Songs with a global consciousness
January 12, 2013 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I wanted to pick the hive mind a bit with regards to Music that deals with global issues. My Daughter is working on a great project about modern songs that would have stories about problems in the world. The first thing I could think of was We are the World but well that just doesn't do it for her (or me really). She had some more criteria as we walked through what she would like...

No anti-war songs (those are to "easy")
Preferably from the point of view of a person that has been through or is in that position now
Not so western focused

She likes most types of music and I would love to here as many suggestions as possible as NOW I want to hear some newer ones from around the world.
posted by mrgroweler to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Straight To Hell, the album and the song, by The Clash is about the relationship between the developed and the developing world.
posted by OmieWise at 5:57 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Joni Mitchell "Parking Lot"?
posted by feistycakes at 6:04 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try this all the way through. "We are all flowers of one garden." 1 Giant Leap, The Way You Dream.
posted by vers at 6:14 PM on January 12, 2013

The first couple that spring to mind are Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" and "Beds are Burning" and "Blue Sky Mining" by Midnight Oil.

Neither are new nor "global" but I'm sure folks with more far-flung ears will be by shortly.
posted by Kakkerlak at 6:14 PM on January 12, 2013

Sting, "They Dance Alone" - about women who lost their loved ones during Pinochet's regime

Paul Simon's "Homeless" and "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes"

I suppose there's an argument for "Gangnam Style" - class, inequality, etc.

not sure but perhaps some of these

Songs for A Cause

social/political songs
posted by bunderful at 6:17 PM on January 12, 2013

Wavin' Flag by Young Artists for Haiti

I think it will hit the mark.
posted by valoius at 6:22 PM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Great Leap Forward by Billy Bragg. (early 90s?)
It may have been Camelot for Jack and Jacqueline
But on the Che Guevara highway filling up with gasoline
Fidel Castro's brother spies a rich lady who's crying
Over luxury's disappointment
So he walks over and he's trying
To sympathize with her but thinks that he should warn her
That the Third World is just around the corner

In the Soviet Union a scientist is blinded
By the resumption of nuclear testing and he is reminded
That Dr Robert Oppenheimer's optimism fell
At the first hurdle

In the Cheese Pavilion and the only noise I hear
Is the sound of people stacking chairs
And mopping up spilt beer
And someone asking questions and basking in the light
Of the fifteen fame filled minutes of the fanzine writer

Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
While looking down the corridor
Out to where the van is waiting
I'm looking for the Great Leap Forwards

Jumble sales are organized and pamphlets have been posted
Even after closing time there's still parties to be hosted
You can be active with the activists
Or sleep in with the sleepers
While you're waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

One leap forwards, two leaps back
Will politics get me the sack?
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)

Here comes the future and you can't run from it
If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)

It's a mighty long way down rock 'n roll
From Top of the Pops to drawing the dole
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)

If no one seems to understands
Start your own revolution, cut out the middleman
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)

In a perfect world we'd all sing in tune
But this is reality so give me some room
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)

So join the struggle while you may
The Revolution is just a t-shirt away
(Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards)
posted by Kerasia at 6:25 PM on January 12, 2013

Another try, might be too oblique: World Citizen.
posted by vers at 6:28 PM on January 12, 2013

check out some of the recs in this thread from yesterday
posted by changeling at 6:45 PM on January 12, 2013

In an oblique way, Talking Heads' "Listening Wind" fits the bill.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:45 PM on January 12, 2013

Many songs on K'naan's Troubador album deal with the differences between Somalia and the western world, most notably T.I.A. and Fatima. It's available on Spotify if your daughter is curious.
posted by calistasm at 6:53 PM on January 12, 2013

valoius' suggestion of "Wavin' Flag" is good, as is almost anything by the Somalian-Canadian rapper K'naan (who wrote the song - the previously linked version is a cover).

What about Paper Planes by M.I.A.?

This is a little old, but what about Fast Car by Tracy Chapman?
posted by Sara C. at 6:54 PM on January 12, 2013

Sting, Russians
posted by tllaya at 6:57 PM on January 12, 2013

I'll make the case for No Woman, No Cry. Women suffering in poverty is, sadly, a global problem.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:57 PM on January 12, 2013

Bruce Coburn's Mines of Mozambique
posted by Sublimity at 7:01 PM on January 12, 2013

You should really check out the Smithsonian's Folkways label. (Full disclosure: they're the ones who currently distribute my grandfather's album about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War.)

Also consider perusing the discographies of artists who constantly comment(ed) about stuff: Check out various musicals, notably Rent, Show Boat, and Avenue Q.

If you're willing to indulge my love of Russian and don't consider it to be "western" (you shouldn't,) there are LOTS of post-1970 songs throughout the former USSR/Warsaw Pact nations about freedom, oppression, etc. Go to YouTube and watch some stuff by DDT. Same goes with songs about apartheid in South Africa (many of which actually are in English.)

While you're doing this, make sure to have her listen to Ebony & Ivory, Do They Know It's Christmas, and Sun City. Because you may never have another excuse.
posted by SMPA at 7:11 PM on January 12, 2013

A few more Marley ideas:

Small Axe
Belly Full
Redemption Song
Africa Unite
Get Up, Stand Up
Rebel Music

The songs I didn't link individually, as well as several others, can be found here. (I googled "political Bob Marley songs" and found that link.)
posted by Sara C. at 7:17 PM on January 12, 2013

How old is your daughter and what is considered modern?
posted by dottiechang at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2013

I think Shakira's Timor would be perfect.
posted by amiableamy at 7:25 PM on January 12, 2013

Here are a bunch of apartheid songs, BTW.
posted by SMPA at 7:28 PM on January 12, 2013

And this is just the struggle/protest selection on the Folkways website. 163 albums, including Pete Seeger's "American Industrial Ballads" and Woody Guthrie's "Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti" (plenty of more recent stuff, too.)

(Moe Asch basically ran his record label around the exact kind of songs your daughter is looking for. He was also a nice guy, or at least one beloved by the group of people I am personally familiar with.)
posted by SMPA at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2013

There are a couple of fantastic documentarise that may be of use for you - Amandla! is all about music and the anti-apartheid movement and protest, and Soundtrack for a Revolution, about music and protest during the American civil rights movement.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Xentrix's For Whose Advantage? (lyrics) was about economic "growth" as an unquestionable good, and its effect on the relationship between the developed and developing world.
posted by ignignokt at 7:42 PM on January 12, 2013

Have a look at the documentary Searching for Sugar Man - Sixto Rodriguez, a Detroit folk singer, recorded two albums in the early 70s, then faded into obscurity. South Africans discovered the albums, and were inspired to confront the foundations of apartheid. Thinking that Rodriquez was dead, two South Africans sought to find out what happened to him, and discovered he is alive, resulting in a revival of his musical career. (I'm surprised this hasn't been an FPP yet.)

Depending on the age of your daughter, the references to drugs, street crime, and extramarital sex may be inappropriate.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:02 PM on January 12, 2013

Awesome answers so far. Oh, and hear not here ugghh.

There are a ton of great old stuff like Biko etc that we listened to tonight. She Would prefer recent songs and specifically about Women's rights/disease/poverty(or uplifting songs about limited reasources). From my perspective are there any non North American but English language songs that we could hear?

Again thanks and please keep them coming
posted by mrgroweler at 8:18 PM on January 12, 2013

Oh and sorry dottiechang that is a good question. She is old enough that any music is fine. Modern in her opinion is anything that is still relevant... So R.E.S.P.E.C.T is still relevant because Women's issues are still important but something like Aparthied songs or Vietnam war protest songs are not so much because though they inform her... They are "mostly" resolved... She is looking for something that would speak to a young adult in 2013.
posted by mrgroweler at 8:24 PM on January 12, 2013

For reals, this is what you are looking for, at least worth a listen:
Oh My God
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:34 PM on January 12, 2013

Or this one

posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:37 PM on January 12, 2013

Tracy Chapman is my favorite for this.

Talking about a Revolution

Accross the Lines
(race and poverty)

Loud Voices Behind the Door
(Domestic violence)

New Beginning

Bang Bang Bang
(violence, class issues, etc)

Rape of the World
(environmental consciousness)
posted by celtalitha at 8:54 PM on January 12, 2013

Slight nitpick: Small Axe is about Jamaican record labels, rather than global anything.

That said, for Bob Marley, you can't go past War.

I'd add Asian Dub Foundation's: Oil and Collective Mode.
posted by pompomtom at 8:55 PM on January 12, 2013

Also Bjork Declare Independence, which has caused a few political controversies.
posted by celtalitha at 8:59 PM on January 12, 2013

They are kind of more abstract and I think mainly without lyrics, but the stuff released by public record might be of interest
posted by juv3nal at 9:09 PM on January 12, 2013

Even Flow by Pearl Jam. Might not work so well if you can't understand the lyrics (about homelessness).

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) by Marvin Gaye
posted by John Cohen at 9:10 PM on January 12, 2013

Small Axe is about Jamaican record labels, rather than global anything.

Really? Huh. I always interpreted the main line of the chorus "If you are a big tree/We are a small axe/Ready to chop you down..." as a colonizer/colonized thing. Then again, I will admit that I can't understand most of the rest of the lyrics.
posted by Sara C. at 9:13 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thievery Corporation frequently have lyrics touching on globalism and economic issues from an international perspective. I would recommend The Richest Man in Babylon—both the album and the titular song.
posted by dephlogisticated at 9:37 PM on January 12, 2013

The 'big tree' is a play on words for the 'big three' record labels (say it with a Jamaican accent) which made up an oligopoly in Jamaica at the time. /derail
posted by pompomtom at 9:42 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Has Ani diFranco been brought up yet? Because she's got tons. I remember listening to a lot of her early 90's albums during the Bush administration and feeling like they were all extremely relevant. Not quite as sure whether they are as relevant now as opposed to 5-10 years ago, but surprisingly spot on for being ~20 year old albums. She's got plenty of current stuff, too.

Also, what about Le Tigre? They have plenty of happy poppy fun songs, but also lots of explicitly feminist ones. The entire "Feminist Sweepstakes" album would probably be up her alley.
posted by Sara C. at 9:47 PM on January 12, 2013

Also: Stereolab.
Especially Les Yper-Sound and Three-Dee Melodie.
posted by pompomtom at 10:26 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Manu Chao and his earlier band Mano Negra. I can't think of a good choice for you among his few songs in English, but translations are easy enough to find. "Clandestino" deals with immigration.

Bruce Cockburn - If I Had a Rocket Launcher. Your daughter will definitely find his fashion and the music production dated.

I feel like every other time I catch the Global Hit segment on PRI's The World, they feature a song that would fit your criteria perfectly. You can browse their archives here.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:09 PM on January 12, 2013 [3 favorites]

Tom Waits' Road to Peace is a war song, mostly about the Middle East. Pretty sad.

Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody's From Little Things, Big Things Grow is pretty awesome (Australian). On that note there's pretty much everything from Midnight Oil (she might be interested to note that the singer is now a member of parliament).
posted by geek anachronism at 2:42 AM on January 13, 2013

I would say definitely anything by M.I.A. English lyric songs with a world outlook encompassing immigration, asylum seeking, women's rights, guerrilla warfare, genocide, political violence.....
posted by atlantica at 5:17 AM on January 13, 2013

Stereolab, yes.

A recent anti-finance industry protest track from former Stereolab frontwoman Laetitia Sadier: "Auscultation to the Nation (2012)."

In the same vein, Stereolab: "Ping Pong."
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:06 AM on January 13, 2013

Here's some of mine that fall into the social/political commentary or *protest song* zone, from here at Mefi Music:

New Orleans 2005 - on the political response to hurricane Katrina
Diamond Jaws - on the international diamond trade
Bring Your Money Down To Honduras - on a hair-brained libertarian scheme to create a giant sweatshop (with no government oversight, naturally) in Latin America
Fighting the Civil War - on neo-racist revisionism in Virginia
Undefined - on the global arms trade
New Ways To Tell Old Lies on that guy who blessedly lost the 2012 US presidential election
Gotta Get Past These Ideas - on right wing Christian wingnut notions about the reason for Haiti's big earthquake
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:53 AM on January 13, 2013

Wikipedia has a few lists:

Songs about the extermination of indigenous peoples. (Of the ones listed: I'm partial to Don't Drink The Water, but I don't know if the kids think Dave Matthews is lame these days....)

Songs against racism and xenophobia.

Songs with feminist themes.

Environmental songs.

TLC's Waterfalls comments on both drug use and AIDS.

Of especially timely significance: Pearl Jam's Jeremy deals with gun violence in a school. (Self-inflicted, as opposed to a mass shooting, but still.)

U2's Running To Stand Still deals with drug abuse (the lyric "I see seven towers but I see no way out" is a reference to Dublin landmarks). You can see Bono miming like he's tying off for a hit of heroin in the linked clip.

(I'll keep thinking.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:05 AM on January 13, 2013

Stop Dancing by Minuit (there are a few remixes, this is my favourite but this one is also good). It's about an incident where the Taliban in Pakistan killed a women known for her dancing and the response of the local women.
posted by shelleycat at 8:13 AM on January 13, 2013

(also, just in case it's not clear from my links, Minuit is a breakbeat band in New Zealand)
posted by shelleycat at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2013

Wikipedia lists some of U2's political songs.

Rise Up by The Parachute Club is a joyful song about, well, rising up and taking agency for your own freedom. Fun fact: I work in the shiny glass building at the very beginning of this video.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2013

Playing For Change
posted by flabdablet at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2013

The Melodians: The Rivers of Babylon

The lyrics are taken entirely from the book of Psalms with a Rastafarian interpretation. It's a hymn about African slavery in the Americas with universal appeal to all displaced and oppressed people, as I see it.

Psalm 19:14 - By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion... They carried us away in captivity requiring of us a song... Now how shall we sing the Lord's (King Alpha's) song in a strange land?

In the Rastafarian faith, the term "Babylon" is used for any governmental system which is either oppressive or unjust.
. "Zion" would refer to the African continent; the Americas are the "strange land." King Alpha refers to Haile Selassie, Ras Tafari, King Of Ethiopia, the messiah of the Rastafari faith.

The song has been covered many times by Boney M., Sinéad O'Connor, Linda Ronstadt, the Skatalites, and others.
posted by Golden Eternity at 4:37 PM on January 13, 2013

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