After traveling frequently to Ethiopia, New Zealand-born, New York-based artist Kimbra, didn’t think twice about working with humanitarian organisation So They Can. The organisation empowers children and helps them receive much needed education in poor parts of the African continent.
“Across sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 40% of girls married before the age of 18, and the COVID-19 pandemic is putting millions more at risk. Education can make all the difference –– each additional year of secondary school significantly reduces a girl’s risk for child marriage.”
Kimbra wrote Leave No Girl Behind exclusively in support of the organisation and young girls in East Africa. The artist hopes that the song can motivate people around the world to participate and be part of helping girls get life-changing education.
“Music has this power to create a feeling of a transcendent moment in us. When we feel transcendent, we often go, ‘Oh, I want to do more. I want to give more. I can love more.’ If music can make you feel that, then you’re driven to be like, ‘Let me buy the song, engage with this organization, and maybe sponsor a young girl or give directly to the campaign.’ If I could shift people’s perception of what they can do, that would be wonderful.” – Kimbra
In the United States, the year begins with an insurgence when violent protesters storm the Capitol, an event that leaves five people dead and a divided nation terrified.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban make a swift takeover of the country which leads to many countries’ military operatives and other staff leaving in a chaotic fashion. The United Nations describes the current situation in Afghanistan as a humanitarian disaster.
Artists around the world are facing harassment and persecution for their art. While looking only at recent headlines on the page of Freemuse, a watchdog organisation dedicated to raising awareness about artists at risk and oppression of artistic freedom, one can see Turkey, Yemen, Kenya, and more countries detaining and sentencing artists for their words and work. In other countries, like Colombia, musicians have been murdered.
In India, tons of new protest songs have sprung up in support of Indian farmers protesting new laws that they say will destroy their livelihood and put the country’s agricultural sector in corporate hands. Although the Indian government has fought the protests by, among other things, shutting down music online (to which YouTube obliged) it hasn’t stopped the news from spreading. Heck, even Rhianna turned Twitter upside down while publicly voicing her support for Indian farmers.
The planet is overheating; we have not reached gender equality in most places; people are still racist as hell; everyone is at war; and animals, nature, and people around the world are being tortured on a daily basis.
But luckily, so that we all don’t tumble into a pit of depression, there are artists, journalists, and activists working hard every day, spending all their efforts on making this world more beautiful, more informative, and more just. The job for the rest of us is to be aware of that, to share that hard work, point it out, share arts, share beauty among each other, and stand together against tyranny wherever it rears its ugly head.
And Bandcamp, the world’s greatest online music service, has decided to help artists make the world more beautiful by waiving their revenue share on the first Friday of every month. This is a massive help for musicians around the world who have lost their income due to venues closing down because of COVID.
Below are some of our favorite protest albums released in 2021, and additionally you can check out our Spotify playlist, Selected Protest Music of 2021, which counts more than 100 releases from this year in over six hours.
We want to pay it forward by Shout!ing our praise and support for these artists from every rooftop we can. While in reality there are too many to count, some of our favorite releases of the year include: wildlife electronica taking a stand for endangered wildlife; all-female garage rock that kicks patriarchy in the teeth with infectious grooves and epic riffs that appear out of left field; a mesmerizing new release from the poet and multimedia pioneer of the Black Quantum Futurism movement; a compilation from Detroit featuring a wide array of musicians and audio samples taken from Black Lives Matter protests; hardcore political punk from Tunisia; transcontinental experimental jazz that calls global listeners to action; a Herculean feat of screamo from Galicia, Spain; punk rock from Florida whose melodies cling to you like the southern humidity out of which it’s born; pared down British indie-folk brimming with deftly-penned lyrics; a one of a kind, genre-, species-, and gender-bending release from Switzerland that exposes horrors against animals, and more!
Thank you to all the musicians who have kept us engaged and called to action throughout the darkest moments of the year, and thank you to all the Shouts! supporters out there for joining us here on the rooftops of our crumbling empires and faulty institutions. May they collapse, and may we compassionately and fiercely rebuild what is broken, hand in hand, with speakers blasting the whole time.
From the jazzy side of this year’s releases comes Black To The Future, a stunning piece of protest work by Sons of Kemet. This album will make you move your feet and want to get up and join the fight: “Another track, Hustle, has a deep, strong beat to it that makes one want to stand up and march in rhythm. The chorus, “Born from the mud with the hustle inside me”, repeats in such a way that it becomes a mantra that one can imagine thousands of people chanting on the street while demanding change.” – from our article about the album.
This all female garage rock group gives patriarchy a damn good kick in the butt on what is one of our favorite releases of 2021. Tackling subjects such as environmental inaction, colonialism, political faults of their own government and more, this three-piece pummels through your eardrums in a highly enjoyable manner. If you love riff filled, heavy, riot- grrrl rock then you need to hear Blood Lemon’s self titled debut album.
“Rarely do rage and patience find such companionship in one another as they do on this album; this is a kind of musical maturity not often seen in screamo, and another reason why Tenue are in a league of their own. You, listener, will feel catharsis, exhaustion, rage, amplification, and augmentation in this album, amidst its blasts and d-beats, its frenetic rising and swelling and exploding guitar work.” – from Nathaniel Youman’s review of the album.
From sounding like a proper MC to a soothing, yet fiery, wizard, Moor Mother is bound to move you on her latest album, ‘Black Encyclopedia of the Air’. The multi-disciplinary artist and activist has created a piece of musical work that sounds like nothing else you’ll have heard this year.
Grace Petrie is no stranger to making protest music, and her years of development shines through on her latest effort. With her wit and grit on top of her socially driven lyrics and with her acoustic axe up front, she rages on against injustice in the most entertaining of ways.
“In what strikes the ear first as swathes of digitally manipulated noise and vaguely industrial, futuristic electronic free-balling, “Life in Warp” affords its listener a vivid and disorienting experience haunted by the sounds of a wide array of endangered animals from around the globe. The result is something like wildlife-electronica—replete with walrus beats and humpback whale drones—but is so much more serious, devastating, and deferential.” – from Nathaniel Youman’s review of the album.
Hardcore and protest has always gone hand in hand. Whether the music is used to fuel rage against the system and the ones in power or against a personal sorrow we all can relate to, hardcore music is there to provide the soundtrack to the protest – and a friends-filled pit to mosh it out in. D.O.G. have a statement in their name which appearantly stands for Death Of God, Decency Over Government, Debt Of Guilt. The music follows the name as they protest with blasting, groovy riffs and ragged screams. A wonderfully heavy effort.
We covered one of the singles off of Debt Neglector’s album back in October as they wrote a song about their furry friend, and whenever a song is written about dogs we automatically get excited. Obviously it doesn’t hurt that the music Debt Neglector make is extremely fun punk rock that makes you want to jump and sing along. All proceeds from the sale of the album will be split evenly between Flint Kids Fund (flintkids.org) and Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village (www.sbev.org).
This compilation of Black Lives Matter protest audio and thematically related songs covers a wide breadth of genres and styles, all from Detroit artists. As an album, it well represents the strange, unpredictable, unjust at times, year of 2021. All proceeds from the album sales will be donated and split between General Baker Institute and one more organization to be determined.
A gender and species bending drag cow and an animal liberation soldier, Soya the Cow is one musician to keep an eye on. On her catchy, debut pop album she explores the world of animal rights activism and pleads to her human friends to slow down and explore with her a beautiful, alternative world where humans and animals live together as friends – not as consumers and meals.
Political metal music and Tunisia are not two things that are exactly swarming global radio stations, as far as we know. But we are very glad that we came across heavy makers Znous from Tunisia. Their album, Znousland 3, is a pure banger and critical dissection of Tunisian society. Stories of Tunisian female field workers and their exploitation, slavery in north Africa, racism, songs to the inner spirits and “spit on the face of one of the most toxic, ignorant, macho, criminal and disgusting politicians in Tunisian history” – this is some of what you’ll hear (in Tunisian with English lyrics) mixed up with straight up, riffs-and-solo -filled metal.
The Anti Virals were fed up, and that is a good thing for the rest of us. Sometimes, frustration leads to wonderful music. In this particular case it is danceable, singalong punk rock, made in protest and solidarity as the band members explained on their FB page: “We are the voice for those who may feel bullied by this world! We are that thing you wish you could say but are afraid to. We are going to say it for you!”
Some people say there is no protest music anymore.
The truth is a bit different though. All around the world, there are so many people hurting, anywhere you look, and this seemingly never changes. But, there are also so many artists using their creative minds to start positive conversations about how things can change for the better. This can easily be seen by checking out the curated Shouts playlist and other protest music playlists.
How can there be a lack of protest music in a world like this? If one digs under the most upper layer of mainstream surfaces one can easily find a plethora of music by artists who are sick and tired of the lack of empathy in this world and who use their talents to be a part of a more compassionate world.
Uriya Rosenman is a rapper. He was born on the spot of this planet that now is called Israel.
Sameh Zakout is a rapper. He was born on the spot of this planet that now is called Palestine.
The two spent some time together. They talked. The argued. They became friends. Because in the end, we are all the same. We all poo. We all pee. We all breathe oxygen. And we all just want to live a kind life without nonsense and violence.
This is just one song of so many that are trying to make the world a better place.