple of nigerian funk comps. onyeabor’s sound is fairly unique for nigerian music of the time, there’s a  heavy reliance on synths and much less emphasis on percussion.

onyeabor studied cinematography in russia for a time, then set up his own label in nigeria. these days he is reportedly a high chief in enugu. some of his records have been ripped and put up online but they still sell for huge amounts on ebay and it can be very frustrating trying to find some of his rarest stuff!!

recommended albums: crashes in love, atomic bomb

les rallizes dénudés (japan)

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7) A civilian delivering snackiecakes to the baghdad bunker vending machines eats a 5,000lb bunker buster

one of the most iconic and important acts of the early japanese noise underground, les rallizes dénudés first formed in 1967 as part of an avant-garde theatre group. during the late 1960’s they participated in (and played at) numerous demonstrations, including the 1969 student protests. they are supposed to have distributed the works of hegel, marx and che guevara during these performances.

membership has always been shrouded in secrecy and the band avoided physical releases (although there’s a number of archival live lps sourced from bootleg recordings). band frontman mizutani and original bass player wakabayashi were both involved in the red army faction. most notably, wakabayashi participated in the 1970 japan airlines hijacking in which 129 people were taken hostage. he was later forced to claim asylum in north korea.

recommended albums: 77 live

josé (zeca) afonso (portugal)

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My point is that there are a lot of civilians directly supporting the military that aren’t exactly “innocent” and would be mire rightly counted among the military casualties than civilian.

born in portugal, josé afonso spent much of his childhood living in various portuguese colonial territories, including angola, mozambique and east timor. at a young age he was coerced by his fascist uncle into joining a right-wing youth organisation, an experience from which he felt repulsed. he began singing in the forties whilst still in high school, and during his university years he gradually became more and more politically aware.

afonso first began recording in the mid fifties, his music being a form of traditional portuguese fado (which was very much linked to the lower classes) modernised to include explicit political comment.

afonso later worked as a public school teacher but lost his job due to his political inclinations and the perceived subversive nature of his songs. around this time he released the song “canta comrada” which became the unofficial anthem of the portuguese communist party, and he was briefly imprisoned as a political prisoner. he would also go on to record “grândola, vila morena”, which was broadcast throughout portugal in 1974 to signal the start of the carnation revolution. after the revolution afonso remained involved in various political and labour groups, and would later go on to pen songs critical of the post-revolution government

Grândola, vila morena

Terra da fraternidade

O povo é quem mais ordena

Dentro de ti, ó cidade

Dentro de ti, ó cidade

O povo é quem mais ordena

Terra da fraternidade

Grândola, vila morena

Em cada esquina um amigo

Em cada rosto igualdade

Grândola, vila morena

Terra da fraternidade

Terra da fraternidade

Grândola, vila morena

Em cada rosto igualdade

O povo é quem mais ordena

À sombra duma azinheira

Que já não sabia a idade

Jurei ter por companheira

Grândola a tua vontade

Grândola a tua vontade

Jurei ter por companheira

À sombra duma azinheira

Que já não sabia a idade

– “grândola, vila morena”

recommended albums: baladas de coimbra, cantares do andarilho, cantigas do maio

mighty sparrow (trinidad)

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I’m a civilian and work for the US military, but I acknowledge I’m also a valid military target because of what I do.

mighty sparrow was born in grenada but lived in trinidad from an early age. he first developed an interest in calypso as a teenager. calypso is often styled as a dialogue between persons, and sparrow belongs to a long tradition of politically and socially conscious calypso musicians, including lord kitchener and [blink]BLACK STALIN[/blink] (as in “starling” ._.)

rich people who doh invest they money

is crippling the nation’s economy

they can assist things like employment

by simply making a poor investment

so whenever a poor man break open a rich man shop

the government should lock a rich man up

magistrates always penalising we

but these blasted misers create dishonesty

– “honesty”

sparrow quickly gained profile in the fifties after being crowned calypso king in 1956. at this time he also began lending his support to the people’s national movement, which assumed power in the period preceding independence from britain and was popular amongst the trinidadian lower class. sparrow was extremely partisan and wrote several songs explicitly praising leader eric williams. later he would become disillusioned with the pnm and its failure to effect meaningful social change.

calypso has always included anti-colonialist sentiment, and sparrow frequently sought to ridicule both the british and the american involvement in the region (and sometimes would compare one unfavourably to the other).

when you see an englishman is on a spree

like if he swallow a webster’s dictionary

only using big words like a millionaire

and not at all, the man wouldn’t even buy a beer

and he so boldfaced, picking and choosing woman

til he get a kay francis or an ingrid bergman

when he fix up and time for payment reach

he will give her a dollar and a bundle of speech.

such like…

“you are so loveable, quite kissable

you are quite capable, but it’s regrettable

that i cannot recompense you most adequately

for the accomplished talent you’ve bestowed on me.”

in spending their money they seems gifted

the biggest fete do not get them excited

when a yankee will drink whiskey with beer as chaser

an englishman will sip his coca-cola

that is why the girls love to serve the yankees

because he will always say, “baby, the change is yours.”

when an englishman find a waitress looking nice

all he will say is, “miss, i can do with some more ice.”

– “english diplomacy”

calypso itself is very interesting given the proclivity of calypso musicians to poke fun (and sometimes seriously criticise) the ruling elite whilst still receiving significant endorsement and coordination through the state (with national state-sponsored competitions being one of the primary forums for calypso musicians to make a name for themselves)

recommended albums: hot and sweet, volume 1 compilation

fela kuti (nigeria)

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And I think the vast majority of civilian casualties in this campaign will not be innocent.

fela is without a doubt the biggest figure in twentieth century west african music. he was born in a yoruban region of nigeria in 1938, his mother was a celebrated feminist activist and his father a christian minister and schoolteacher. his exploits and civil disobedience in the face of the nigerian military dictatorship and colonial exploitation of the region are now legendary. fela’s greatest contribution to the west african musical tradition was the creation of his own genre, “afrobeat”, an overtly political fusion of james brown style funk with nigerian highlife.

among his many exploits, fela is infamous for being arrested in excess of 200 times, marrying 27 women in one day, starting his own heavily dysfunctional political party and having the shit beaten out of him by the military police too many times to count.

fela studied music in london and sang many of his earlier songs either in english or yoruba. it wasn’t until he travelled on tour to the u.s. in the early stages of his career and was exposed to the black power movement that he developed much of the political qualities that would later define him.

fela preached a kind of ill-defined pan-africanism and was heavily influenced by figures such as malcolm x and marcus garvey. having been confronted by the unashamed way in which members of the african diaspora in america would wear traditional dress and hair styles, fela became determined to foster similar attitudes at home.

around this time he began to develop what would become afrobeat. one of the most notable musical changes to coincide with this was his shift from predominantly english lyrics to a more accessible form of pidgin english.

[Chorus]

International Thief Thief!

I.T.T.

International thief

I.T.T.

International rogue

Well, well…

Ha!

Well, well…

Ha!

Motherfuckers, bastard motherfuckers

We yab dem, yeah

Hurry up there

Say “yeah”

[Chorus]

Well well!

Well well, na true I want talk again o

Na true I want talk again o

If I dey lie o

Make Osiris punish me

Make Ifa dey punish me o

Make Edumare punish me o

Make the land dey punish me o

Make Edumare punish me o

I read dem for book ee-o

I see so myself ee-o

Well-ee well-ee o

Well well… well well!

[Chorus]

Well well… well well!

Long time ago

Long, long time ago

[Chorus]

Long time ago!

Long, long, long, long time ago

African man we no dey carry shit

We dey shit inside big big hole

For Yoruba-land na “Shalanga”

For Igbo-land na “Onunu-insi”

For Hausa-land na “Salga”

For Gaa-land na “Tiafi”

For Ashanti-land na “Yarni”

For Ethiopia-land na “Sagara-be”

For Kagyu-land na “Cho-Cho”

For Bemba-land na “Chimbuzi”

For Tunga-land na “Echibuzi”

Long, long, long, long time ago

African man we no dey carry shit

We dey shit inside big big hole

[Chorus]

Long time ago!

Long, long, long, long time ago

Long, long, long, long time ago

Before them come force us away as slaves

During the time them come force us away as slaves

Na European man, na him dey carry shit

Na for them culture to carry shit

During the time them come colonize us

Them come teach us to carry shit

Long, long, long, long time ago

African man we no dey carry shit

Na European man teach us to carry shit

[Chorus]

Say am, say am!

Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go

Many foreign companies dey Africa carry all our money go

Them go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans

Them go write big English for newspaper, dabaru we Africans

I read about one of them inside book like that

Them call him name na I.T.T.

I read about one of them inside book like that

Them call him name na I.T.T.

Them go dey cause confusion (Confusion!)

Cause corruption (Corruption!)

Cause oppression (Oppression!)

Cause inflation (Inflation!)

Oppression, oppression, inflation

Corruption, oppression, inflation

Them get one style wey them dey use

Them go pick one African man

A man with low mentality

Them go give am million naira breads

To become of high position here

Him go bribe some thousand naira bread

To become one useless chief

Like rat they do them go do from

Corner corner, pass-ee pass-ee

Under under, pass-ee pass-ee

Inside inside, pass-ee pass-ee

In in, pass-ee pass-ee

Out out, pass-ee pass-ee

Peep peep, pass-ee pass-ee

Up up, pass-ee pass-ee…

Then he gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually…

Then he gradually, gradually, gradually, gradually…

Them go be:

Friend friend to journalist

Friend friend to Commissioner

Friend friend to Permanent Secretary

Friend friend to Minister

Friend friend to Head of State

Then start start to steal money

Start start them corruption

Start start them inflation

Start start them oppression

Start start them confusion

Start start them oppression

Start start to steal money

Start start to steal money

Like Obasanjo and Abiola

[Chorus]

International Thief Thief!

I.T.T.

International rogue

International thief

We go fight them, well well

[Chorus]

Well well!

Well, well…

We don tire to carry anymore of them shit

We don tire to carry anymore of them shit

We don tire to carry anymore of them shit

Well, well…

[Chorus]

International Thief Thief!

-“international thief thief”

one of the most enduring debates surrounding fela is his treatment of gender issues, both in music and in his political actions. songs such as the infamous “lady” appeared to mock the idea of equality between the sexes, with fela falling back on the solidly patriarchal structure of the traditional yoruban family system. to fela, gender equality represented another noxious idea spread by colonial influence. despite this he truly adored his mother, and lived in close company with her until her death at the hands of the military. it was also said that fela’s shrine (in which he performed on a regular basis and distributed literature) was one of the few places where single women could dance free from harassment.

anyway there’s been a buttload of stuff written about fela so maybe check some of it out

recommended albums: roforofo fight, shakara, gentleman, confusion, expensive shit, sorrow tears and blood, zombie, live in amsterdam

geraldo vandré (brazil)

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In the long run, will this war be good or bad for the world? Good

geraldo vandré was born in northern brazil and was one of the central figures within brazil’s artistic community to rebel against the military dictatorship that came to power in the (cia supported) 1964 coup.

vandré’s music is a style of mpb very much steeped in the brazilian musical tradition, and is particularly influenced by bossa nova (he was taught guitar by bossa legend joao gilberto). vandré was a staunch brazilian nationalist in his early years, and sought to challenge the increasing influence of u.s and british artists on the contemporary brazilian scene. as such he eschewed most of this influence in his own music. vandré would frequently explore political themes in his work, and the regime suspected him of being a communist (whether this was true or not i don’t know).

vandré is best known for his song “pra não dizer que não falei das flores (caminhando)”, which he first performed in front of thirty thousand people at the 1968 brazilian international song festival. “caminhando” was banned for ten years by the brazilian dictatorship, which interpreted the lyrics as being anti-military (for daring to suggest a brotherhood between soldiers and the common people), and for a verse that could be interpreted as a call for the people to mobilise against the state. vandré performed this song in open defiance of the regime, knowing that he would likely be taken into custody (or worse). you can actually hear a recording of this performance on vandré’s self titled 1980 compilation –  when the crowd begins to sing along with him is imo one of the most amazing moments of musical history to have ever been recorded.

vandré was forced into exile in 1969 and lived in europe for a number of years. in the period between his performance and exile there are (unconfirmed) rumours that he was tortured and castrated by the authorities. “caminhando” became an anthem amongst political protestors in the decade following vandré’s performance and is still sung at brazilian labour demonstrations today.

recommended albums: s/t 1980 compilation

recommended reading

robin moore – music and revolution: cultural change in socialist cuba

louis regis – the political calypso

michael veal – fela: the life and times of an african musical icon

caetano veloso – tropical truth: a story of music and revolution in brazil

i intended to write something about rai music and also the tropicialia movement too but i’m getting a bit lazy now so that’s it for the time being

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