Tag Archives: protest music

This Saturday, artist’s will march to the UN and demand a seat at the decision-making table

The creative sector is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies around the world, yet it remains, according to some, an “untapped source” when it comes to solving the world’s greatest problems.

Lisa Russell, filmmaker and founder of Create2030. Image retrieved from the project’s webpage.

This Saturday, September 16th, people will not only be marching in México to celebrate the country’s independence but across the border, in New York City, artists and cultural workers will stride from Times Square down to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, across the street from the United Nations.

The event is managed by Create2030, an artist-led initiative founded by Emmy award winning filmmaker, Lisa Russell. The initiative is an international network of artists and storytellers who use their voices and platforms to support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The march will start in Times Square, where a stage will be set for speakers and artists to perform (one of whom is Nejma Nefertiti whom we at Shouts have interviewed more than once).

Nejma will, besides speaking, debut an acapella version of her new piece, “WetheArtists! and you get a chance to be in her music video.

“It’s important to care about all struggles that are going on in the world, whether it’s close to you or not. It’s crucial to care about all children, not just your own. This is a unique and grand opportunity to evolve our world. Musicians have always played a part in that. Voices are being amplified as they should. Musicians reflect the times and are often ahead. I can’t speak for all musicians, because there’s a wide range of consciousness out there, but the musicians I know and love are fighting for justice, truth, and freedom.”

– Nejma Nefertiti

Event speakers will present a list of demands written in consultation with the artistic community and address issues such as unpaid labor, lack of representation, neglect of intellectual property rights, poor leadership choices and more.

WHERE: Times Square to UN (New York, US)
WHEN: 16th of September 2023 from 3-7 pm.

Zere’s new album is a continuation of her fight against gender inequality in Kyrgyzstan

Her songs provide solace and strength to women and girls

Zere performing songs from her new album. Screenshot from Zere Asylbek‘s YouTube channel. Fair use.

This article was written by Nurbek Bekmurzaev and originally published on the Global Voices (GV) webpage on August 7, 2023. It is republished here according to the media partnership between GV and Shouts.

Last July, Kyrgyz singer Zere Asylbek, widely known as Zere, released a new album called “Men Kaidamyn” (Where Am I) with 12 songs in the Kyrgyz language. It became her third album since her musical debut in 2018, when she made headlines for the music video of her song “Kyz” (Girl) and became famous overnight.

Here is the music video of the song “Kyz.”

“Kyz” was as famous as it was polarizing due to the feminist message it relayed by encouraging girls to be free of restrictive social norms and live their lives as they like and see fit. The new album picks up where her two previous ones from 2018 “Bashtalos” and 2021 “EKEK” albums left off. It continues discussing gender inequality while exploring other social and political problems in Kyrgyzstan against the background of her intimate and personal experiences and stories from childhood.

There are several personal stories told throughout the songs in the new album. Through them Zere shares her childhood memories of spending summer holidays in her maternal grandparents’ home in Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan, listening to fairy tales, the words of wisdom shared by her late paternal grandfather, and the conversations she held with her mother about famous historical figures from the past. These intimate stories serve as parts to songs about gender inequality, discrimination, corruption, domestic violence and other issues in the country.

In the song called “Jangak” (Walnut), Zere shares her childhood dreams and says that she thought she could be anybody and do anything with her life. However, adulthood and restrictive social norms surrounding women taught her that she should have been more careful with her dreams. In another song called “Men Kaidamyn,” she starts off with the fairytale she heard often during childhood and goes on to question where she and other people were when the country witnessed major incidents of injustice and abuse.

Here is the audio version of the song “Men Kaidymyn.”

She then asks Kyrgyz people where they were during the “voting fair” when peoples’ votes were being bought and the future of the country was being decided — it is common in Kyrgyzstan for politicians to distribute money during elections and collect votes. She also asks where people were at when female activists were attacked during a feminist march by the members of the nationalist group called Chorolor while the police officers present just stood and watched. The incident took place on March 8, 2020.

In “Jakshy Kyz” (Good Girl), Zere tackles gender inequality and domestic violence. She asks her listeners if there is a word “human girl” between the two terms “good girl” and “bad girl,” referring to the two labels women and girls in Kyrgyzstan society receive most of the time, instead of being looked at as a human. She fails to find an answer to this question using the old Kyrgyz proverbs and asks what kind of wisdom will the men who beat their wives today leave for the next generation.

This is not the first song in which Zere talks about domestic violence. Her song “Jeneke” (Sister-in-law), which came out in her second album in 2021, tackled the similar issue. Although domestic violence is criminalized in Kyrgyzstan, the situation continues to deteriorate with the number of domestic violence cases growing.

Here is the music video of the song “Jeneke.”

One of Zere’s main messages is hidden in the song called “Vau” (Wow) in which she invites listeners to imagine a future in which she has achieved all her dreams. She pictures a society where all the problems have been solved and she has no haters and everybody likes her. The song ends abruptly with the reminder that even then there will still be people who will call her “bad girl.” It reminds women and girls in Kyrgyzstan that there will always be people who will try to shame them for their behavior and they should just ignore their criticism and live their life beyond restrictive norms.

Music in times of war: Song as a form of Ukrainian resistance

Okean Elzy band’s lyrics speak to resistance and perseverance

A screenshot from Okean Elzy YouTube channel with the title of the song “Misto Vesny” (The City of Spring). In the lower right corner, a message in English and bellow in Russian reminds of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

This article was written by Filip Noubel, the managing editor of Global Voices. It was published on the GV webpage on March 25th 2022 and republished here under the media partnership between GV and Shouts.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is also a cultural one: the denial of a separate identity from the “Russian World,” the bombing of cultural and religious buildings, and more. Thus resistance in Ukraine is not just military but also cultural, and in that war, music takes a central place.

The Ukrainian band Okean Elzy (Океан Ельзи in Ukrainian, literally Elsa’s Ocean) is a prominent star in the country’s music scene. It was founded in 1994 in Lviv, a historical city in western Ukraine. After the band moved to Kyiv, they began to receive international attention and became the first modern Ukrainian band to be played on MTV Russia in 1998. Eventually, the band became widely known and gained fans in many post-Soviet countries. Most Russian speakers can, with little effort understand or guess the meaning of Ukrainian lyrics. The band also started performing concerts in Russia and Europe, and eventually gained cult status in Ukraine.

The lead singer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk became a celebrity of his own: in 2005 he became a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, in 2007–2008, and then again in 2019–2020, he was a deputy at the Ukrainian parliament, and for a while was considered a frontrunner in the 2019 presidential elections. On March 7, he joined the Ukrainian army to serve in the defense forces of the Lviv region.

Since then he has spoken publicly about the war, calling Russian celebrities to break their silence and speak out against the war. Until the war, a number of Russian singers had a huge following in Ukraine and made commercially successful tours in the country.

Since the war started, Vakarchuk has performed for free to Ukrainian audiences, often solo, by singing and playing the piano or the guitar in subway stations, in front of railways stations and temporary relocation camps.

One song he plays regularly has a special significance. It is called “Місто весни” (Misto Vesny, or “The City of Spring”) and is dedicated to his home town Lviv.

The original version, which came out in 2021, is a duo with singer Irina Shvaydak, from the band Odin v kanoe. Vakarchuk, who wrote the lyrics, explains this is the first song he wrote about his hometown.

Today Lviv has become a gateway for over 3 million Ukrainian refugees who have left eastern and northern parts of their country to flee Russian bombs and seek refuge in Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary. They all transit via Lviv, by train, cars, buses. From the late 18th to the early 20th century, Lviv was also part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and today symbolizes prevailing Ukrainian aspirations to once again be part of Europe and distant from Russia.

Thus the lyrics of the song have gained a symbolic meaning and indeed seem to speak to today’s tragedy. The song opens with the followings words:

Why do I dream that, again and again / I am walking with you in my hometown Lviv / It smells of spring, and the sun sets / On the banks of a river that is no more /…/ What is dear to you does not die easily in Lviv.

Indeed the last words, when translated into Russian, sound like a defiant message to Russian troops: “Во Львове так просто своё не умирает,” meaning “What is dear to you does not die easily in Lviv“