Tag Archives: 2020

A Protest Music Interview: Madara

The Manusmriti, a sort of a bible for Hindu people, divides the Indian people into categories based on their work and their social duties. This scripture is at least 3,000 years old but today, still, people in India have to endure this ancient system that now has a new term: caste.

Although discrimination on the basis of caste was legally banned in 1948 the problem continues in India today. But some people try to fight this old system and use their voice in a positive way. One of them is Madara, a rapper from an upper caste family who has witnessed how this outdated social system affects all aspects of the world he lives in.

Halldór Kristínarson: Your song Jaat Kya Hai focuses on the caste system in India. How have you personally seen this system affect people?

Madara: I come from an upper caste Hindu Family and of course I’ve seen discrimination in my family in about every other conversation. It’s almost a trend to call them names, use curse words to assassinate their character and suppress their voice. My grandfather and my uncles have been the biggest example whom I have seen treating lower caste people badly or bad-mouthing about them for no reason.

HK: What other issues motivate you to make music and pen down some lyrics?

M: Every issue I’ve personally experienced or read and which conflicts with my personal ethics or because of which I have seen people around me suffering. Like child marriage, colorism, racism, dowry, farmers suicide, education system, unemployment, prostitutes, etc.

HK: Has your music always been politically driven or made in protest?

M: No. I didn’t start my rap with protest lyrics. I’ve written many tracks on different topics as I don’t believe in sticking to a certain type of rap, rather I like to call myself a conscious rapper who writes on contemporary topics. It’s just that I’ve released only the political ones for now.

HK: Have you received any backlash or threats for the music you make?

M: Yeah a lot, I keep getting death threats every now and then but I’m habitual now. Everybody dies but not everybody lives.

HK: How is the protest music scene where you live? Are there many musicians and artists using their voices for good?

M: Protest scene here is not how we would like to imagine it to be honest. As per Law we do have freedom of speech in our constitution but reality is quite different. Most of the artists who want to speak up against the system, don’t, as they are afraid of the consequences.

HK: One of my favorite rap songs of 2019 was the banging Tukde Tukde Gang. Can you explain a bit what that song is about?

M: That song explains the faulty education system of India. If our ministers are holding fake degrees and not accepting it, how will they teach us? I was doing my research on social evils in India and I found out that the root cause of everything is education in which the government is investing very little and when someone raises their voice against it they’re called “Tukde Tukde Gang” but in reality it is the government who should be called that for using religion politics to break people.*

HK: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you? Specifically regarding your lyrics, are there any people who have made an impact on your work?

M: There are many, I love reading and hence in the field of writing I would like to mention Harishankar Parsai, Javed Akhtar, Kamleshwar, Piyush Mishra, Rahat Indori, Munnawar Rana, Paash etc.

HK: How have you been coping with this strange year of 2020? Are there any online live performances schedules for your global fans?

M: It’s been one terrible year all around. There are no online live performances as of now. I’ll start performing in 2022. I’m just surviving on my savings for now, using them to make my tracks.

HK: Thank you very much for participating. Is there anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

M: Never stop questioning!

* “Tukde Tukde Gang is a pejorative political catchphrase used in India by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sympathisers accusing their critics for allegedly supporting sedition and secessionism.” Taken from Wikipedia

A Protest Music Interview: Tak Havoc

Hailing originally from Alaska, young rapper Tak Havoc is now based a bit further south in the state of Oregon. After discovering his latest album and collaboration with DJ Allegiance I chatted with him online and asked him a bit about his new album, titled Kill The Klan.

Scrolling through song titles such as Uncle Sam Is A Dikkk, Qualified Immunity and the title song Kill The Klan it is clear that although it is the year 2020 artists such as Tak find the need to play their part in tearing down old, ignorant and hateful structures.

Even if Tak told me that his music has not always been made in protest it seems to me that some activist creativity was dwelling inside him when you look at some of his musical inspirations – Pink Floyd, Dead Kennedys, Nina Simone, George Carlin – this young man has a voice and he was perhaps always meant to use it.

Halldór Kristínarson: You recently released your latest effort, a full length album called Kill The Klan. Can you tell me a bit about the process behind creating and recording this album and how it makes you feel to have to talk about the Klan in 2020?

Tak Havoc: The fact that it’s 2020 and we’re still trying to figure out how to completely eliminate hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan is disheartening, but not surprising. Passiveness is a HUGE problem here in America. Lots of people on both sides seem to have an issue with this, but when it comes to conservatives…it almost feels like they have a personal vendetta against decency.

So, when Ian (DJ Allegiance) and I were talking in July, I asked what kind of record he wanted to do.

He told me we needed to get political.

He sent me a good handful of gorgeous beats to choose from and we ended up crafting “Kill The Klan” over the last month and a half.

HK: What do you feel about the intersection between music and activism? Do the two go hand in hand or should they be separated?

TH: The revolution is always gonna need a soundtrack. I don’t think you could ever separate the two. I think they go hand in hand. The dopest protests I’ve seen have been in Portland where they have the drumline and the homie playing the trumpet and people chanting. That energy is infectious and it continues even after the gas and “nonlethal” rounds are being fired on these peaceful protestors. The music is like the pulse of the movement.

HK: Has your music always been political or driven by social justice and activism?

TH: Not even close, honestly. I like to make happier, more abstract music most of the time cuz that’s usually where my head’s at. But when Breonna Taylor (a respected EMT) was murdered by police officers in her own home while she was sleeping, I was disgusted and enraged.

They created a law in this woman’s name (Breonna’s Law) and yet they have yet to charge a single officer for her murder. That, to me, is one of the THOUSANDS of confident displays of racism being enforced by law enforcement today.

I couldn’t keep silent. I make music 24/7 and it reflects wherever I’m at in life, at that moment. And this is where I’m at now, caught in a war for justice and basic human dignity.

HK: Who are some of your inspiriations, musicially or otherwise?

TH: Pink Floyd, MF Doom, Aesop Rock, Del The Funky Homosapien, King Gizzard, Dead Kennedys, Dead Prez, Slum Village, Freddie Gibbs, Nina Simone, Crystal Method, The Pharcyde, George Carlin, Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks

HK: How is the protest music scene in your home area? Do you feel musicians are generally using their voices for good today or do you feel they can do better?

TH: Alaska has a lot of dope emcees shedding light on important issues. I think overall, Alaskan music artists have come a LONG way.

I think there’s still a lot more work to do in terms of originality with a good chunk of Alaskan emcees, but there’s a lot of standout acts like DJ Allegiance, Darius Dossman, Starbuks, Sean Van Camp, Shamazz James, Trinity Beats, Madd Angler, Keanepok, Johnny Kohler and Lee Jones who blow my mind. They’re the ones to pay attention to in my book. They know what time it is.

HK: How is the music scene in Oregon compared to your native Alaska? What made you move places?

TH: It’s weird comparing the two. Alaska’s music scene as of right now is pretty involved. Lots of cliques, lots of competition, but it stays friendly for the most part. Everybody just wants to have fun, get on stage and make the crowd move. Not NEARLY enough venues though.

Oregon has impressed me with its music scene. It’s one of the reasons my fiancee and I moved out here. I’m a bit of a hermit by nature and yet the scene has been very welcoming. You get a real sense of community nearly instantly.

HK: What is on the horizon for you?

TH: Three new projects in the works! So needless to say, I have my hands full!

HK: Thank you very much for participating. Is there anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

TH: Arrest Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove for the murder of Breonna Taylor!

End qualified immunity for law enforcement, nationwide!

God is love!

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A Protest Music Interview: Louis Rive

Scotland and Barcelona; two places that are not only both fighting for their sovereignty but also two places that support each other. Louis Rive is a singer-songwriter that now has a relationship with both of these places and they have become, in part, what he writes music about.

Louis tells stories (with beautifully strong Scottish R’s), with the aid of his guitar and proudly keeps alive a path that artists before him lay down. He writes on his Bandcamp page that he has met “every type of person there is to meet” in the past decade or so because of his work. I contacted Louis from my temporary home on the other side of Spain and asked him about his music, his own story and his mysterious work that allowed him to meet such fascinating people worthy of being put into song.

Halldór Kristínarson: First of all, for those not familiar with your work, who is Louis Rive?

Louis Rive: I am a singer-songwriter currently in Barcelona but soon to be in Glasgow. If we are going down the nationality route, I am Scottish. My music is rooted in a folk tradition, but not about goblins and faeries or anything like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love traditional folk music, but my songs are there to narrate modern life; identity, political ineptitude, modern imperialism and the world of work.

HK: You mention in the text about your album The Cheap Part of Town that you have met a lot of interesting people, some of whom become part of your stories. What is this work you have partaken in?

LR: I’ve worked many jobs. Here are a few. Bell boy, cleaner, filleting chicken in an industrial kitchen, pot wash, bookie, Georgian-themed human statue, ghost in a haunted house, primary school teacher, translator, Christmas tree salesman.

There are more if I think about it, but these are probably a good start.

HK: You just released a new single ‘Where Do We Go From Here’. Can you tell us a bit about the song and its content?

LR: The song was inspired by events taking place in Scotland at the moment. Scotland has a dark past, one which clashes a bit with the stereotypical, tartan-tinged image of an indefatigable small nation. I have no doubt that we can become that nation, but to get there we have to acknowledge where we came from; it’s the basis for everything. Recent events in George Square, Glasgow, showed a face off between right–wing groups defending statues and left-wing ones advocating said statues’ removal. All the while the police maintained an uneasy presence in the middle. It was like Scotland in miniature; people focused on the past while others sought to define an alternative future, all the while the state maintaining a status quo that no-one benefits from. Past, present and future, ‘Where Do We Go from Here?’

HK: Has your music always been political or made in protest?

LR: Political no, not always. It started as a way to highlight the absurdity of modern life; this conveyor belt of work, consumption, kids, mortgage and death that I always felt was the elephant in the room when it came to modern living. The political aspect was an extension of this. Nina Simone, and I paraphrase, said that it is the duty of musicians to give voice to those faced with injustice. There is no shortage of injustice at the moment, especially in the UK, so the combination of Brexit, institutional racism towards BAME communities, police brutality, inept government and the financial impossibility facing young people at the moment brought out these particularly political protest songs.

HK: How did it happen that you moved to Barcelona, Spain? How is the music scene there, especially protest music, different from your home country the UK?

LR: I’d like to be honest about it. I ended up in Barcelona as a stop on the Caledonian lager train around Europe, it was coincidence. I was living a life of fairly meaningless nihilism and Barcelona catered to that. When I arrived I knew very little of either the music scene or the political situation. I don’t pass comment on things I don’t know well enough, but I will say this. Social change needs a soundtrack, whatever that may be. The Catalan language lends itself well to this, and pre-covid there were many cultural events that supported the independence cause; the two were inseparable. Music’s power should not be underrated with regards to social change, and I hope I can play a part in this idea of social change through culture when I return to Scotland.

HK: What is your take on music and activism and whether the two should be intertwined or separated?

LR: Well, it’s up to the musician really. I completely abhor the idea of people’s music being used to support causes that don’t represent the artist’ views, something very evident by the use of music at Trump rallies, and closer to home the Brexit campaign. On a personal level, I write my music with the idea of narrating the injustices of life and attempting to spark constructive debate, so I would say that my music IS my activism. However, it is each to their own, art is personal and it is up to each artist to use their art as they see fit.

HK: What’s your take on the socially conscious music scene in Barcelona? Do you feel there is a rich environment of artists using their voices responsibly or not enough?

LR: The issue with socially conscious music as you put it, or at least the issue that I find, is that it is very polarising: people either love it or hate it. Music, for a lot of people, is escapism and many people don’t want to hear about the drudgery of modern life when it is something that they live day in, day out. That’s their choice as the listener, and I respect that. In terms of musicians it is the same. There are plenty of artists here in Spain who use their voice to highlight social issues, especially in the world of hip-hop and rap, but the lines of free speech in the country are becoming draconian in their clarity, as can be seen by the exile of rapper Valtònyc and the jailing of Pablo Hásel.

See also: https://freemuse.org/news/i-am-explaining-the-truth-and-they-want-to-put-me-in-jail-interview-with-spanish-rapper-pablo-hasel

HK: What is on the horizon for you?

LR: I am taking my music to Scotland in July. The current situation isn’t amazingly hopeful, both musically and politically, but I feel I can become part of a scene that lends its voice to positive social change. I would like to record a new album this winter, restrictions permitting.

HK: Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

LR: Sure. It is a really tough time for musicians, many of whom are basically facing artistic extinction. If you like the music that I do, or it speaks to you, then I ask you to share it. Writing what is in effect protest music, is a grassroots game. Building momentum and listenership is crucial, not just for my music, but for thousands of other musicians whose words may go unheard. For this reason sharing is crucial.

Learn more about Louis’ work on Bandcamp ı Spotify ı Facebook ı Twitter

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