Music Notes – March 2010

“The Wild Proroguer” on Parliament Hill

Kudos to Trevor Strong of The Arrogant Worms, whose hilarious satirical song “The Wild Proroguer” spread quickly through cyberspace to help to build the movement that took the wind out of Stephen Harper’s sails. As Canadians protested across the country on January 23 against the shutting down of parliament, it was fitting that Strong sang his song at the Parliament Hill rally. “If I’m at a rally, something’s gone horribly wrong,” he quipped, adding that Harper “came to power promising an open government, and now his government isn’t even open.” The Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament now has more than 225,000 members.

Haiti Telethons Silent on Aristide

Prominent musicians have made their appearances on the Haiti telethons, and the public has responded with millions of dollars in pledges. While many of the charities, such as Doctors Without Borders, are worthy of the Haitian peoples’ trust, others like the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund are cause for concern, given the record of the two ex-presidents. As for the telethon performers, was there a single musician on either the Canadian or U.S. broadcast who reminded viewers that democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed by the the USA, Canada and France in 2004 and is now living in exile in South Africa? Not one. Certainly not superstar Wyclef Jean, a Haitian-American musician who appeared on the “Hope For Haiti Now” telethon. After the earthquake, Jean called for the immediate intervention of the U.S. military, and back in 2004 he openly advocated the overthrow of Aristide.

Musicians Sue Canadian Recording Industry Giants

A massive class-action lawsuit against the four primary members of the Canadian Recording Industry Association is picking up steam with the naming of the estate of jazz great Chet Baker as lead plaintiff in the case. The four CRIA companies are Warner Music Canada, Sony BMG Music Canada, EMI Music Canada and Universal Music Canada. The lawsuit began in October 2008 when artists found that for decades works included in compilation CDs, such as top dance tracks of a certain year or live recordings, often were created or distributed without obtaining copyright licences. The infringers already admit they owe $50 million but the full claim, according to Canadian law professor Michael Geist, could be as much as $6 billion. These are the same companies that have been charging for years that consumers don’t respect copyright. Thousands of Canadian and non-Canadian artists are involved.

Buffy Sainte-Marie Continues to Inspire

Legendary singer-songwriter and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie is receiving accolades for her latest album “Running for the Drum”. In December she emerged as the big winner at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards with four awards including Album of the Year, Best Single (“No No Keshegesh”), Best Songwriter and Best Female Artist. The 69-year old phenomenon is still delivering inspiring music that speaks truth to power. For a jolt of righteous energy check out her video for “No No Keshegesh” on YouTube.

Obamas Host Songs of the Civil Rights Movement

President Obama and his family celebrated Black History Month February 10 with an evening of songs of the civil rights movement at the White House. Performers included Joan Baez, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan,The Freedom Singers, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson & Stevie Wonder. Natalie Cole sang Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Goin’ On?” with it’s anti-war lyric “we don’t need to escalate, war is not the answer.” Did you hear that Mr. President?

Neruda-Theodorakis “Canto General” coming to Toronto

Toronto band Los Companeros are planning one of their most ambitious projects ever. The group, founded in the late 1970s by exiles from fascist regimes in Chile and Greece will be performing  Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis’ setting of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s epic “Canto General” at Toronto’s Music Hall on November 28 & 29. In addition to the seven-member group there will be Canadian and international guest soloists plus a 44-member chorus, all under the baton of Margarita Theodoraki, director of Orquesta Mikis Theodorakis (direct from Greece).  It may seem a long way off, but this is a major event. The oratorio has been described as “music for revolutionaries to sing while storming the gates.”

Kate McGarrigle RIP

Admirers from around the world paid tribute to Montreal singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle who died January 18 after a long illness. She was 63. With sister Anna she formed the McGarrigle Sisters, a popular duo with deep roots in folk music, featuring the sisters’ extraordinary vocal harmonies. From their beginnings in the progressive folk music scene in Montreal in the sixties, the bilingual sisters achieved world-wide fame, but always stayed close to home in what Kate once called ‘the communist-socialist society which I adore.’

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