Tag Archives: revolutionary music

“Destroy what hurts us, solidify what unites us” – Sisterhood and Solidarity in Feminist Reggaeton

The following article was originally published in Varsity, the independent newspaper of the University of Cambridge and republished here with permission of the author, Inés Cropper de Andres.

Blasting from any Hispanic shop, restaurant or bar, you are sure to meet the bewitching rhythms of Reggaeton. Once singing of violence and gang life, with lyrics describing graphic sexual acts and music videos featuring scantily clad models (hello Pitbull), Reggaeton has moved far from the underground, anti-colonial movement from which it started. Inspired by the Argentinian pro-choice “Ni Una Menos” movement, the reclamation of Reggaeton by Latinx feminist groups in the past 5 years has come as a surprise to many. Even mainstream Reggaeton artists are now joining the trend, with Bad Bunny (net worth $16 million) pushing the musical movement from underground Soundcloud demos into stratospheric Hollywood heights with his song ‘Yo Perrero Sola’. Being photographed in skirts and publicly criticising machismo culture, he is the first big male artist to join the movement. In light of the recent lift on abortion in Argentina, what does it mean to be a feminist Reggaeton artist? Can Reggaeton return to its political roots? How is Reggaeton being used to bring women together intersectionally?

“To be on the dance-floor as a gay woman, to have fun, to exist in spaces that heterosexual men have traditionally ruled, is political.”

Sporting mullets and brightly dyed hair, Kumbia Queers are not your average Cumbia band. With an impressive discography spanning the past decade, this Argentine six-piece, self-proclaimed tropical punk band combines the island sounds of Cumbia and Reggaeton with punk rock, anarchist philosophy and queercore. Their music sings of freedom and liberation and is ultimately a rally for women to get up and dance. Their most catchy song, ‘Puesta’, is a tongue-in-cheek dance track, the kind that urges you back on the dance-floor and away from your drunken (and probably dissatisfying) Cindies hookup. Classically carnival, the claxon opening hints of the fun that is infused throughout. “I wanted to write a protest song but to be honest I’m too high” repeats the chorus.

Closing your eyes to the looped rhythmic backing track, you’re transported to a beach party, dizzy after one too many tokes, with glitter smudged across your cheeks. In countries where homophobic slurs are a part of everyday vocabulary and being openly gay is frequently met with hostility, existence is resistance. To be on the dance-floor as a gay woman, to have fun, to exist in spaces that heterosexual men have traditionally ruled, is political. The irony in Cumbia being a traditional heterosexual love dance, and its fusion with Reggaeton as the site of female exploitation, uses the genres to situate queer women in positions of power. 

Don’t be fooled. This is not an exclusionary political movement. Like the riot grrrl movements of the 90s, this new feminist Reggaeton is a safe space for all women-identifying and gender-queer individuals.

Take Krudas Qumbensi, an afro-Latinx hip-hop duo from Cuba who represent “Womyn, Immigrants, Queers, and People of Color”. Their early albums with songs like ‘Horizontalidad’ push a pro-socialist message, but it is in their 2014 album Poderosxs that they begin using their lived experiences to craft their message.

“Whose bodies? Our bodies” they cry in their hit single ‘Mi Cuerpo es Mio’, an exploration of the intertwining of Church and State. The music video features the duo dancing, superimposed onto protest photos. If the electro-soul synth backing hadn’t already made it clear, the message is obvious. Their revolution will be danced. The track is in Spanglish, calling in their American Diaspora. This is not a battle that can be fought by them alone, it requires unity.

Sisterhood is recurring on this album, with the spoken word track of ‘Vamos Juntas’, an ode to solidarity through subverting the traditional forms of the Catholic hymn. “Destroy what hurts us, solidify what unites us”. Is this a prayer or a battle-cry set to lo-fi? The listener is left to decide.

Sisterhood and solidarity become the focus of their latest release, their 2019 album LNL. These themes are the foundations of their exploration of afro-liberation, gender liberation, and queer liberation. Relying more on spoken word, beat-boxing and acapella than on heavy production, this album is musically complex while remaining emotionally raw. The human cry heard in the background of ‘Un Dia’, a lament to lack of safe abortions, is overlaid with ominous humming. Is it a woman crying? Who is she? Remaining nameless, she could be anyone. She could be you. Naked. Harrowing. Intimate. “Who looks after us?” questions the album, and the answer never comes. This is a worldwide system failure. If we don’t care about each other as sisters, who will? 

“One thing is clear: the revolution may not be televised, but it can definitely be danced.”

In a world where women are divided through issues as banal as whether they’re a hi girl or a bruh girl (Buzzfeed has multiple quizzes addressing this clearly important matter), music is a cultural force to be reckoned with. Asserting themselves as non-conforming, queer women of colour, bands like Krudas Qumbensi and Kumbia Queers are entering, reimagining, and restructuring the space that was built upon actively excluding them. The call to arms for sisterhood, not one based on patriarchy, but one based on a recognition of intersectionality, is an act of defiance against a structure that profits from female competition. Female and queer existence is resistance; how better to showcase that than through taking control of the music? One thing is clear: the revolution may not be televised, but it can definitely be danced.

Cover photo credits: Montecruz Photo

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Exclusive Premiere: Debut Music Video From Jamie Holmes

Some musicians make a song or two, consciously in protest, and the rest of their catalog is often something else. Others perhaps get into using their voice responsibly at some point during their career. As soon as young Jamie Holmes was in primary school, he learned about Dylan’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” which inspired him to dive further into protest music. Later his learning path led to other legendary protest musicians such as Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. The latter he was fortunate enough to meet when he was in high school.

“…in high school, my guitar teacher was Jim Kirkpatrick. He managed to go on tour around America I think with Thea Gilmore, who was supporting Baez! Well, Jim knew how much I adored Joan Baez – I’d listen to her music for hours – so he contacted her manager and asked if I could go backstage! The show was great. Her voice is incredible, and it is the same today (if not better) than when she was still in her 20s. When I went backstage I was super nervous and star-struck, but we had a chat about my own music and what I wanted to do – it was great, and she inspired my guitar playing to become more finger-picked rather than with a plectrum – something you can hear on ‘Green Revolution'”.

The self-declared “proud socialist” told me he wants to make a difference in the world. His debut album focuses on the future, climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the strange year of 2020. The first single off the album has already gotten airplay on BBC radio and it will drop on all streaming services on the 22nd of January. The music video, which features a time-lapse recording of Jamie himself painting, can be viewed exclusively below.

EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE
Green Revolution by Jamie Holmes

Check out Jamie’s webpage for all updates on the upcoming debut album and his social media for more info: InstagramYouTube

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Selected Protest Music Albums Of 2020

RTJ 4
Run The Jewels

At this point in time we should not have to go to any length introducing Run The Jewels but just in case you have not heard of them, we urge you to check them out. This duo makes incredible productions, they are community organisers, their flow is brilliant and their songs are just so catchy. On top of that, they use their voices fiercely and now that their vocal chords resonate to an even larger audience they keep at it and make one of the greatest rap/protest albums we’ve ever heard. Just check out these lyrics from a song that was written before Eric Garner’s murder and watch the single below – you’ll see that this is revolution music.

“The way I see it, you’re probably freest from the ages one to four
Around the age of five you’re shipped away for your body to be stored
They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores
And they predictin’ prison population by who scoring the lowest
And usually the lowest scores the poorest they look like me
And every day on the evening news, they feed you fear for free
And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, “I can’t breathe””

Full album: https://spoti.fi/3n4Aybb

Wonderful Hell
War On Women

Hardworking hardcore band War On Women are what you might call familiars of Shouts as they were some of the webpage’s first interviews. Since a way back we have followed them grow into a force to be reckoned with as they take on large stages and use their talents frequently in support of all the voiceless. Their new album, Wonderful Hell, completely rips and is a wonderfully hellish way forward for the band. It’s punk, it’s angry, it’s current, it’s groovy and it’s just really, really good music.

See also: Song Of The Day: White Lies By War On Women (Video)

Full album: waronwomen.bandcamp.com

National Anthems
Portes

Cybersecurity and computer networking by day and music and activism by night – this is Portes. As she explained to us in an interview this year her artistic name is the French name for doors: “Each style of music represents a door to explore.” Portes was born in Guatemala and at the age of 6 she was adopted to a family in the U.S. “Knowing I’m from a multicultural family grounds me in being open-minded and willing to experience other people and cultures, including their music.” Portes’ background shines through on her latest album; it is diverse, interesting and beautiful.

See also: A Protest Music Interview: Portes

Full album: portesmusic.bandcamp.com

Ye Hai Baghawat
Wanandaf

Different from most genres of music, rap has collectives. Many have perhaps heard of the legendary Wu-Tang Clan from the U.S., or Rap Against Dictatorship from Thailand. Wanandaf is a collective of rappers and activists out of India that make art for their fellow people – no matter who they are. This is an important factor because in India people are still, in 2020, degraded and mistreated because of their social class (otherwise known as the Caste system). Wanandaf take this seriously and drop bad ass albums while fighting for the human rights of Indian people.

See also: Song Of The Day: Ye Hai Baghawat By Wanandaf

Full album: https://spoti.fi/3mWK4gs

Short Sighted People In Power
My Politic

Two friends that have been making music since the age of 14 is either a recipe for disaster or success. In the case of My Politic and their latest album it is the latter. Shortsighted People In Power is a reflection on the state of things in the U.S. and a very hard hitting, angry and honest album. As one half of the duo, Kaston Guffey, told us “I wanted to write something honest, something true”.

See also: Song Of The Day: Shortsighted People In Power By My Politic

Full album: mypolitic.bandcamp.com

Rabbit Hole
Valerie Orth

An educator, an activist and a musician. Although this is the resume of many of the artists that we feature here on Shouts, Valerie Orth has said she was first an activist before getting into using music as a tool for activism: “She challenged corporate behemoths like Proctor & Gamble, joined the fight for fair-trade coffee, and traveled to China to consolidate worker support. She led the effort to pass San Francisco’s anti-sweatshop law in 2005.”

See also: Song Of The Day: I Believe We Will Win By Valerie Orth

Full album: store.valerieorth.com

By The Time I Get To Minnesota
The Cornel West Theory

From the front porch of the U.S. comes one of the baddest rap groups around. Vetted by the doctor himself, The Cornel West Theory bring hard, truth telling lyrics to their fellow citizens under noisy, punkish, sample driven beats. If you ever have the chance to ever catch them live, grab the opportunity – you won’t be disappointed.

See also: Music Video Of The Day: 12 O’clock Rock By The Cornel West Theory

Full album: thecornelwesttheory.bandcamp.com

The Sharecropper’s Daughter
Sa-Roc

Not necessarily a protest musician, but rather one of the greatest MC’s in the game for the past decade or so, Sa-Roc always brings consciousness and real talk to the table. Her latest effort is a huge LP with that has been in the works for at least a couple of years. Black empowerment, female empowerment and a plea to look inside ourselves and make the world a bit better is all wrapped up in her incredible bars.

Full album: sa-roc.bandcamp.com

Dehumanise
Facecutter

Maybe the hardest listen on this list (for most people) brings the most animal friendly lyrics mixed between the grindcore noise and pummeling riffs. Australian band Facecutter are a vegan band and their songs are an angry statement about the world of factory farms, animal welfare and consumerism. This music tears your soul apart if you let it.

Full album: facecutter.bandcamp.com

For more selected protest music of 2020
check out our 100+ protest song playlist on Spotify:

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