Tag Archives: activism

Pushing against hateful narrative with art: an interview with Bristol musician Krantz

Take discovering acid jazz at the age of 12, then studying classical music and throw some beatboxing into the mix, and you’ll have some of the pieces visible that make up Bristol musician and activist, Krantz.

After discovering his music on X (formerly known as Twitter) I contacted Krantz to learn more about his work. It was clear that the man uses all his talents very specifically, and directly, to tackle certain political issues that belong to his proximate surroundings as well as around the globe. One of his latest tracks is a piece of emotional, moving electronica, that is created around a speech from US Senator Nina Turner, which Krantz sampled and puzzled in with the music – as if the powerful words were performed to the music.

During recent Covid lockdowns, Krantz used all of his musical talents, every Sunday, to entertain his fellow neighbors by performing music from his garden patio. Later on, other neighbors and musicians started participating, sending tones across rooftops and lifting people’s spirits.

Krantz took a moment to answer a few questions to further explain his background, music, and future projects. Read his message to the world below and check out his webpage and socials to follow his music.

Halldór Kristínarson: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! First of all, who is Krantz and how did you first get into making music?

Krantz: I’m a pianist, producer, composer, songwriter and beatboxer from Bristol who has a passion for politics and wants to help those speaking truth to power by sampling their spoken dialogue from Youtube videos to create impactful and memorable songs. I want to help them reach as far and wide as possible to show that people are leading the fight against those who continue to want to divide us.

I’m a classically trained pianist and after discovering Acid Jazz at the age of 12 and teaching myself to play Jazz and Funk, I also found a love for emotive classical music after hearing Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio For Strings’. When I began composing on the piano I started beatboxing to give each piece it’s character/ genre and this ability to beatbox and play piano at the same time has led to me supporting the likes of the Dub Pistols, Kosheen and performing at the world-renowned Boom Town Festival on multiple occasions.

My passion for many musical genres is displayed in my huge catalogue of tracks which include Classical, Post Classical, Orchestral Dubstep, Electronica, Hip Hop, Jazz, Beatbox, Funk, DnB, House, Trip Hop and World Fusion and I look forward to continue sharing as much music of varying genres as possible in the future.

HK: Did you decide from the beginning of your career to use your music and your voice for good? Or did politics and protest come into your craft at a later stage?

K: Politics and protest definitely came the more I emotionally matured and realised the good fortune and privilege I’ve had by having opportunities and choices. Before deciding to use the dialogue of truth teller’s dialogue in my tracks, my own lyrics were always very zeitgeist and addressed social, political and environmental issues so it was a natural progression and perhaps was destined to happen.

HK: Why do you think music is such an effective vessel for protest and activism?

K: Most people won’t spend the time watching a debate, an interview or even reading full articles and mostly make decisions on very little information e.g. ‘get Brexit done’. To be able to deliver the truth and the words of truth-tellers to the general public we have to be creative and find vessels that push against the [mainstream media] narrative that are entertaining, memorable through repetition and help induce introspection- you can take a horse to water but can’t make it drink. People need to be in a neutral space away from bias or influence to truly reflect and this is where art and specifically music can be most powerful. I’m creating alternative versions and remixes of multiple dance genres for every song so that the dialogue has a chance to reach as far and wide as possible and for the tracks to be used in DJ mixes online, in bars, festivals, radio and in clubs. The hope is people really enjoy the music, find the dialogue intriguing, want to find out who’s delivering the lyrics and then hopefully start following that person.

HK: You mentioned via our chat, on the medium formerly known as Twitter, that Facebook and Instagram had suppressed your posts after sharing a certain song. Can you tell me more about that?

K: I produced a song and lyric video featuring the dialogue of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) called “The Insurrection” and when trying to boost a post containing the video, Facebook responded by saying it was inappropriate and was not following the rules and regulations. Ever since that point my exposure has been incredibly small and is proving to be a massive obstacle in sharing content with people even within my own social circles let alone the wider public. Twitter is the only platform that really offers me the opportunity to share content to a wide audience and therefore the potential for increased awareness and followers.

Krantz working on ‘We Must Stand Up and Speak the Truth ft. Nina Turner’. Photo retrieved from the official Krantz Facebook page.

HK: How is the scenery around you, music and activism-wise? Where you live and work, do you feel artists are using their voices to create change?

K: I very much keep myself to myself in regards to music creation however I don’t feel enough people are using their privilege and platform for positive means. I’m incredibly lucky to be in a position where I can make a difference in people’s lives and I feel it’s now my duty to make this happen. Fear and hate are constantly being fed to the public and we need to fight against this with an abundance of art filled with messages of optimism, truth and unity.

HK: Who are some of the artists or people that have inspired you?

K: Herbie Hancock, Samuel Barber, Hybrid, Outside, James Brown, Tower Of Power, Pink Floyd, Jazzanova

HK: What do you hope to achieve with your music?

K: I hope to help inspire other artists to produce their own political/protest art, for people to listen to the songs and be inclined to find out more about the featured speaker and to help sow some seeds that lead to introspection. Even if someone initially only engages with the composition hopefully through repetition, the lyrical content will start to penetrate their thoughts.

HK: What is on the horizon for you?

K: I’m continuing to produce a vast amount of songs with alternative versions and remixes which I’ll be releasing over the coming months. The next release is a track featuring James O’Brien (LBC) called “Twaddle Is Still The Order Of The Day” which is about the collusion between politicians and the right-wing newspapers. I’m looking to release it before the end of the year. I’ll then be releasing 3 different versions of a narrative I’ve created using Nina Turner- the song is called “Many Hands Make For Light Work”. The genres are classical, Jazz and Dub.

HK: Thank you again for participating. Anything else you‘d like to shout from the rooftops?

K: Want to say a massive thanks to yourself for putting the time and effort into trying to help make a difference. It’s not easy, you have to have self-belief, believe that hope can materialize and the aptitude to be able to keep on pushing. Keep up the good work as it will pay off and we will help to implement change.

Taking on the role of the animal: An interview with LoonRise (Arnaud Delannoy)

Searching the tags of the internet for new music can lead you into some exciting rabbit holes. This time I was in search of artists who use their talents to elevate the plight of those without a voice. Namely animals. I stumbled upon an album named “Eulogy for the Wordless Souls” by LoonRise. The name alone told me I was on the right path. From there though, it just became more and more interesting. Firstly, even if nowadays music is so incredibly mixed and inspired by the past, I have to say I was, pleasantly, surprised to hear the grunge coming at me through my very worn out headphones.

Personally, grunge played a major factor in my music listening early days, as for so many. But to hear it in 2023 and for it to sound fun and fresh, that just put a big smile on my face. The fact that the singer was then singing about animals, their liberation and humans’ connection to them, well, that just sealed the deal for me.

On the project’s Bandcamp page there is no social media links or nothing. Just a name for the artist responsible: Arnaud Delannoy. Turns out, he is a French multi-instrumentalist and composer who is, apparently, on a mission to learn how to play every instrument in the world. Or so it seems, judging by his moderately popular YouTube channel.

When I wrote to Arnaud inquiring about a possible interview, I told him I really enjoyed his album. He told me, humbly, that mine was the only feedback he’d gotten besides close friends. Which makes sense when you read the interview below – Arnaud has not rushed into telling the world about this particular part of his musical endeavours. Far from it, he is focused on his family and his goats and his countless other musical adventures as well. Good things happen slowly, someone said, and “Eulogy for the Wordless Souls” is a very good thing.

A kind and powerful thing.

Photo by Margaux Chalmel

Halldór Kristínarson: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. I‘m very excited about sharing your album, Eulogy for the Wordless Souls, with the world. What can you tell me about your musical background and who Arnaud Delannoy is?

Arnaud Delannoy: I’m not going to tell my whole life here, I’ll try to make it short! I was taught classical music lessons as a child, first in piano, and much later in cello. Then, for the past 25 years, I taught myself around a hundred instruments, European classical, but also from all over the world. I have always focused my profession as a musician on instrumental diversity. I approached traditional musical styles from different parts of the world, composed and recorded symphonic pieces for classical orchestra, worked as a composer and performer for the theater… I have always done it all alone, writing, recording all the instruments, including mixing. It’s an advantage sometimes, but I’m starting to feel the frustration and the limits.

I’m like a newborn in the rock world! This idea popped into my head one year ago, but before that I hadn’t actually played an electric guitar in over 20 years, when I was in high school.

HK: When I first reached out to you about your grunge-rock, animal rights project LoonRise, you told me that besides a few close friends mine was the first feedback you were getting. And the project is not up on your other social media like YouTube. Why have you not wanted to share this awesome project with the world until now?

AD: I actually do have a YouTube channel which is quite well followed, thanks in particular to videos of exotic instruments. But this LoonRise project is so different that I didn’t want to mix everything up. My fear is giving listeners the impression of having engaged in yet another stylistic exercise by trying out rock music… However playing rock is an old, deep and above all sincere desire. So I chose to start from scratch and I created a new channel just for LoonRise. It’s not that I didn’t want to share this project with the world!

I’m at the very beginning of the process, my priority so far was to complete my album, I haven’t thought strategy yet. Should I find a music label ? Should I use promotion on social media ? Should I seek a financial support to start a group? These questions are not the most exciting for me, but I’ll have to seriously look into this.

HK: Since when have you had interested in the rights of animals? What motivated you to make a whole album about the subject?

AD: This position on animals comes from a long reflection, over several years. A decade ago, I was like everyone else, eating meat without even thinking about what was behind it. I began a relationship with a young vegetarian woman, who has since become my wife. Very slowly, and very gradually, her point of view began to open my eyes. The second trigger was when we took in goat kids rescued from slaughter. I quickly realized that what is usually referred to as «farm animals» are life companions as intelligent, endearing and sensitive as cats and dogs. From there, in my perspective, eating pork, beef, was no more justifiable than eating the neighbor’s dog. The line that we draw between the «friendly» and «edible» species no longer made sense – and going further, the line that we draw between human and non-human animals. So I started to learn more about the breeding and slaughter conditions of these farm animals, as well as the ecological impact of their consumption. And the more I learned, the more difficult it was for me to accept what is happening daily around the life industry.

When I decided to embark on this rock project, it was obvious to me that this was the subject I wanted to talk about. I had no desire to write about myself. Animals will never have the opportunity to express themselves in words, so I have, for most songs, taken on the role of an animal, imagined how by his eyes he could describe the tortures that humans inflicted on him – whether by his consumption, exploitation, hunting or destruction of his habitat…

But the album is not only about that, I also mention my concerns about the climate and ecological disaster towards which the human rushes blindly… but after all, animal cause and ecology are two sides of the same struggle.

This is what the name LoonRise says. I have long been moved by the call of the loons (which I unfortunately do not find in my country). These birds have a call full of mystery, one that best evokes the depths and secrets of nature. It is not without reason that it is so used, often wrongly and through, in the cinema, to create any wild nature atmosphere!

LoonRise means the uprising, the revolt of nature.

HK: When it comes to music who are some of your inspirations? What about in regards to your activism, what inspires you to use your voice and your talent in this way?

AD: Studies show that the music we listen to as teenagers will continue to affect us throughout our adult lives…  I started my adolescence in ’96, just after the grunge wave, but it still resonated in the middle school yard. Even if I listened to a lot of older rock, especially the period late 60’s – early 70’s, I remained more deeply marked by the music of the 90’s. My inspirations for this album are therefore obvious: Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, even Silverchair… and of course Nirvana.

This genre of rock also seems to me to be the most effective to carry the message I want to convey. It can be both heavy and gentle, it allows to sing, scream with rage but also whisper. It is not a necessarily dark and violent genre, there can be light, it can express hope. It suits me precisely because I do not define myself as a dark and desperate person.

Unlike metal, the melody is omnipresent, preponderant. I’m a big fan of melody, and that’s where I focus the most. It’s the key to getting into the mind of listeners. It is what we remember, that we listen above all. And in my opinion, it is what makes it possible to transmit a message…

Photo by Margaux Chalmel

HK: Why do you think music is a effective form of protest?

AD: As for the animal and ecological cause, is there really an effective way to protest? I have a lot of admiration for these young people who shout their despair at climate inaction by blocking roads, even sticking themselves to the asphalt, those who break the law by spraying red paint on butcher shops…  But they also attract exasperation and even violence. Openly protesting on these issues creates a fierce counter-reaction, and many reinforce their anti-environmentalist positions.

What seemed obvious to me is that it is very difficult to convince through dialogue regarding the animal cause. People are so much set in their ways, caring about their piece of daily flesh on the plate, that they turn away as soon as we try to question the human right to dispose of the life of animals. Many stubbornly refuse to know what is happening before the steak or milk bottle arrives in the supermarket aisle. Conversations often become aggressive, and never lead to anything. With meat, cognitive dissonance is very strong. I know, I was a willing victim of it for a good part of my life!

We need to find ways to get that message through the back door.

I don’t know yet if I will have a different impact with music. I would like to imagine that some listeners who will appreciate my music will be touched by certain sentences, certain ideas, that would emerge… But I don’t expect miracles. I won’t convert entire halls to veganism after a concert! This is a long path.

Anyway, for me, I couldn’t image expressing myself otherwise.

That said, it already worked a bit, a musician friend who helped me a few days to finish the mix decided, after leaving the studio, to stop eating meat. He was already on his way to thinking, but listening to my songs over and over prompted him to take another step. Who knows, maybe I’ve even spared the life of a chicken!

HK: What do you hope to achieve with Loonrise and the rest of your musical projects?

AD: As I said, in the LoonRise project, for the moment I am both well advanced, since the album is finished, but also at the beginning, since I have neither band nor public.

My priority is to find musicians to play the songs on stage, it’s essential if I want to expand my audience a little and make my lyrics heard by more! I’m not looking for fame or money with this project. I lead the life I want to have, and my priorities will always be to have time for myself, at home, with my wife… and goats. But I admit that I have been a solitary musician locked in his studio for too long, I would like to find again the thrill of being on the rock stage one day. Bringing these song to life together with other musicians would be a great achievement for me!

HK: What do you have coming up, project wise, musical or not?

AD: For now my life has gotten very busy, my biggest project right now is to finish renovating my house with my wife! Nothing to do with music, unfortunately, and it takes me a lot longer than making an album. Regarding the music, I should soon finish a project of Celtic « stock music » that I launched with a friend a few months ago. So it really has nothing to do with rock, since I play bagpipes, violin and harp!

In my personal projects, there is no shortage of desires, I still have many foreign instruments for which I would like to write compositions, full of symphonic themes that I would like to explore. And also, of course, I already have in mind the idea of writing new rock songs… But I think the first thing I’ll do when I get some time is make one or more video clips for the LoonRise project.

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

AD: There are so many things I could shout from rooftops! I only mentioned the violence of humans against other species, but the violence of humans against themselves is an unlimited source of indignation. But I do not feel legitimate enough on these subjects to shout them, others are more concerned than me and will do it better. So I think I’ll just stay on the side of those who have no words, the wordless, and keep doing it for them.

BANTU charged and relevant as ever on What Is Your Breaking Point?

It must take a rare kind of resolve to continue to lay down the marker with daring political views as Afrobeat masters BANTU have done over the years, particularly on their latest record What Is Your Breaking Point?

What Is Your Breaking Point? album cover.

This article was written by Gabriel Myers Hansen and originally published on the Music In Africa webpage under a Creative Commons License.

The 13-piece collective’s new album, a brazen 10-track manifesto following 2020’s Everybody Get Agenda and2017’s Agberos International, not only strips back dire social circumstances that have bedevilled [insert African country] but also works as the soundtrack to an impending revolution.

What Is Your Breaking Point? is rooted in traditions originally plotted by Fela Kuti, and sees BANTU devotedly playing to the strengths and identity of Afrobeat. Mainly via the charisma of frontman Adé Bantu’s voice, the project bursts with the quintessential Fela-esque fury yet hopeful vision of Nigeria, driven by frantic percussion work, charged horn sections and biting allegories conveyed in English, West African pidgin, and Yoruba.

Shorn of filler verbiage or breathers, the collection invites listeners to engage with Africa’s dynamic political landscape while underscoring the transformative muscle of music, diving headfirst into the key issues: corruption, blind imitation of Western culture, the troubling perpetuation of gender norms and the danger of remaining silent.

Largely, when Afrobeat takes on the ‘S’, it paints a vain and glamorous picture preoccupied with love, sex and other nightlife rituals. Take the consonant away, and it’s serious business. What Is Your Breaking Point?, whose only guest is African-American rapper Akua Naru, does precisely this.

The feverishly paced ‘Wayo and Division’ kicks things off, tackling an integrity deficit among Africa’s leadership, which is often characterised by a strategy of deceit and division. ‘Japa’ is a cautionary tale against the mass exodus of Africans to the West, highlighting the perils of illegal migration and the illusory promise of greener pastures. “You just dey run from frying pan to fire,” a line goes. 

‘Ten Times Backwards’ rues the crippling of many an African dream by regressive structures, while ‘Worm and Grass’ returns to the topics of duplicity and manipulation among the ruling class. ‘Borrow Borrow’ examines the aftereffects of Western imperialism, while sobering revelations on ‘Africa for Sale’ summon more troubled sighs.

How much longer must this continue? When do we collectively decide that enough is enough? This is the focus of ‘Breaking Point’, and the question that shines throughout the project.

Focus track ‘Your Silence’, a sublime and reflective highlife (or Afrobeats) offering, resonates with the sentiments of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, invoking a connection to Niemöller’s famous quote on the Nazi atrocities. “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me,” Niemöller mourns.

The song prompts introspection and encourages listeners to consider the consequences of silence in the face of injustice. “The silence no go protect you,” is how BANTU puts it.

The project closes out with ‘We No Go Gree’, which retains the urgent ardour it commences 45 minutes earlier. “The political elites have only been concerned with short-term benefits,” Adé declares in his parting message, although if you are an African, this goes without saying. “We must take back our freedom, our voices and our future.”

These days, commentary surrounding governance on the continent can feel like a broken record, seeing how poorly a number of African countries have been run for decades. And so, while this new project, a fearless Afrobeat album of political resilience, represents an urgent and valuable perspective on the problem with Africa’s administration, I wonder how many more BANTU albums must arrive in the coming years to catalyse true transformation. As Sam Cooke once sang, “A change is gon’ come”, but when?

The answer remains vague, but until then, the struggle continues. Aluta continua!