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Best Of Protest Music 2021: A Turbulent Year Reviewed

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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.

See also: Action For Afghanistan: Racetraitor, Disappear, Life Force, Eighteen Visions And More On New Benefit Compilation

In Russia, opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, is sentenced to years in prison prompting protests around the country. Members of activist music collective Pussy Riot have been detained and jailed for actively using their voices in protest of the oppressive Russian regime. Some of them have fled Russia because of constant harassment from authorities and threats to their safety.

While the supreme court in Mexico rules that penalizing abortion is unconstitutional, state officials across the U.S. border in Texas put a new law into effect which bans abortion after six weeks.

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.

See also: Farmers In India Are Protesting And Their Soundtrack Keeps Growing

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.  


Black To The Future by Sons of Kemet

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.

Blood Lemon by Blood Lemon

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.

Territorios by Tenue

“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.

Black Encyclopedia of the Air by Moor Mother

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.

Connectivity by Grace Petrie

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.

Life In Warp by A lake by the mõõn

“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.

ANTI by D.O.G.

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.

Dirty Water by Debt Neglector

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).

No Justice, No Peace by Various Artists

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.

Purple Grass by Soya The Cow

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.

Znousland 3 by Znous

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.

Brainwashed by The Anti Virals

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!”


Sons Of Kemet Release A Powerful, Political Jazz Record To Dance To

Sons of Kemet have never been known to stay stuck in the same path. The band is more of a collaborative effort, that has changed through the years, but guided by the brilliant jazz mind of Shabaka Hutchings. On Black To The Future (Impulse!, 2021) the saxophonist and clarinet player has with him Theon Cross on tuba and Edward Wakili-Hick and Tom Skinner on percussion. In addition, the jazz music they create is, on some tracks, fused with spoken word, song, and rap.

The opening track sets the theme. Under a build-up of horn instruments and percussion, poet Joshua Idehen performs a powerful spoken-word piece that explores the past and present of his people’s oppression. He’s certainly angry and tired which he makes clear.

“Thank you
For refusing me that inch
Because now I do recognise your yardstick
The scales have toppled
The curtains have collapsed
The blonde baboon’s arse is bare in the open
And I am a field negro now
I do not want your equality
It was never yours to give me
And even then it was too minor, too little, too late
Pull the balaclava over my heart and set it running
My revolution rides a black horse and it is stunning”

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.

For those that think jazz can be heavy on the ears, have no worry. This is not as experimental as Hutchings could easily have made it. This is more dance-able and if anything, full of fire. A subtle type of fire that will make you want to move your way in rhythm to the protest.

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Song Of The Day: La Cigarra By Afro Yaqui Music Collective

From our friends in the Afro Yaquí Music Collective comes a brand new single in support of political prisoners from around the world. The song is part of their new album titled Maroon Futures and in this song, the band highlights the struggles of Mumia Abu-Jamal, Russell Maroon Shoatz, Fidencio Aldama Pérez, and Abdullah Öcalan.

See also: A Protest Music Interview: Afro Yaqui Music Collective

‘La Cigarra’ communicates the message of freedom of speech and the freedom of action through a fantastic jazzy union of saxophones and the voice of Gizelxanath Rodríguez.

Check out below a recent interview with Ben and Gizelxanath from Afro Yaquí Music Collective where they discuss (in Spanish) their latest album, the struggles of indigenous people, and much more.

Furthermore, the band recommends people to become involved in the following campaigns to help free the above-mentioned activists:

http://www.congresonacionalindigena.o…https://www.freeocalan.org/mainhttps://russellmaroonshoats.wordpress…https://www.freemumia.com/https://www.thejerichomovement.com/http://afroyaquimusiccollective.com/f…

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