Music Notes – September 2012

By Wally Brooker

Three Little Birds fight apartheid

In June Ottawa folk group Three Little Birds appeared on CTV’s “Morning Live in Ottawa” and sang “Apartheid,” a song they’d written about media censorship, the occupation of Palestine and the discriminatory practices of the Israeli state. A month later, after a clip from their CTV appearance was posted online, pro-Israeli group Honest Reporting Canada described the song as “hateful” and appealed to its readers to send protest letters to CTV. Three Little Birds defended themselves with calm assurance. “We do not use the term apartheid lightly,” said band member Angela Schleihauf, citing internationally recognized definitions of the term. The song “Apartheid” was a response to the banning of a poster at Carleton University that commented on Israel’s massacre of 1400 Palestinians during its attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. To view the performance on YouTube search “Three Little Birds CTV.” To send a letter in support of the band visit

Pussy Riot exposes Russia’s courts

The trial of three members of feminist punk rock collective Pussy Riot has drawn attention to Russia’s politically-compromised legal system. Last February the women were part of a one-minute anti-Putin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral. No damage was done, no one was hurt, and the performers allowed themselves to be peacefully escorted from the nearly-empty cathedral. In March they were charged with “hooliganism” under laws that carry stiff prison sentences. On August 17th they were convicted and sentenced to two years in jail. Was their trial about hooliganism? Although Russia is a secular state prosecutors referred to them as “blasphemers.” Lawyers representing “injured” church employees testified that feminism is incompatible with the Orthodox faith. The defendants declared that their action, staged just before Russia’s widely-criticised presidential elections, was a political protest against Moscow Patriarch Kirill’s endorsement of Putin. Their lawyer promises an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. For info:

Le Chiffon Rouge comes to Quebec

Le Chiffon Rouge, a popular song by French singer-songwriter Michel Fugain (b. 1942) and lyricist Maurice Vidalin (1924-1986), has been appropriated by Quebec activists for use as a resistance anthem. A new video created and posted on YouTube by Montreal artist Patrick Diotte effectively combines footage of this year’s student struggles in Quebec and the fight against the Charest regime’s Bill 78 with the stirring 1977 anthem. Le Chiffon Rouge receives regular YouTube homage in France. Judging by the massive number of hits, it remains extremely popular with the left in that country. Here’s a rough translation of the chorus: “Your heart clings to a piece of red cloth / a blood red flower / if you really want things to change, arise! / for it is time.” For the  Quebec video search for “Printemps 2012 – Quebec – Le Chiffon Rouge.” For an inspiring French video look for “Michel Fugain – Le Chiffon Rouge.” If you’d like a fun way to learn the song search for “Le Chiffon Rouge – Fugain Karaoké.”

Toronto’s Sudanese drum for freedom

More than a dozen drummers, led by prominent Sudanese-Canadian musician Waleed Abdulhamid, were the focal point of a July 29th rally by 200 members of Toronto’s Sudanese community against the 23-year-old dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir. Since June more than 2000 activists have been arrested by Bashir’s police. The rally began at Nathan Phillips Square with drumming. Later, participants paraded through the downtown area chanting and carrying signs calling for democracy and human rights, with the powerful drum corps alerting Saturday afternoon crowds to the procession headed their way. Afterwards, back at Nathan Phillips Square, speakers called upon Canadians for assistance in the struggle to free political prisoners and bring peace and democracy to Sudan. The Toronto rally, one of many held around the world, was sponsored by the Solidarity Committee for Sudan Revolt (SCSR-Canada). For more information visit or e-mail

Madonna versus Marine Le Pen

Rock superstar Madonna has maintained her lofty status in the world of pop music not only for her talent for staging spectacles, but also for her ability to generate controversy. While her politics are basically liberal (she was criticised in this column for performing in Israel this summer), Madonna’s recent broadside in Paris against far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen deserves kudos. At her July 14th Bastille Day concert, attended by 70,000 fans, the singer projected a rapid succession of collage images that included Le Pen with a swastika imposed on her forehead. Seconds later a Hitler-style moustache appeared on the face. The National Front leader, who received almost 18% of the vote in the recent presidential election, has threatened to sue Madonna for defamation. It’s the height of hypocrisy, since her party constantly defames people of colour, immigrants and minorities, especially Muslims. Madonna’s stage video can be found on YouTube. Look for “Madonna – Nobody Knows Me Official Backdrop.”

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