What's your favourite (protest) music of the moment?
September 28, 2013 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Post Australian Federal election, faced with my nation of birth demoting science, closing the Climate Commission and being assholes about asylum seekers I'm feeling angry, but also pretty hopeless. And that's just the major Australian issues of the last fortnight. I need music to keep me going. What are your favourite protest, activist and resistance songs that are just plain good music? (Bonus points for relevant artists that aren't bolshy white men.)

I'm finding that listening to songs like Gustav's (a female Austrian performer) take on We Shall Overcome or Bragg's Waiting For The Great Leap Forward are really helpful for maintaining energy and hope these days.

I stayed up late watching the Joe Strummer doco "Future is Unwritten" last night which helped a lot. However, what with listening to a lot of Billy Bragg and Paul Kelly lately I feel that I need to broaden my horizons beyond my (well loved) bolshy white guys. They still have so much relevance, but I'd love more catchy sing along, popular music that energises me to a) keep on waking up and b) do something about making the world better.

Artist suggestions are good, but specific songs to get me started would be even better. I'd love to hear your recommendations.
posted by pipstar to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing that comes to mind is Michael Franti & Spearhead - Hey World (Remote Control). My second suggestion is not as upbeat and it is an old white guy, but I never get tired of
Kris Kristofferson - Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down. I may be back with more.
posted by diamondsky at 7:53 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if he falls in the genre you're searching for, but almost anything by Phil Ochs... with I Ain't Marching Any More as a great example.

Springsteen's Seeger Sessions might also be of interest to you.
posted by HuronBob at 7:54 PM on September 28, 2013

I was pretty partial to TV on the Radio's Dry Drunk Emperor during the Bush years. Although it's pretty specific to Bush and Iraq, it's well written as a song generally.
posted by fishmasta at 8:32 PM on September 28, 2013

Conor Oberst's side project Desaparecidos does angry protest punk and it's great.

While they are as far as I know white, a lot of their music is in Spanish and/or about Latino issues. Here's their take on "Sheriff Joe," MariKKKopa.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:13 PM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

And then there's Jarvis Cocker: C**ts Are Still Running The World
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:17 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yacht's "Party at the NSA" is a dance-party theme song that will make you think.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:02 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have been enjoying the Herd's 2008 album Summerland - hiphop with a strong anti-Howard flavour (it was the time), but there's a variety of issues canvassed across the album.
posted by chiquitita at 12:39 AM on September 29, 2013

If you speak Chinese and/or Syrian (or if you don't need to understand the lyrics as they're sung in order to get something out of a protest song) I can recommend a couple:

Cui Jian's "Yì Wú Suǒ Yǒu" (in English, "Nothing to My Name") was basically the soundtrack to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. (Bonus live version where both Cui and the audience sound like they're singing their guts out through tears.)

And a more current one, from Syria, 2011, during the height of the popular uprising: Syrian Revolutionary Dabke. (Also sometimes known as "Come on, Bashar, time to leave.") Its writer, Ibrahim Qashoush, was killed by pro-Assad forces about a year ago.

Finally, I'll throw in Acrassicauda's Message from Baghdad. I don't know if you'd call it a protest song, exactly, but it's a good, loud, angry thrash metal song about the horrible state of things in Iraq by people who had to live through it.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:53 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's a great song no matter who does it, but I saw the Dropkick Murphys play "Which Side Are You On" at a union rally in Wisconsin last summer, and it's become my go-to anthem before I head out for actions now...I just want to kick so much ass when I listen to them play that tune.
posted by deliciae at 1:04 AM on September 29, 2013

Oh, and if you aren't averse to Nu Metal, I heartily recommend Otep's Rise, Rebel, Resist. Otep is one of the few woman-fronted metal bands out there, and their work is seriously badass.

Also, I heartily second the Michael Frante recommendation.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:12 AM on September 29, 2013

OK. Thinking about Otep reminded me of my special get-out-the-door-and-go-kick-ass playlist, which is composed mostly of power metal. (Power metal, fwiw, is a bouncy, soaring, dragon-and-troll-ridden metal subgenre that a lot of the other metalheads think is sort of embarassing. But I love it with all my heart.) This is the stuff that gets me going when nothing else can, so I went through it to see if there was anything that might fit your criteria. I think I found a few good tracks. They're not protest songs per se, but they have the right tempo and their lyrics, while vague, have basic, "stay strong and fight"-type messages that might do in a pinch.

Here you go:

Stratovarius, "I'm Still Alive."

Gamma Ray, "Hold Your Ground"

Bloodbound, "Together We Fight"

If you like these, there's definitely more where that came from.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 2:24 AM on September 29, 2013

Seconding The Herd, in particular this ditty (contains bad words).
posted by Admira at 5:36 AM on September 29, 2013

Benjamin Zephaniah

From a recent thread.

Ska from the second wave/two-tone era tends to have positive messages about racial harmony (The Toasters, The Specials).

There was a post or maybe an askme a bit ago about alternative (eg. political) hip hop... probably a search on Oakland hip hop or visit the web site of Jay Smooth.
posted by eviemath at 7:06 AM on September 29, 2013

Also check out Bitch Magazine's website and search in the search bar at the top for "music" (my phone is getting hung up on that right now - sorry for no direct link).

Dangerous Minds sometimes has links to good protest music (probably a search of their web site for "protest music"?).

There's also Ani Difranco and Utah Phillips.

Or some Mano Negro stuff, for Latino/French punk.

K-Os has some socially conscious Canadian hip hop. There's some amazing trans* hip hop out there too, though I can't remember specific names at the moment.
posted by eviemath at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2013

(Re: trans* hip hop, the most recent thing I listened to was from a link off of Black Girl Dangerously).

MIA? For really political punk, I'm told there's Crass. But also L7. Then there's Sleater Kinney and related artists off the Kill Rock Stars label.

On a negative note, I've been disappointed with some "protest song" compilations from more establishment sources. But some of the Smithsonian Folkways compilations based on older recordings from the WPA era (or later but when folklorist Alan Lomax was still around) have that fire still.

Not exactly protest music per se, but your fellow Australian Kim Churchill opened for Billy Bragg at a show I was at last winter, and I've found his cd that I got at the concert to be positive and uplifting in a similar way as good political music. In a similar not quite political but generally commensurate world view vein, I also highly recommend Old Man Ludecke.

Another possible search term of interest would be Algerian-French political music. Heard some in Grenoble earlier this summer and it was good music, and I read elsewhere around that time that there are some artists with really progressive and socially conscious lyrics.
posted by eviemath at 7:35 AM on September 29, 2013

Nina Simone's Mississippi Goddamn. Not white OR male. Plus a great great protest song.
posted by dovesandstones at 11:49 AM on September 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Conation - Troubled Waters LP. Melodic Hardcore band from Newcastle that has some great songs about Asylum Seekers.
posted by Burgatron at 1:31 PM on September 29, 2013

I like The Coup's The Guillotine and Land of Seven Billion Dances.
posted by JDHarper at 4:29 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Does Midnight Oil count again now that Garrett isn't in Parliament?
posted by trialex at 4:43 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh man, I feel your Abbott-shaped pain.

I wonder if you might like Grace Petrie. I encountered her recently at a festival in the UK, and I have been randomly breaking into bits of They Shall Not Pass* ever since. It's a song that references the GFC and its repercussions in Europe, but more broadly it's a song about protest. Her Farewell to Welfare* is also awesome.

If you have any space for another white male (Canadian) in your playlist, you might consider Bruce Cockburn - I particularly love Call it Democracy* and If I Had A Rocket Launcher* - and he probably has newer stuff but I haven't investigated.

*Apparently from this list a good protest song requires swears. Caution!
posted by Cheese Monster at 7:49 PM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

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