Music Notes – July 2013

“Do You Hear the People Sing?”

On June 10th, shortly after Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had dismissed Taksim Square protesters as “capulcular” (i.e. riff-raff), a “capulcular chorus” performed an English-Turkish version of “Do You Hear the People Sing?” in the square. In the circulating YouTube video the choir stands in front of a banner that reads “Taksim Solidarity.” The rousing anthem comes from the 1980 hit musical “Les Misérables.” The perennially-popular musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil is based on the Victor Hugo novel “Les Misérables.” It’s set in France in the 1830’s. The song appears in a climactic scene where revolutionary Parisian students and urban poor take a stand on the barricades against the forces of the old regime. The same Turkish YouTube user has also posted a video of protesters surrounding a grand piano and singing the old Italian anti-fascist song “Bella Ciao.” To find the story and both videos enter the keywords “Les Mis Turkey” at

Alicia Keys in “soul danger”

An open letter from American writer Alice Walker to superstar singer Alicia Keys, calling upon her to cancel a July 4 concert in Tel Aviv, was published in May on the website of the US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. In it, the author of “The Color Purple” writes “it would grieve me to know you are putting yourself in danger (soul danger) by performing in an Apartheid country that is being boycotted by many global conscious artists.” In June a delegation representing hundreds of organizations presented a petition with 13,000 signatures to the office of the singer’s HIV/AIDS foundation Keep a Child Alive. University of New Mexico students have produced an eloquent video combining the singer’s current hit “Girl on Fire” with images of Palestinian women peacefully confronting the Israeli military. A recent poll by Black Entertainment Television revealed that 63% of respondents thought Keys should cancel the gig. To learn more visit:

An anthem for USA immigration reform

La Santa Cecilia is a popular LA-based Mexican-American band (named for the patron saint of musicians) that plays a hybrid of styles including cumbia, Afro-Cuban, rock, jazz, and klezmer. Recently they joined forces with filmmaker Alex Rivera and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network ( to release Ice-El Hielo. Hielo is Spanish for ice – a loaded term for undocumented workers who are constantly harassed by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Both song and video sympathetically portray the daily struggles of undocumented immigrants. In fact, the parents of lead singer Marisol Hernandez and accordionist Jose “Pepe” Carlos were both illegal immigrants. In April the band sang Ice-El Hielo at a massive immigration rally in Washington and joined in the march to the ICE offices. Bilingual lyrics can be found at Ice-El Hielo appears on the band’s new album “Treinta Dias.” For more info:

Guitar Centre workers unionize

Last month Music Notes carried a story about the struggle of workers to unionize at the Guitar Center’s flagship store in Manhattan. The world’s largest musical instrument retailer is owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Working conditions have deteriorated there since the corporate bottom-feeder took over the company in 2007. The good news is that Guitar Center workers in Manhattan are celebrating a huge victory. On May 24th they voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), winning by a decisive margin: 27 to 15. The momentum is spreading with elections at Guitar Center stores in Brooklyn and Queens on the horizon. Thanks to their own resolve, as well as the support of co-workers and customers across the country (including musicians like Steve Earle and Tom Morello), the Guitar Center workers have ensured that their voice will be heard as they negotiate for improved wages, benefits and respect. For more info:

Music against Child Labour

Some of the world’s leading classical musicians have joined with the International Labour Organization in an initiative to combat child labour. The Music against Child Labour Initiative calls for orchestras, choirs, and musicians of all genres to dedicate a concert between October 2013 and December 2014 to the struggle against child labour. Supporters include renowned conductors Claudio Abbado and Daniel Barenboim, the International Federation of Musicians, and Fundación Musical Simon Bolivar El Sistema. The “call to batons” was launched, along with the Music Against Child Labour Manifesto, at a June 11th concert in Paris. Signatories to the manifesto point to the 215 million children worldwide who are trapped in child labour and highlight the transformative power of music and the positive effects of engaging vulnerable children in musical activity. The official beginning of the concert series is scheduled for October 8th in Brasilia, where a concert will open the Third Global Conference Against Child Labour. For more info:


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