Edition: November 30, 2011
Rock-n-Roll Exhibition: REBEKAH E. MOORE
Rock For Our Rights: The Planets Rarest and Most Radical Protest Songs
:: Playlist, intro, song descriptions, and photos, handpicked and written by Bekah herself ::
…This stage has no podium. These musicians are not politicians, news reporters, or educators. They are Indonesian citizens who share, with those in the pit tonight, a concern for justice. This rock concert is a demonstration: a loud, emotion-filled rally for honesty and equality. The dissenters do not move forward, marching in unison. They move in danceamoshing, head banging, grasping compatriots, and singing, in unison, songs that unite them and give poetic shape to a deep longing for something better, for one and all…
I found these words in my research journal in 2010, written shortly after accompanying Bali-based grunge/psychedelic rock band Navicula on a tour to Jakarta to launch their latest single, “Metropolutan” (Metro-pollutant). One week earlier, the song was released for free download on the Internet.
“Metropolutan” marked the band’s latest critique of environmental degradation in Indonesia, a response to the pollution crisis in the nation’s capital. Each night of the tour, hundreds of Navicula fans crammed into Jakarta venues and sang this song collaboratively, having memorized the lyrics after just a few days of repeated listening.
As an ethnomusicologist, I came to Indonesia to study the development of the independent music industry in Bali following the 2002 bombings. But that tour, and my many other encounters with music activism in Indonesia and throughout my career have led me to a preoccupation with music as it debates and defines social justice.
For my installation in this Rock-n-Roll Exhibition, I present just a handful of the many protest songs I’ve encountered over the years and across nations. I exclude such distinguished artists as Rage Against The Machine or Bob Marley, as well as a number of definitive protest anthems, from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” to Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” despite my immense respect for these artists and anthems. Rather than revisiting the familiar classics (though I still sneak in a few favorites), I opt to explore a selection of artists—diverse in their styles, origins, and social concerns—who may be lesser known, and whose lyrical themes or personal activism has tantalized and scandalized their respective nations.
In the mushrooming heat of global activism in which we find ourselves today—the fire that started on Tahrir Square and spread to Wall Street now burns in the hearts of rebels throughout this very nation—these real radicals of rock demonstrate that change begins with a brave and loud few. These musicians, I contend, uphold the highest standards of human rights and our greatest hope that, in Sam Cooke’s prophetic words, “a change is gonna come.”
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