Music Notes – April 2012

Mikis Theodorakis on the front lines 

Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, best known in Canada for his acclaimed scores for films like Zorba the Greek, Serpico, Z and State of Siege, was tear-gassed February 12th at a massive Athens demonstration. The protest, organized by the All-Workers Militant Front (PAME), attracted more than 100,000 people. It was one of dozens held thoughout the country against the latest round of IMF and Euro Bank austerity measures. Theodorakis, 87, is a veteran of the anti-Nazi resistance and was a prominent figure in the struggle against the fascist junta that ruled Greece from1967-74. Like another veteran who accompanied him at the rally, 89 year-old partisan hero Manolis Glezos, he’s a former M.P. After being treated for tear-gas, the two militants were allowed to witness the betrayal of the Greek people in parliament later that day. In an open letter published on his website Theodorakis calls for a “unified front of resistance and solidarity.” For more info: http://www.mikis-theodorakis.net/.

 Madonna’s imperial spectacle

 Madonna’s half-time show at the Superbowl on February 5th began with her arrival on a giant winged chariot pulled by 50 Roman soldiers. The pop superstar appeared as a fantasy version of an ancient Babylonian queen. The allusion to America’s colonial wars in the Middle East was unmistakeable. Football’s annual spectacle of bread and circuses featured Madonna lip-synching and dancing her way through a medley of songs, surrounded by dancers, acrobats, singers, a gospel choir, a military drum corps, and (dressed as cheerleaders) two young female pop stars: M.I.A. and Nicki Miraj. Madonna exited in a puff of smoke, leaving behind  a giant glowing slogan: “World Peace.” She’s launching a world tour May 29th in Tel Aviv, thereby revealing her contempt for the cultural boycott of Israel and the just cause of occupied Palestine. Some of Madonna’s Israeli fans recognize her “world peace” slogan for the cynical ploy that it is. They’ve created a Facebook page calling for Israel not to attack Iran until after her Tel Aviv spectacle.

 Rock stars rage against Rush Limbaugh

 Rock musicians Tom Morello, Peter Gabriel, and Canadian band Rush are demanding that right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh stop playing their music on the air. The racist, misogynist Limbaugh has been losing corporate sponsors since his February 29th rant against Georgetown university law student Sandra Fluke. He called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she’d testified in Congress in support of health coverage for contraceptives. The musicians can hope that their public outcry will pressure Limbaugh to remove their songs from his nationally-syndicated show, but they have no real legal power to enforce the cease and desist orders some of them have issued. Radio networks are covered under blanket permission agreements for “public performances” of all songs in major licensing catalogues as long as they pay their fees. So far more than 30 corporate sponsors have abandoned The Rush Limbaugh Show.

 Musicians protest Grammy Awards cuts

 Media coverage of the 2012 Grammy Awards was dominated by tributes to R&B megastar Whitney Houston, who died at the age of 48 on February 12th. While the outpouring of tributes to one of the world’s most popular entertainers was understandable, her death overshadowed an important story at the Grammys. This year 31 categories were dropped from the American music awards, with most of them in “ethnic music” categories, such as latin jazz, native american, cajun and gospel. On February 9th musicians demonstrated outside the L.A. office of the Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (sponsor of the Grammys), where Latin jazz star and spokesperson Bobby Sanabria called the cuts “a subtle form of racism.” Protests continued with a picket outside the Grammy Awards on February 12th. Letters of protest have been sent by many prominent musicians including Paul Simon, Bonnie Rait, Carlos Santana and Herbie Hancock. For info visit: http://www.grammywatch.org/.

 Springsteen’s new album

 In an age of commercial decline for classic rock, it’s perhaps a sign of the times that a 62-year-old veteran like Bruce Springsteen can reach the top of the Billboard charts with a collection of pro-working class songs that’s clearly influenced by the occupy movement. The left-of-centre populist, who’s consistently supported grassroots struggles over the years, has released “Wrecking Ball,” an album that reflects the hard times and bitter realities faced by working people in the plutocracy that is contemporary America. In 2008 he jumped on the Obama train, and even joined Pete Seeger in a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at the President’s inauguration. In this election year Springsteen’s support for Obama has apparently been withdrawn, but he’ll be on tour singing many of these new songs – some bitter, some hopeful and inspiring – with an expanded E-Street Band that now includes back-up singers and a full horn section. For more info: http://brucespringsteen.net/.

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