All posts by Frankie Barron

Can Christmas music be activism?

So this is Christmas and I’ve listened to my fair share of Christmas music for the past month (yes I started in November) and this year, especially following the election results, I have been thinking a lot more about how those less fortunate will spend their holidays.

With so much austerity, poverty and inequality still in the world, Christmas can really highlight this for a lot of people. In the movies and advertisements Christmas is shown to be abundant with food, family and warmth which not everyone experiences.

So here are my two favourite protest Christmas songs that touch of some of these issues that cannot be forgotten at this time of year.

    1. Jona Lewie- Stop the Cavalry

This song was originally meant to be an anti-war anthem, which Lewie revealed himself in an interview on Channel 4. The music video is set in the trenches of World War 1 and the song touches on the issues of the time it was released with the tensions between the Soviet Union and western bloc and American’s nuclear settlements in the UK. However, the brass arrangement, the use of bells, and the line “wish I was a home for Christmas” it became a Christmas hit, reaching number three in the UK singles’ chart in December 1980.

2. Band Aid- “Do they know it’s Christmas?”


The Christmas number one of ’84 written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, was BandAid’s reaction to the televised famine in Ethiopia. People all over the UK watched the BBC’s reports on the famine which was named the “closest thing to hell on Earth” and were shocked by the documentary. Both Ure and Geldof decided they needed to create a charity record. And to write their own Christmas song instead of a cover as they would have to pay royalties which would take away from the amount going to charity. They went on to recruit musicians such as Sting and George Michael and the song was born and released December 3rd.

Aside from these traditional Christmas songs, Extinction Rebellion are hoping to reach Christmas no.1 this year with their new release called ‘Time for change.’ They teamed up with the rock band ‘The Jade Assembly’ to create this song all about climate change, which urges people to make a change “before we’re dead.”

Merry Christmas!

SLAM’s Lyric of the week

“Turned away from IVF and B&Bs just because they’re gay” – Grace Petrie 

Taken from her album ‘Queer as folk’ released last year.

‘Farewell to welfare’ is her contemptuous and brazen rant at the conservative government for numerous reasons.

Grace Petrie is on her soapbox for this one, addressing benefits for single mums, being in a recession but putting “more money into the monarchy and a millionaire in Downing Street.” But someone’s got to foot the bill, how about the “disabled and the mentally ill.”

It is very clear that she is pissed off at Theresa May for being ‘archaic’ for thinking that “honest people really should be turned away from IVF and B&Bs just because they’re gay.”

She dreams of a country where she can bring up kids but would settle for a country where she is ‘allowed’ to bring up kids.

Put that in your green bin and recycle it

Last night I went to the Meet & Sip Café and bar in Bournemouth town centre to attend their open mic and poetry night, which they hold every first Tuesday of the month.

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Abby Gee Poetree started the night off with her poem ‘Winter moth’ and was followed by Christine. Brian then stood, he had the confidence needed to stand up for something like this and instantly intrigued the crowd.

He used his poem to combat those who may not support his writing at his old age. He used humour to tell us that a man at his age can care about the environment and can find themselves a new hobby.

“Put that in your green big and recycle it.”

And why can’t a man at his age write poetry, why shouldn’t people care about what he has to say? and even if they don’t, why should that stop him?

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The venue was very welcoming and free to watch so would recommend if you are in the area. Those that performed were local to Dorset and were regular performers but they also welcomed new-comers. This event is perfect for those who are starting out in writing or performing because the crowd and staff are very friendly and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

SLAM’s Lyric Of The Week

“His smile was an island in a sea full of tears.”

This weeks lyrics are taken from Dave’s song ‘Question time’ from his album ‘Game over,’ released in 2017.

Dave repeats in the song that this is his “question for the new Prime Minister.”

There are so many strong political messages within this seven minute long song and I had to take to SLAM’s instagram page to have a poll to decide between this one and “Kids are getting killed for all the business in Syria” and it was a close call.

The “sea full of tears” in this sentence refers to the tears of those affected by Grenfell.

Other issues Dave addressed include, weapons, ISIS, budget, NHS and the list goes on.

‘Question time’ is the most thought-provoking, in-depth and relatable political song, in my opinion, and it is still very pertinent.

INTERVIEW: Power 2 the Poetry- Bethany Montgomery

Growing up in Tacoma, Washington DC, basketball was the love of Bethany Montgomery’s life. It was how she expressed herself. She got a scholarship to Eastern Washington University to play and she was living her dream.

However when practicing one day, she blacked out. After many frequent visits to the doctors during her college years, they discovered she had a whole in her heart.

When she was just 21 she had surgery. Before the surgery, she couldn’t run for more than a minute without blacking out.

Now post-surgery, she is better but still faces some difficulty with symptoms including nausea.

“Play basketball after taking ten shots of tequila.”

Bethany was on the right tracks to go professional with her basketball, but her health had to come first. She described playing basketball with these symptoms was like “trying to play basketball after taking ten shots of tequila.” Impossible.

For Bethany, basketball was where she could create her own moves and shots as a way of expressing herself, and when she could no longer play, she went down a very dark hole into depression and started drinking and smoking, before realising this wasn’t her…

Then she turned to writing.

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Writing had always been there in her life, she still has the journals from elementary school and the raps she wrote with her brothers. Bethany’s grandfather was a pastor, so she believes she got her performance skills from him. Growing up in the church also meant that she was no stranger to getting up and reading verses in front of an audience.

“It’s in my blood. speaking from passion and from the heart.”

It was in high school however when she discovered she had a talent for performing poems. In Sophomore year she participated in a national program called ‘Poetry out loud’ where she had to memorise someone else’s poem and perform it and she turned out to be very good at it.

Her hip hop originated from her surroundings as she explains it was everywhere around her especially in sport. The more she wrote the more her friends would request she write one for them.

In the locker rooms before basketball games she would rap with verses she’d written about each player to psych them up for the competition.

It was when she read Malcolm X’s biography that she got inspired to continue with poetry and focus on turning it into activism and speak more politically.

At first, her poetry was very personal to her and would only ever read it to her Mum.

When she left college she didn’t know what to do with her life and career until one day she decided to start up ‘Power 2 the poetry.

Power 2 the poetry is a performing arts organisation specialising in spoken word. It focuses on addressing crucial topics such as social, cultural, political and personal issues. While it helps the writer to address these issues, it inspires the audience to engage in action for change.

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Bethany performed alongside Chuck Inspire and AJ the Wordsmith in a TEDxSpokane talk called Poetry as Activism. In this talk Bethany says “poetry is how I transform negative energy into positive creativity.” When she was facing terrible health problems and retiring from basketball, she was able to write her “pain and depression.”

“It honestly saved my life.”

To Bethany, poetry means power, it gives the writer power of expression, to shine a light on adversity and create social change. and she wants to encourage others to do so.

 

#GRIME4CORBYN 2.0

 

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Snapshot of Grime 4 Corbyn 2.0 website

Grime 4 Corbyn has RELAUNCHED today with Grime 4 Corbyn 2.0 and it’s huge.

In the past 24 hours, as we lead up to the General election on 12th December with registration closing tomorrow, you may have seen this hashtag trending and circling social media. Many musicians are tweeting this #GRIME4CORBYN, but what is it?

The Live Stream event which is happening this Friday 29th 7-11pm hosted by Grime originals requires a sign-up to see grime artists performing in aid of Labour.

sign up here

This is a movement that was launched two years ago with the pro-voting campaign called Grime 4 Corbyn.

The campaign followed a huge wave of support for Labour in the grime scene, originating from the MC Novelist, who shared messages of his membership to the Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader has been supported by more and more grime artists since the 2016 referendum including STORMZY. Corbyn’s snapchat even featured a takeover by JME where he told people to register to vote.

In a video by iD, MC JME meets Jeremy Corbyn in a cafe to have a conversation. The two talk about why young people don’t vote and what that means for the outcome. The main message of the artist being “make sure you register to vote.”

Following all of this, the pro-voting campaign website Grime 4 Corbyn was launched.

The outcome of the following election created an increase of seats by 40% for Labour, but that was 2017.

In the past couple of days, it has been announced that 1.5 million young people have registered to vote for the next election and Grime 4 Corbyn has RELAUNCHED.

This election just got a whole lot more interesting.

 

SLAM Blog’s Lyric of The Week:

“EUROPE IS LOST” 

These powerful lyrics are by one of the most well-known protest singers in the UK right now – Kate Tempest.

Taken from her album “Let them eat chaos” released in 2016, the song “Europe is lost” captures the anxiety of the year.

Between Brexit and the US election, this song addresses terrorism, climate change and David Cameron all in a five and a half minute hip-hop track.

This is a song you must listen to carefully. Hear the lyrics that hit hard -the ones that illustrate a paranoid youth who feels that her world is being taken away from her by industries, government and careless generations.

 

Loyle Carner protests Boris at sold out Ally pally show

Loyle Carner is a hip-hop artist from London. His music has been described as ‘confessional’ and ‘sensitive.’

Last month he started his European tour and even sold out at Alexandra Palace on 15th November. Carner took this opportunity to shout “fuck Boris” during his song ‘still.’

 

He has toured and collaborated with spoken word star Kate Tempest and is currently touring his album ‘Not waving, but drowning‘ however, due to falling ill has had to cancel some of the shows including Natnes.

He uses poetry in ‘Dear Jean’ among other songs. ‘Dear Jean’ is a letter to his mother, telling her about his girlfriend and that he will be moving out of his home to live with her. He assures ‘Jean’ that he is never out of touch, he is not gone forever. Loyle Carner and his mother found it difficult when he moved out and this song was their reassurance.

Florence‘ is a song about his want for a sister. With partner Kwes, the song was written when Loyle was upset about losing his step-father. He said having a little sister would help and the song was written in a day.

+44′is a rap without a backing track and it sounds just like a spoken word performance about texting a girl he lusts after.

From his newest album listen to ‘not waving but drowning,’ (a poem which explains the name of the whole album) and ‘still,’ as shown in the video above. In this song he addresses  his ADHD and racial heritage.

Like poetry, but make it music

Are there different genres of spoken word? and if so, what are they?

When you think of spoken word, you may picture a small stage at an open mic event in a bar with an apprehensive youth walking up to the stage psyching themselves up for a reading.

Spoken word is no longer however, confined to poetry classes and pub nights, its woven into the music that we listen to everyday. I am going to explore the different genres that I have found and what I believe fit into spoken word.

Folk

This one may be more obvious than I think, but when you start to observe the spoken word or protest culture, folk artists from both past and present have used lyrics which are emotive and often driven by politics and social change. It has also, in the past, helped shape the art and inspired poets and singers to follow.

If you think back to the 1960’s, you had Woody Guthrie with his liberalist views spilling out in lyrics “this land is your land” which would have resonated with so many.

Even nowadays there are so many artists making up the genre of folk. The first type of music you come across when you look at activism within song is folk.

The modern folk singer uses music to defy the norms that you see in other genres like pop. So many of the artists I’ve found are women finding their way through the fourth wave of feminism by addressing issues from identity as a female or LGBT, to breast-feeding.

HIP HOP/ RAP

One of my favourite things about spoken word is when it is adopted by singers that are not spoken word artists by profession, but use their creativity to create components of spoken word that work for them, for a track or two on their albums.

A singer that does this is Loyle Carner. He creates this by effortlessly having a beat, with poetry or spoken word over the top. Listen to “+44” and “Dear Jean.”

Rap, a lot of the time, can be viewed as a poem. The way it is rapped with rhythm and beat is similar to how poems are read and even spoken word. It’s not just reading words from a page, its adding emotion and flow.

POETRY

When I think about the difference between spoken word and poetry, it’s hard to know where one ends an the other begins for me. I think poetry is very important in forming the basis of a lot of spoken word, as it’s emotive, provokes feelings and also uses a lot of metaphors. Spoken word requires an extra skill of performance though which makes it so unique. The two do work hand-in-hand at creating language that inspires change and expresses thoughts and feelings.

 

 

 

SLAM blog’s: Lyric Of The Week.

“LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE”- Novelist

This is a phrase you have all heard of before, but this time, its played over a speech by David Cameron.

A clear political message here by MC Novelist in his song titled “Tax the MPs.”

Novelist was once Deputy Young Mayor of Lewisham so is politically active and his songs reflect this.

Just another way the grime scene is becoming more and more politically influential.