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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!”


100% Three Fingers In The Air Punk Rock: 25 Bands Raise Funds For Myanmar’s Food Not Bombs

This article was originally published by DIY Conspiracy.

Mass protests have been taking place across Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) since the country’s military seized power in a coup d’état on February 1st, 2021.

The military junta took the reins of power following a general election which Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won by a landslide. The elected leader is under “house arrest” in an unknown location ever since.

Sen. General Min Aung Hlaing, under whom the military intensified the crackdown on the (Muslim) Rohingya ethnic minority in Rakhine State in recent years, declared a one-year-long state of emergency and assumed all state power for this period.

It’s worth noting that Myanmar was a military dictatorship from 1962 until 2011.

The Ongoing Protest Movement

myanmar-protests

A strong movement of civil disobedience emerged in the first days of February in a vocal opposition to the new regime. The protests over the coup have been the largest since the so-called Saffron Revolution in 2007, when thousands of monks rose up against the previous military rule.

At first, spearheaded by medical workers, nurses and doctors, the movement started to grow with people from all walks of life joining in.

On February 6th, people finally took their protests onto the streets of Yangon and other cities across the South East Asian country. It’s estimated that around 100,000 people participated on this day alone in the protests in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.

The protests were supported by several organizations, including student unions, labour unions, and a wide range of social justice activist groups. Among the social justice groups supporting the protests is the Yangon chapter of the international Food Not Bombs movement.

Food Not Bombs in Myanmar

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Food Not Bombs Yangon was formed in 2013 by a group of local street and anarcho-punks around The Rebel Riot band. Their efforts concentrated on supporting people in poor living conditons, especially children living in poverty in downtown Yangon.

In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Myanmar, the punks organized a huge support network for the people in need. Food Not Bombs also organized protests and mutual-aid campaigns in support of garment factory workers and labour unions as the factories shut down without any compensation to the workers.

Now, the Food Not Bombs activists are on the frontlines of the anti-coup movement, supporting protestors with medical masks, water, food and protection gear. As the protests intensify, the military is tightening their grip even more. Armoured vehicles rolled out onto the streets and the army cut off the state media TV & radios, local phone lines and access to internet.

Water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds were used against the protestors. Reports have shown civilians being dragged out of their houses at night and arrested by the police. More than 500 people, including many children, have been killed by the police & military, according to various reports.

100% Three Fingers in the Air Punk Rock: A Benefit Compilation

myanmar-compilation

A benefit hardcore punk / crust compilation was organized by Bristol, UK’s F.O.T.K. band and Death Pint Records in coordination with Organize and Arise. The aim of the fundraiser is to set up a support network of solidarity with the work of Food Not Bombs Yangon during the now ongoing protests.

The money will be used to further support the protestors and people in need. Food Not Bombs Yangon is also teaming up with other activist organizations like labour and student unions.

The compilation was named after a play on words between Chaos UK’s iconic One Hundred Per Cent Two Fingers In The Air Punk Rock record (as two fingers hand gesture stands for ‘fuck off’ in the UK) and the popular three-fingers salute adopted by protestors in Thailand and Myanmar.

This new compilation features tracks by Myanmar’s own The Rebel Riot and 24 other bands across the globe, including unreleased tracks by F.O.T.K (UK)., Nightfeeder (US), and Japanese ‘Burning Spirits’ originators Death Side, alongside tracks by the likes of Doom (UK), Exit-Stance (UK), Forward (Japan), War//Plague (US), Visions of War (Belgium), Cliterati (US), Phane (Canada), Orphanage Named Earth (Poland), Carburetor Dung (Malaysia), Detractors (US), Bratakus (Scotland), Genöme (Sweden), Crutches (Sweden), Zero Again (UK), and many more.

To support the cause, follow the Bandcamp link and donate $10 or more.

Song Of The Day: Brainwashed By The Anti Virals

Two veteran punk rockers recently joined hands forming a new band and their debut album was recent this Sunday, the 10th of January 2021. This fun punk rock album is a great start into the protest music year of 2021 which will without a doubt be filled with music just as previous years.

The album, Brainwashed, by U.S. band The Anti Virals is a pure punk protest album that uses the music to let out some energy that was steaming within the artists: “The Anti Virals started as therapy—as a release from the anger that welled up inside me from watching so many people losing their minds,” said Brian Coakley the founder of the band. According to this article the band members were fed up with the soon-to-be-gone administration of Trump and much of how the government has handled things these past years. The band explains this further in a Facebook post:

“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!”

Punk and hardcore music have always been a strong social voice, especially for the outsiders and the outcasts. The fear of saying what needs to be said has never been a problem for this scene.

Listen to the song below and get the party started for 2021!

Cover photo retrieved from the Nadine Records Media webpage.

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