Music Notes – February 2011

Steelworker Remo Cino Sings for Hamilton

At a time of growing awareness that locked-out Hamilton steelworkers are on the front line of a fight crucial to all Canadian working people, it’s inspiring to learn that one of their union brothers has recorded a powerful song, set it to an equally strong video and posted it on YouTube, where it’s received almost 10,000 views. Remo Cino worked for 10 years at the former Stelco plant until he was laid off in November 2008. Sometime later at the union hall he heard a child read a poem that moved him to write “Everything Comes at a Price.” The song touches a lot of bases: the feeling of being laid off, the effect on the local economy, the pride of Hamilton’s steelworkers and their betrayal by the Canadian state. Look it up on YouTube and leave a message for Remo while you’re at it.

Lawyer seeks arrests in Victor Jara murder

A Chilean government lawyer is seeking the arrest of four retired army officers for the murder of Victor Jara. The reknowned folksinger was executed shortly after the U.S.-backed coup of September 11, 1973 that overthrew the socialist government of Salvador Allende and installed dictator Augusto Pinochet. Chile’s Interior Ministry submitted the request to Judge Juan Fuentes Belmar on December 21st, naming retired officers Edwin Dimter, Hugo Sanchez, Raul Joffre and ex-prosecutor Ronaldo Melo as defendants. The investigation began in 2008 when army conscript José Paredes Márquez was charged with the killing. He continues to protest his innocence. Victor Jara was detained in a stadium along with 5,000 other Allende supporters. Soon after he was tortured and shot to death. In 2009 his remains were reburied in a massive public funeral.

Cubans pay hommage to John Lennon

On December 8th, early risers in Havana were surprised by a rock band on the roof of the Central Museum of Decorative Arts. On the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder local musicians were paying their respects by performing in the manner of the Beatles’ final concert on the roof of their London recording studio. The Cubans, who gather once a month to play Beatles music, closed with “Imagine”, Lennon’s anthem for world peace. Ten years earlier Presdent Fidel Castro and musician Silvio Rodriquez, at a nearby park, unveiled sculptor José Villa’s statue of John Lennon, and Ricardo Alarcon, President of the National Assembly, delivered a moving eulogy. Read it here: http://cubamigo.org/juliancindy/lennon.html

Musicians donate 40 tons of food to Arizona migrants

Sound Strike, a musicians’ organization that calls for the boycott of Arizona until it repeals its anti-immigrant Bill 1070, donated 40 tons of food and distributed 2,000 toys to immigrant families at an outdoor concert in Phoenix on December 18th. Money for the food came from a July 23rd concert in Los Angeles by rockers Rage Against the Machine and singer-songwriter Conner Oberst. Potatos, oranges, beans and rice were purchased from Native American co-ops. Funds for the toys came from online donations to Sound Strike. The group’s founder Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine performed at the Phoenix event. December 18th is Internatioal Migrants Day, proclaimed by the United Nations in 2000 to highlight human rights issues facing migrants throughout the world. For more information visit http://www.thesoundstrike.net/.

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune

Phil Ochs, one of the outstanding radical folksingers and songwriters of the 1960s, is a relatively obscure figure to many young activists today, but a new film about his life and times may change that. “Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune” opened in New York on January 5th and is showing at selected North American theatres. The documentary, directed by Kenneth Bowser, contains rare performance footage plus interviews with Joan Baez, Peter Yarrow, Pete Seeger, and many others. Phil Ochs walked in the footsteps of  Woody Guthrie, believing as Guthrie did that music should be a force for social justice. In 1976, misunderstood by the counterculture he’d helped to create, depressed by the state of the movement, and suffering from mental illness, Phil Ochs took his own life. His music lives on. For more info: http://philochsthemovie.com/.

Nova Scotia Mass Choir Honours Dr. King

Martin Luther King’s birthday, a federal holiday in the U.S.A. since 1986, is celebrated unofficially by many Canadians. On January 15th in Halifax the Nova Scotia Mass Choir presented “The Dream Continues,” its eighth annual Martin Luther King concert at the Dalhousie University Arts Centre. Guest soloists at this year’s concert were African-Canadian jazz singer Jeri Brown and Nova Scotia R&B singer Frank MacKay. Special tribute was paid to the Jamaican Maroons. More than 500 of these descendants of escaped slaves were deported to Canada in 1796, where they were employed to work on the Halifax Citadel and subsequently founded the nearby town of Preston. The 35-member Nova Scotia Mass Choir was founded in 1992. For more info: http://nsmasschoir.com/.

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