Tag Archives: unity

10 Protest Songs From Belarus

This article was originally published on Beehype in 2018, written by Dmitri Bezkorovainyi and republished here with permission.

Belarus is a European country between Russia (in the East), Ukraine (in the South), Poland and Lithuania (in the West), Latvia (in the North West). Since 1994 – for 26 years already – it’s been run by Alexander Lukashenko, who changed the constitution several times to stay on his position for 5 terms already, at the same time concentrating power in his hands.

This year he went to the elections for the 6th time. He put all respected competitors into prison, calling them villains. All state media praised only him. And he didn’t let independent people into local election commitees and even as observers. After the elections, the Central Election Commitee announced that he won by 80%, but it’s obvious to almost everyone here that he lost.

For the first time under his rule people would come out for a peaceful protest in more than 50 cities and towns of Belarus. They didn’t attack a single building or anything, but would be brutally beaten up, shot by rubber bullets, thrown light and sound grenades at. More than 5,000 people were arrested and put into prison for 10-15 days, where many of them would be kept virtually without food, water and medical help, while at the same time – which is told by many just-released prisoners – beaten up on a daily basis. As of writing this text, the peaceful rallies against the president continue, there are strikes in many plants and factories, even the state-owned ones. But the president doesn’t want to leave or declare new elections.

Belarusian musicians started to release songs and statements in support of free and transparent elections and against police brutality in June – after the first peaceful protests against the unlawful arrests of several candidates and their team members. You should understand that in Belarus musicians can get several years of concert ban (unofficial, but effective) if they say something against the authorities. This happened two times: 2004-2007 and 2011-2017. And concerts, as you know, are the main source of income for the musicians. So they risk their careers (for many of them Belarus is the main market), but still they do this. And there are so many examples, so many songs, that it was really hard to pick just 10.

How can you support Belarus? Tell your friends about this through social networks, tell the media in your countries and of course listen to the protest music from Belarus. Our flag is white-red-white, which was changed by Lukashenko in 1995 in favour of the pro-Soviet red-and-green. Our slogan is: “Zhyve Belarus!” (Long Live Belarus!).

Грязь (Griaz’) – “Перемен” (Peremen)

In Russian

The chorus obviously refers to the 80s song by the cult Soviet band Kino (“Peremen”/”Changes”) – which is one of the main protest songs by itself – but completely different in style, dynamics and atmosphere. Verses are in the form of letters from son to father, who doesn’t sleep at night, while running the country. At first he was a loved father, but then he stopped listening to the nation and started war on his own people. It’s an obvious referral to Lukashenko, who’s often nicknamed “bac’ka” even outside Belarus (the word means “father” in Belarusian, so he’s kind of father of the nation). The chorus says: “Changes! Everybody wants, everybody wants changes”.

Nizkiz – “Правілы” (Pravily/Rules)

In Belarusian

This is not really a political song and there was no direct message from the band. It’s about rules, about things we care about. But with going into streets and someone raising a flag. Which made people think it’s connected with the recent events and the band never said it’s not. And openly confirmed it later. The band gathered 4 thousand people in Minsk at their sold out show this February.

Дай дарогу (Daj darogu, Give way) – “Баю-бай” (Baju-baj /Hushaby)

In Russian

This one is good, because it brilliantly shows the realities we live in – police beating up all who stand against the president – both on the level of the song and the video. It’s sung from the point of view of a police guy, who’s not so clever, but completely into his brutal work. Last night the leader of the band Yuri Stylski was detained, supposedly for headlining a peaceful march in his native Brest.

Vladimir Pugach & Lavon Volski – “Дыхем зноў” (Dykhaem znou/Breathing again)

In Belarusian

Vladimir Pugach is a leader of a pop/rock band J:МОРС (J:MORS), one of the most popular here since the beginning of the 2000s. He has always stayed away from supporting either opposition or president, and the band twice had problems for not performing in support of Lukashenko (2005 and 2010). But this time their singer declared his open position for transparent elections and against police brutality well before the elections. The song says that everything will be good in the end.

Naka & Friends – “Вам” (Vam/To You)

In Russian

This song by a batch of prominent alternative artists was composed to a poem by a prominent poet Vladimir Neklyaev (who was running for presidency in 2010), after the brutal detentions in late June. It appeals to the policemen with questions like: “Where did you learn to be scoundrels? Where did you learn to be villains? How did you become thieves? How did you manage to become asslickers?”

Naviband – “Inshymi” (Different)

In Belarusian

A pop band that was always loved by state media as well as the indie/pro-Belarusian crowd. They represented Belarus at “Eurovision 2017” and played alternative Belarusian festival “Basowiszcza” in Poland. But one month before the elections they released this song and they clearly said they are against police brutality, and later expressed their support for transparent elections. The chorus says: “Smoke in our eyes, we don’t see any dreams / We will wake up different somewhere in the deep”.

Tor Band – “My nie narodiec” (We are not narodiec)

In Russian

Lukashenko quite often says disparaging things about Belarus and its people. He likes to call the country “a tiny scrap of land”, despite the fact it’s twice (even a bit more) bigger than Austria, Hungary, Portugal, Serbia or Czech Republic, and only a third smaller than Poland. He also likes to dismiss Belarusians as “narodec”, which is a diminutive word from “narod” (folk). People don’t like it. So this song is an answer. Before this spring no one knew this band from a small town Rogachev in Gomel region (Eastern Belarus), now they have a few socially charged hits.

Anna Sharkunova – “Pesnya schastlivykh ludey” (Song of the happy people)

In Russian

She was a part of the local (and never contradicting the president) pop stage for quite a long time, but then disappeared. She started her return last year with a more grown-up image with a cover of Lyapis Trubetskoy’s “Voiny sveta” (Warriors Of Lights) – a hymn of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. Several days before the elections she released this song, which was considered by many anti-presidential, with many well-known people of different professions in the video. Although the lines are not that political, they are about true friends and all the best things in life. “We are few, but we exist” is the message.

Lavon Volski – “Irzhavaya dziarzhava” (Rusty state)

In Belarusian

The cult figure of Belarusian rock, former leader of Mroya and N.R.M., who wrote and recorded some of the main Belarusian songs/albums of all decades, starting from the 1980s. He has always been openly against Lukashenko and twice suffered unofficial, but effective bans from playing concerts in Belarus: 2004-2007 and 2011-2017. He released several statements and this song before the elections. Iron state became rusty, it has no other way but to fall so that the new country will rise.

IOWA – “Мечта” (Mechta / Dream)

In Russian

IOWA is a pop band, which was formed in Mogilev (Eastern Belarus), but in 2010 they left for Saint Petersburg (Russia), where they became a popular mainstream act. But they still consider themselves Belarusian artists and yesterday they released this song and a statement in support of Belarus from their leader Katya Ivanchikova:

“We can say as often as possible that changes are bad, that they don’t lead to anything good. I’m reading dozens of such comments. But in the end it comes to the fact that unfreedom equals unhappiness. Unhappy people can’t build future, can’t dream, can’t bring up their children in freedom, can’t broaden the boarders of their perception and say: “I know what’s my word worth”. The right to choose is not a privilege, it’s something natural”.

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Song Of The Day: So Naïve By Shaun Quixote

We got the most wonderful letter the other day from a musician called Shaun Quixote. He just released his debut single, titled So Naïve, and he wanted to share it with us. He searched the web for socially conscious music blogs and came across Shouts. We are thrilled that he did.

So Naïve is a feel good, protest anthem for these strange times. As Shaun explained to us: “I’d like to think that, “through the poisoned air” [from the song’s lyrics], the song has a hopeful message in the midst of the darkness. …it is a song of hope, a song of protest, and a call to action. But most of all I want it to bring joy to whoever hears it.”

Currently Shaun is working on finishing his debut EP and if it will be anything like it’s title song then we are all in for a treat.

Follow Shaun via his webpage.

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Protest Music Interview: Awkword

Not a lot of people can claim to have created a 100% for-charity global hip hop project. Awkword can. If there is someone else who has made that kind of effort to unify hip hop lovers and activists around the world please tell us in comments. We haven’t found their work yet.

Perhaps because of the size of his last major project it is understandable that Awkword is focusing most of his time on his family at this moment. He got a new single coming out though, so I hit him up with a few questions about the legendary, 2 disc, global collaborative effort that is World View as well as the new single and his extra curricular activism.

First off, for those who are not familiar with your work, who is Awkword?

Well anyone who follows the work you do should know about me by now. I’m the creator of World View, the first-ever 100% for-charity global Hip Hop project. I’m a reformed fuckup; passionate, empathic, lifelong antiracist activist; sociologist focused on homelessness and the politics of public space, mass incarceration, and race in America; Hip Hop Ed speaker; Protest Music songwriter, rapper and executive producer; Buddhist Jew; sober addict; faithful husband, and proud father of two talented adopted daughters; New York City resident turned Upstate New Yorker; underground Hip Hop influencer; journalist; director of marketing and public relations; and still-starving artist.

How and when did you get into writing rhymes and making hiphop music?

As long as I can remember, I had a pad and pen with me wherever I went — for observations, free association, and poetry. As my musical tastes shifted from punk rock to rap in my early teens, my poetry transformed into raps, and over time I learned how to structure the written raps as songs; soon I was freestyling everywhere and recording my songs in friends’ makeshift home studios.

Were your lyrics political since day one?

My very existence is political. The powers that be don’t want me here. I’m a pro-Black, anti-war, working-class Jew who wants to shatter the status quo. So, in that way, whether I’m writing about my own struggles, experiences and emotions, or about something more explicitly political, everything I write — and have always written — in the context of this unequal society is inherently political.

You mention Chuck D as a major influence for you. Do you remember the first Public Enemy track that educated you or made you think that this world was not working so well?

I knew that human beings were fucking up this planet, and each other, well before I heard a single lyric from any Hip Hop, punk rock or ‘60s/‘70s rock song — and I can thank my incredible activist mother (RIP) for that. But what Chuck D taught me was that rap music could be used to educate, inspire and empower the youth. ILL BILL taught me that I could do it myself.

Do you feel there is enough rappers making conscious lyrics? How is the protest music scene in NY in your opinion?

Just like with anything else, there needs to be a balance. No one is one thing, and as such we need different soundtracks for our various moods, experiences and phases. If all rap music were ‘conscious’, listeners would be bored, the genre would not be the most popular and trendsetting in the world, and far fewer artists would’ve made a good living from it.

As would be expected, I’d prefer certain mindsets and habits not be so prevalent in the music — the misogyny, homophobia, and glamorization of drugs, for example. But nowadays I’d say there are more artists overall who are speaking their truths and speaking truth to power — and for that I’m thankful and hopeful.

Do you follow at all protest musicians in other genres?

I love music. In particular, jazz, blues, swing, classical, ‘70s and ‘80s punk, ‘60s and ‘70s rock and folk, indie rock, and some rap you’d never expect. But I’m inundated with politics, conspiracies, rantings and righteousness from all sides every day. So now, for the first time in my life, music is reserved mainly for exercise and relaxation. Other than my homies Outernational, Prophets of Rage and the White Mandingos with the god Darryl Jenifer, I’m not too familiar with what others are doing outside of the few fellow political rappers I know.

Can you tell me about your 2014 album ‘World View‘ and the idea behind it? You got serious names to collaborate with you on the album, among others KRS One. What did that mean for you to get these people to be a part of the project?

On February 3, 2014, I released the first-ever 100% for-charity global Hip Hop project, featuring representatives of 16 countries and every continent (except Antarctica). The purpose was/is to connect us worldwide through Hip Hop culture and rap music, and leverage both to give back to the very neighborhoods that birthed them.

The 38-track double-disc album touched on topics from mass incarceration and police brutality to rape culture and toxic masculinity, and from imperialism, racism and white privilege to drug abuse, depression and suicide; was mixed ‘old school mixtape style’ and mastered by Surf School’s John Sparkz; and was released through DJ Booth to international critical acclaim from the likes of Complex, Hot New Hip Hop, The Source, VIBE, Okay Player, Hip Hop Wired, Hip Hop DX, Genius, Hot 97, Prefix Mag, and many more. It also led to that life-affirming co-sign from Chuck D himself. I executive produced, and rapped on every song.

Features include: Jadakiss, Joell Ortiz, Sean Price, KRS One, Slug of Atmosphere, ILL BILL, Jasiri X, Chino XL, Reks, Daytona, Beretta 9 of Killarmy, Viro the Virus (RIP), Vast Aire of Cannibal Ox, Poison Pen, SHIRT, Awol One, Pacewon of the Outsidaz, Block McCloud, Shabaam Sahdeeq, C-Rayz Walz, and Chaundon.

Producers include: Harry Fraud, Domingo, Fafu, Steel Tipped Dove, numonics, Vice Souletric, Tone Spliff, Tranzformer, Amin Payne of Australia, Dominant 1 of Malawi, and The White Shadow of Norway. It took me five years to put it all together.

And I got two special videos out of it: the now-classic “Bars & Hooks”, shot in and outside a Mercedes Benz tour bus in Brooklyn with my friend Harry Fraud and the late, great Sean Price; and “Throw Away The Key”, sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union, some of which was shot in front if a police station in the East Village of Manhattan.

What about your more recent single, ‘I Am’, can you tell us about that? It seems like there is some seriously hard work involved in such a global collaboration?

I realized after World View that the continent of Africa — being the birthplace of all this — needs more and better representation, so I reached out to producer Teck-Zilla, French DJ J Hart, and some of my favorite artists from throughout the African continent to join me. The purpose of the song and video are to show what it’s like to be ourselves, living in each of our countries. Hence the title “I Am”. It’s a beautiful collaboration, and I was honored to have the opportunity, and to see it featured by MTV in Africa.

Shouts! is all about discovering and sharing protest music. Do you have recommendations of protest music or socially conscious artists, something you are listening to these days?

My peoples Jasiri X, Killer Mike and Rhymefest.

It also seems to me that people sometimes shy away when the talk goes too deep into politics. You mention in your song ‘The World Is Yours’ that the mainstream media won’t play that song. Do you feel people are open minded to your activist hiphop?

Society at large? No, of course not. We in AmeriKKKa elected Donald Trump to be our president. Plus, the 1% wants to keep the 99% poor and ignorant, and sadly most of the 99% is all too comfortable staying that way. Let’s be honest, a lot of my records really knock. The instrumentals and hooks are catchy, the drums hit, my lyrics are smart and witty, and my vocals are strong and flow proper. It’s not the type of music that will overtake the pop charts or compete with the money behind the songs getting corporate radio spins. But my joints are played at protests and do quite well on the college radio charts. That’s my audience.

Many artists throw out there a protest song or two, but while keeping their original image intact – an image that is not that of protest. You on the other hand put the focus on the protest and the activism on your profiles. Can you tell me about that strategy?

It’s not a strategy, it’s being real. I am many things, rapper being one of them. But as a human being I am fiercely invested in the fight for justice, equality and the protection of our earth and animals. While not all of my music is overtly political, I am a Protest Music artist, so that’s what I’m going to put out. People either love me or hate me — but it’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember.

What about extra curricular activity? Do you partake in activism outside the music?

Activism — along with Hip Hop — enabled me to channel my anger, empathy and passion into something positive. As a Jew, who was targeted for my religion and bloodline, whose ancestors were tortured and murdered during the Holocaust (and before and after), I always related on a deep level with people of color, the poor, and all those oppressed in our straight white Christian male-dominated society.

My mom (RIP), a lifelong activist herself, was my role model; and she connected me in my teens with the Anti-Defamation League. That was the beginning.

Awkword holding a photo of his mom

I went on to co-chair the Student Activist Union at Vassar College, co-founding its Anti-Sweatshop Union and Prison Reform Group. I helped lobby congress, and lead marches and plan/implement direct actions in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, NYC, Albany, NY, Georgia, and elsewhere — to free Mumia, appeal the election of George W. Bush, and fight the US bombings in Vieques, Puerto Rico, and the US training of rightwing Latin American militants at the School of the Americas.

Meanwhile, I volunteered at Green Haven maximum security prison, soup kitchens, alternative to incarceration centres, elementary schools, and teen centres, leveraging the power of Hip Hop Ed to inform, inspire and empower.

Today, though, I focus mostly on raising my daughters to be thoughtful, confident future leaders, and living my life daily like a Buddha.

What is on the horizon for you?

Raising my daughters to be powerful women, and living a drug-free life (now at 106 days). My next song, “SOBER”, is in the works. It’s produced by AJ Munson.

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Thank you very much for participating and for the music! Anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

Fuck Nazis!

Fuck Donald Trump!