First for music news
This Week's Issue
You’re logged in

NME Blogs - NME Blogs

Pussy Riot Prove That Protest Rock Is Alive And Kicking

By Tim Chester

Posted on 08 Mar 12

 
 

Is protest music dead? Remember that perennial little scuffle that resurfaces every six months or so, as western rock fans and critics debate the merits of Billy Bragg round the St Pauls campsite versus Bob Dylan of yesteryear, or try to rank sixties CSNY against noughties Neil Young, Lennon with Tom Morello, or Joni vs Harvey?

Russian punks Pussy Riot would probably find the whole debate a little laughable; they’ve just been arrested for performing a track called ‘Holy Shit’ at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in defiance of topless tyrant Putin’s neverending seat at the height of power.






As Vlad gets ready to outstay his welcome for another six years at least, and musicians do what they frequently do – voice their concern the best way they know how - here’s a whistlestop round-up of others making a stand across the globe today.

Syria

Syria - top of the news agenda again today as the country’s deputy oil minister Abdo Hussameddin announces his defection from the regime - has long had its uprising and subsequent supression soundtracked by protest songs. Take this anonymous dispatch, ‘Statement Number One’, which features the lyrics: "Statement number one / the Syrian people will not be humiliated / statement number one / we sure won't stay like this / statement number one / from the Houran comes good news / statement number one / the Syrian people are revolting”.



Its authors remained anonymous, partly because it was the first track to overtly call for a revolution, but also after what happened to revered protest singer Ibrahim Qashoush, an amateur poet whose songs mocked al-Assad and formed the backbone of numerous popular slogans that was found floating in a river with his throat slashed.



Iran

With international pressure mounting on the isolated nation and its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei setting up a new body to monitor the internet, underground reactionary music is as vital as ever.

In Mohsen Namjoo, referred to by the New York Times as the “Persion Bob Dylan”, the country has a folk rock-flavoured resistence while rapper Shahin Najafi offers a rougher, more bile-drenched take on things, most notably through his caustic take on repression, ‘Our Doggy Life’.



China

Despite strict regulation and internet control, protest music thrives in the most populous nation on Earth. Halfway through last year an unnamed and now missing Mongolian student and rapper had a track removed from the web before he was repeatedly questioned and removed himself. We should count ourselves fortunate we’re free to hear his effort, an acoustic guitar-backed rap telling the tale of a Mongolian herder who was brutally murdered [full story on freedom of musical expression site Freemuse].

Russia

Pussy Riot are by far the only dissident musicians in the country. Noize MC is another outspoken rapper unafraid to voice his concern, frequently risking punishment to address crowds at anti-government demonstrations.



As this briefest of blogs testifies, the protest tune is alive and kicking across the globe (NPR also ran an illuminating series). Greece has seen its bankruptcy accompanied by all manner of tunes while the Hot Arabic Music blog has documented the Arab Spring soundtrack across the region and Israel and Palestine share at least one thing in common - outraged musicians.

Wherever you look in the world the message is depressingly similar: corruption, bad leadership, greed and suppression are rife. Fortunately, some kind of artistic reaction is never far behind.

And in actual fact, one of our homegrown songwriters sums it up most universally and succinctly.



 
 
 
Comments

Please login to add your comment.

 
Latest Tickets - Booking Now
 
Know Your NME
 

 
Most Read News
Popular This Week
NME Store & Framed Prints
Inside NME.COM
On NME.COM Today