Music Notes – July 2011

Musicians sing out for the Tahrir

Musicians contributed to the atmosphere of hope and solidarity among Toronto supporters of the Canadian Boat to Gaza  (the Tahrir) at a June 9th fundraising dinner for Freedom Flotilla II delegates Lyn Adamson and Robert Lovelace. Guests at the Friends House dinner erupted into song at the prompting of the Common Thread Singalong Chorus, who offered, among their five-song set, the classic “Somos El Barco” (“We are the Boat”) and an adapted version of the African-American spiritual  “Oh Freedom.” Local singer-guitarist Maria Kasstan moved the audience with a powerful version of her composition “Those Who Would” and young vocalist Kimberley Howell impressed with a Sarah Harmer cover. The event featured powerful speaches from Holocaust survivor Suzanne Weiss and Christian Peacemaker James Loney, as well as greetings from Robert Massoud, director of Toronto’s Palestian cultural centre Beit Zatoun.  Lyn Adamson summed things up: ” It was lovely to feel the energy of support from that room. We’ll take it with us on our trip!”

Palestine’s Amandla moment

Amandla (‘Power’) was the rallying cry of the South African people during their long struggle against apartheid. In the 1980s, thanks in part to the efforts of musicians like Peter Gabriel (“Biko”), Special AKA (“Free Nelson Mandela”) and Steven Van Zandt (“Sun City”), the world-wide anti-apartheid solidarity movement deepened its mass impact. Today musicians are beginning to reach the mass audience for Palestine. Case in point: on July 3rd OneWorld, a collective of prominent contemporary U.K. musicians, artists and solidarity groups, released the upbeat single “Freedom for Palestine.” Featured artists include Maxi Jazz (Faithless), Dave Randall (Slovo), Jamie Catto (1 Giant Leap), vocalist LSK, and South Africa’s Durban Gospel Choir. Proceeds go to War On Want (a trade union charity) exclusively for projects in Palestine. Other supporters include: Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews For Justice in Palestine. Buy the song and spread the word. For more info:

Major league baseball’s hypocrisy

Guitar great Carlos Santana was booed by Atlanta baseball fans on May 15th for talking about civil rights at major league baseball’s annual “Civil Rights Game.” Santana was accepting baseball’s “Beacon of Change” award when he slammed the host city as well as the state of Arizona for passing immigration bills that discriminate against Latinos. He was referring to Georgia’s draconian Bill HB 87, signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal just two days before, and inspired by Arizona’s Bill SB 1040. “I would invite all Latin people to do nothing for about two weeks,” Santana told the crowd, “so you can see who really is running the economy.” Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig left the building long before the guitarist appeared at a post-game press conference to elaborate on his views. The game’s head honcho stubbornly refuses to heed calls to move the upcoming all-star game from Arizona. Kudos to Carlos Santana, a supporter of the cultural boycott of Israel, who once again shows himself to be an artist with a keen sense of social justice.  

Steve Earle sings for New Orleans

Earlier this year the Obama Administration made the appalling decision to allow offshore oil drilling to resume without additional environmental protection. Grammy-winning musician and activist Steve Earle pointed out in a May 13th interview on Democracy Now the equally appalling fact that Louisiana is the only coastal state that does not collect royalties from drilling.  Earle, 56, who has been appearing in Treme, a TV series set in post-Katrina New Orleans, has just released I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, a new Cd of original songs recorded in the Crescent City. A highlight from the album is “The City,” a poignant anthem for the people of New Orleans with horn charts by local great Allen Toussaint. Readers can watch Earle perform an accoustic version of “The City,” as well as his classic songs “Christmas in Washington” and “The Ballad of John Walker Lindh” at

Leon Rosselson’s BC & Toronto gigs

Acclaimed U.K. singer, songwriter, author and activist Leon Rosselson will be appearing at the Vancouver Island Musicfest July 7th and the Vancouver Folk Festival July 15th, as well as giving five other concerts in B.C. this month. Several of the latter will be with U.K. folk artist Robb Johnson, including a special performance in Vancouver on June 22nd of “The Liberty Tree,” their narrated song cycle about the life of revolutionary democrat Thomas Paine. Rosselson will conclude his visit to Canada with a concert at Toronto’s Beit Zatoun on August 6th. Don’t miss this great progressive artist, of whom it has been said “he has the passion of Brel, the commitment of Brecht, and the wit of Lehrer.” For more information about Rosselson’s itinerary visit  Look also for the 2010 Guardian article celebrating his 50th anniversary as a performer:










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