Tag Archives: unity

Transcending Politics: Interview With Magna Zero And Exclusive Premiere

Lifelong friendships, a longing to inspire a kind of oneness among all creatures and some good ‘ol basement jamming is some of what makes up Magna Zero. Three friends who, after some time apart, got back together to once again make music.

This time their jamming together has resulted in a debut album as Magna Zero. It means The Great Nothing, and it is also the title of the album. The band explained to me, that what they experience when they play together is ” a melting away of the ego into a state of oneness with all things in the universe”, hence the Latin derived name and album title.

Through groovy bass lines, some epic guitar solos and lyrics that convey the strange experience of living in today’s turbulent world, Magna Zero tries to unite the people of the world through themes of mortality, grief, purpose, selflessness, connection, and compassion.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the band briefly about their music and specifically about the single, Endure, which Shouts is thrilled to premiere for you all.

Exclusive Premiere: Endure by Magna Zero

Halldór: First of all, for those not familiar with Magna Zero, who are you and what’s the story behind its creation?

Chris: Magna Zero is simply 3 long-time friends getting together to jam. For me it’s a reprieve. No egos. Just getting to play my guitar freely and exploring new sounds. 

Jason: We decided to form this band shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown first started, and then the studio where we rehearse in Los Angeles basically became a ghost town. We were able to continue playing there, so we found ourselves in this incredibly unique situation where we had this amazing, creative space pretty much to ourselves for about a year. And that particular year happened to be one of the most monumental spaces of time in recent human history, a time of collective introspection through the quarantine we all found ourselves in, and also a time that served as a catalyst for social change. Both of these aspects fueled our band’s creative process, and we just exploded with new music every time we got together, which was quite often. Playing music together was really the only in-person interaction we had with other people besides our time with our families, so the studio was a gift not only for our artistic expression, but also for our psyches.  

Dave: We’re a true collaborative based on the bonds of brotherhood and the bonds of the known and unknown universe. The music is inspired by that core. From this the music shapes itself into what it has become—songs that speak to the soul of our Moral Universe.

Halldór: You are about to release your debut album. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process behind this album, and specifically the song Endure?

Chris: Most of the tracks came out of free jams. We were smart enough to record most of the jams on Dave’s cell phone. I think we got close to 100 of these live jams before we then took turns picking out a favorite track to turn into a song. I believe Endure started with a baseline from Jason. I just tried to play around with it and add some color. I wanted to be as spare as possible to let the bass and drums groove. There’s this tension with trying to hold on to the sparseness until it kind of explodes in the guitar solo.

Dave: The album spans from death giving birth to life. Giving up oneself to find the ‘self’. Death is the center of life. Black holes give life to all galaxies known. It’s an entire journey of ultimate, unashamed, bare- bones nothingness equivocating to everything living in the entire Universe. The ultimate album of self-preservation and self-love. 

Jason: What Dave’s describing reminds me of the age-old saying, “Die before you die, so that you can truly live”. Our album is titled, The Great Nothing. The phrase is literally our band name translated from Latin into English. It’s the closest expression in words for what we experience when we play music together, a melting away of the ego into a state of oneness with all things in the universe. The path to this for the band is to become nothing, and paradoxically, experience a sense of unity with everything. The song Endure is a message of love prevailing over strife. Even when we experience the darkest moments imaginable, it is love that ultimately lifts us back to our natural state of harmony with each other and with the earth. Since the pandemic, we’ve been seeing a shift in consciousness that is heart-based and that is bringing people together on a scale that was unimaginable just a few years ago. Now more than ever before, strangers from the other side of the world are supporting each other and standing together for compassion, kindness, and justice. Throughout the massive challenges we’re seeing and experiencing in modern times, it’s love that brings us together for positive change forward into a future of hope.

Halldór: Do you all have a background in writing political music? Do you consider your music political or rather more spiritual?

Chris: I’m not a fan of politics, as I feel it creates unnecessary division. I don’t want to be a ‘political’ band. As cheesy or cliché as it is, I feel like we need to focus more on peace and love. And I hope our music conveys that.

Jason: I’d describe playing music together as a spiritual experience shared between us and with our audience. For me, this transcends politics. It’s like a glimpse into something much bigger than any single one of us, while connecting us all. Music is a peak experience. Like painting, mountain climbing, meditating, or a thousand other things, it brings us closer to something deeper yet familiar, as the material world falls away and we feel at one with each other and the universe. When we are playing music together, the space between all things and the time that separates them collapses, and we are completely present to the ever flowing moment of the now. Echoing what Dave said earlier, it’s as if we are tapping into something void of form, a Great Nothing that connects us back to everything, much like a singularity links the nothingness of a black hole to the creation of something words simply cannot express.  

Dave: Our music is the continuous evolution of earth and all that inhabits it, to lose themselves in order to find themselves, to become the NOTHING that shapes this planet into something positive.

Halldór: What do you hope to achieve with your music?

Dave: I hope to inspire all things, for people to hear the sound we make to be inspired, to be moved, to be changed, to be humbled, as this is what the music does to me and my rough edges.

Jason: As word spreads about our songs and visuals, we feel a tremendous sense of fulfillment because we believe that the work we do adds to the momentum of positivity, peace, and love in the world today. 

Halldór: Do you feel resistance or lack of interest from people when they understand your lyrics or that you make critical music? Do you feel like a lot of artists specifically use their music for change or to send out positive, constructive messages?

Jason: Our music resonates with people who share in the values of kindness, compassion, and unity. There are so many great bands and artists out there doing similar work. While some of them are household names, many are independent, lesser-known folks who are incredibly talented. It’s inspiring to hear music that not only moves you, but also is a catalyst for positive change in the world. As a musical artist, why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Magna Zero (L-R) David, Jason, Chris

Halldór: Life in your country, the US, does seem turbulent, as in most places. What are some of the things that affect you or drive you to pen down some lyrics or come up with a tune?

Jason: When we look at what’s happening in the world today, all the cruelty and suffering we’re inflicting on each other and all of the damage we’re doing to our planet, it’s easy to get down and feel like the problems we face are insurmountable, like nothing we do in our individual lives really makes a difference. But it does. What we’re seeing in our local community is an overwhelming response to call out and end bigotry and hatred. There’s a rallying cry against the destruction of our planet, and a willingness on the part of the individual to take personal responsibility for the actions made in daily life. It’s a choice to live with optimism, hope, and positivity towards ourselves and others. Creating this music with Dave and Chris helps anchor me in staying true to that choice.

Chris: If anything, I hope The Great Nothing shows that life is good.

Halldór: Can you recommend other likeminded bands or musicians from your scene or any artists that inspire you?

Jason: My short list these days includes Bob Marley, Rage Against The Machine, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, and Black Sabbath…these artists move me with their groove and especially with their lyrics.

Chris: Influences are tricky. There’s just too many. Bands that just make me feel good when I listen to them and especially see them live. Guitarists that play with soul and express themselves through their playing.

Dave: I’m inspired by so many, where to start? The pages continue to be written on my inspiration…from my childhood: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Zeppelin, The Eagles. My teenage years: Metallica, Sabbath, Rush!!, Iron Maiden, The Police, Boston, Dr. Know, Subhumans, Bad Brains, Dead Kennedys, Excel, D.R.I. My 20’s: Alice In Chains, NIN, Soundgarden, Fugazi, Radiohead, Ani DiFranco, Elliot Smith, Gang Starr, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, WuTang, Beck. Now: Jungle, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tame Impala, St. Vincent, My Morning Jacket, Father John Misty, Angel Obel.

Halldór: Outside of the music, do you partake in any projects or activism of any kind? Anything you’d like to share with the Shouts audience?

Jason: I’d like to share that as a public schoolteacher, I’m inspired by the thousands of kids I’ve worked with over the years, who despite differences in color, creed, gender identity, or politics, choose to accept each other for who they are and be friends. From my experience, I have a strong sense that our young brothers and sisters growing up today have a sense of moral responsibility to ensure there is a planet for their grandchildren to live in. Every day I see reminders from our youth of the goodness that is within the human spirit. Based on what I’m seeing in kids today, I believe we have strong reason to be hopeful that together, people from all over the world can continue to partner for a better future. 

Two Rappers, Israeli And Palestinian, Use Their Talents For Unity

Some people say there is no protest music anymore.

The truth is a bit different though. All around the world, there are so many people hurting, anywhere you look, and this seemingly never changes. But, there are also so many artists using their creative minds to start positive conversations about how things can change for the better. This can easily be seen by checking out the curated Shouts playlist and other protest music playlists.

How can there be a lack of protest music in a world like this? If one digs under the most upper layer of mainstream surfaces one can easily find a plethora of music by artists who are sick and tired of the lack of empathy in this world and who use their talents to be a part of a more compassionate world.

Uriya Rosenman is a rapper. He was born on the spot of this planet that now is called Israel.

Sameh Zakout is a rapper. He was born on the spot of this planet that now is called Palestine.

The two spent some time together. They talked. The argued. They became friends. Because in the end, we are all the same. We all poo. We all pee. We all breathe oxygen. And we all just want to live a kind life without nonsense and violence.

This is just one song of so many that are trying to make the world a better place.

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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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