Music Notes – December 2010

NATO warlords take out Arcade Fire

A sold-out November 18th concert in Lisbon by Montreal indy rock band Arcade Fire was  cancelled November 2nd by none other than NATO. The warlords claimed that the band’s venue was too close to the site where they were gathering November 19-20 for their summit meeting and declared the concert a “security risk.” Arcade Fire was taken by surprise by the decision, but promised to refund the 20,000 fans who had purchased tickets. As this paper goes to press President Obama and other leaders are converging on Lisbon to announce NATO’s “New Strategic Concept”  and Portuguese authorities are preparing to greet opponents of militarism with a massive show of force. In spite of the economic crisis and the impoverishment of millions of people at home and abroad, NATO’s military spending and aggressive plans continue unabated. It’s disappointing that Arcade Fire did not protest the cancellation of its gig.

Performers help launch Canadian boat to Gaza

Musicians and dancers offered their artistry in support of the Canada Boat to Gaza campaign at an October 29th fundraiser at Toronto’s Beit Zatoun cultural centre.  Performers included Egyptian-Canadian singer Maryem Tollar, Palestinian-Canadian dancer-vocalist Roula Said, Kathak dancer Joanna de Souza, singer-songwriter Andrea Koziol and downtempo electronic band LAL. The Toronto event was one of many fundraisers taking place across Canada as organizers seek to raise $300,000 to send a Canadian-registered ship as part of the international Free Gaza Flotilla. So far more than $100,000 has been raised. Canada Boat to Gaza is a partner of the Free Gaza Movement. To make a donation visit

Montreal Artists vs Apartheid XIV

Hundreds gathered at Montreal’s Le Consulat bistro on October 23rd for the fourteenth edition of Artists Against Apartheid, celebrating BDS Conférence Montréal,  the Québec-Canada conference on the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the government of Israel.  More than 600 activists attended the landmark conference held that  weekend. Artists Against Apartheid XIV featured contemporary artists such as the Cuban hip-hop ensemble Obsesión, Detroit rapper Invincible, members of Montreal’s hip-hop collective Nomadic Massive and Iraqi-Montreal artist The Narcicyst.  For a taste of this event check out Martijn Steinrucken’s video at For an audio report on the conference visit

Where are Canada’s anti-war musicians?

While polls show that 55% of Canadians oppose Canada’s military operation in Afghanistan, prominent musicians seem reluctant to speak out against the war. Last year Bruce Cockburn, famous for his anti-war stance in previous conflicts, performed for the troops in Kandahar, defended Canada’s military commitment there and jokingly accepted a symbolic rocket launcher. While some well-known musicians participated in the G20 protests last summer and many are involved in a variety of worthwhile causes, criticism of Canada’s military seems to be taboo. It’s a shame because it looks like there’s been an orchestrated campaign to use musicians to prepare Canadians for the latest extension of the Canadian forces’ mission in Afghanistan. Witness “Standing Strong and True (For Tomorrow),” a slick propaganda video featuring country music artists, released on Remembrance Day and celebrated nationwide in newspapers owned by Postmedia, the successor company to Canwest led by National Post CEO Paul Godfrey.

Venezuela’s El Sistema: revolution in music education

British conductor Simon Rattle has called it “the most important phenomenon in music today.” He’s talking about El Sistema, the popular name for Venezuela’s publicly-funded music program that watches over 125 youth orchestras and the training programs which make them possible. Founded by visionary musician-educator José Antonio Abreu in 1975 and acclaimed for decades, it has thrived under the enthusiastic patronage of the government of Hugo Chavez. It’s estimated that 90% of the 330,000 children now playing music in the system are from poor backgrounds. In the words of José Antonio Abreu, “our ideal is a country in which art is within reach of every citizen so that we can no longer talk about art being the property of the elite, but the heritage of the people.” El Sistema’s flagship is the Simón Bolívar National Youth Orchestra, currently thrilling classical music lovers around the world. Find out more at

Common Thread’s singer-activists

For more than 12 years members of Toronto’s Common Threads Community Chorus have attended rallies, marches, picket lines, demonstrations, celebrations, meetings and conferences to teach songs and encourage community singing. Now they’re getting a little more proactive. In October the choir circulated a message to Toronto’s progressive community announcing that they have several trained song leaders and many more choir members eager to bring their music to the people. Readers in the Toronto area who know of events that would lend themselves to Common Thread’s musical vision should contact its Sing-along Committee at Common Thread’s initiative seems like a great way of fostering  popular music culture across this land. For more info visit

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