This week the BBC program Front Row had an interesting feature on protest songs. Dorian Lynskey was one of the guests, he’s just written the new book “33 Revolutions per Minute”.
The book covers seven decades of protest in Western music including Victor Jara, Neil Young, Fela Kuti, and…Billie Holiday. Yes, that Billie Holiday: the gardenia, the heroin, the painful personal life, the distinctively beautiful voice, and the iconic song, “Strange Fruit”. Lynskey contends that song is “where the protest song as pop song starts”.
Another insight comes from Chuck D of Public Enemy, in his belief that “rap music represented a kind of CNN for black people”. That thought made for a good segue into the recent accounts of music and poets coming together in the public protests in North Africa and the Middle East to create immediate musical responses to unfolding events.
Unfortunately, when asked about current developments in Libya and the question, “do we know of any musical response there?” Front Row‘s BBC Arabic correspondent said “there’s not much space for songs there.” That’s not quite true, as we know from the recent flood of outspoken music and videos from Libyan rapper/hip-hop artist Ibn Thabit and others in that region.
My copy of “33 Revolutions per Minute” is on pre-order, I expect it to arrive sometime soon. (The US release date is April 5th). We’ll talk about it more later here after I’ve had a chance to read it.
In the meantime, you can click here to listen to the podcast of this week’s Front Row and enjoy Ibn Thabit’s Libyan song of liberation:
“…this is our country this is our time
let them see the rage underneath our stress
the temperature is at the exploding point
how long can we stand to wait for change?”