Music Notes – September 2013

Faith Nolan

Faith Nolan’s prison music project

Popular singer-songwriter Faith Nolan is fundraising for an important new project. She’s asking us to help produce a new recording and songbook called “I am a Prisoner.” It will give voice to (in her words) “the silenced, the neglected, the abused, the not seen.” She’s talking about the women who languish in Canada’s prisons. For the past six years Faith has listened to their stories and collected their songs while coordinating music programs in two Ontario penitentiaries. Proceeds from sales of “I am a Prisoner” will go to creating a fund to give housing to women who have been released from jail. Faith Nolan has been an outstanding figure in Canadian people’s music over the past 30 years. She’s  stood on the front lines wherever people are struggling for justice. To donate (and to hear a sample track from the album) visit http://www.faithnolan.org.

Stevie Wonder starts Florida boycott

Motown legend Stevie Wonder led the way and other stars followed suit after the July 13th acquittal of George Zimmerman, the vigilante who murdered unarmed back teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012. Speaking the day after the verdict at a concert in Quebec, Wonder vowed not to perform in Florida until its “stand your ground law” has been abolished. The 63-year old R&B artist was quickly joined by a host of musical celebrities including Alicia Keys, Jay Z, Madonna, Rihanna, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West, all of whom pledged to boycott the state. Wonder has promised to boycott all of the more than 20 states that have “stand your ground laws” in place. Stevie Wonder played a prominent role in the campaign to establish the Martin Luther King holiday in the USA, most notably with his mammoth 1980 hit song “Happy Birthday.” Check it out on YouTube,

North Carolina musicians rising

North Carolina has long been a been a wellspring of American people’s music, from bluegrass to the blues. Today a new generation of musicians is emerging from a popular struggle against a reactionary state government. A diverse collective of 40 musicians calling itself “NC Music Love Army” performed regularly at the weekly “Moral Monday” protests inside the state assembly building in Raleigh from April 29th to the end of July. Now, with the assembly in summer recess, the protests (and the musicians) are planning to visit all 13 state congressional districts. NC Music Love Army played most recently at a rally in Asheville, attended by 10,000 North Carolinians, and later headlined a fundraising concert for the local NAACP legal defence fund. The Republican administration’s agenda includes vicious cuts to unemployment benefits and education, attacks on women’s reproductive rights, and racist electoral reforms. More than 1000 non-violent resisters have already been arrested. For info visit the “NC Music Love Army” Facebook page.

Manic Street Preachers sue EDL

Left-wing Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers are suing the neo-fascist English Defence League (EDL) for using, in a campaign video, their song “If You Tolerate This Then Your Children Will Be Next.” The 1998 song was a homage to Welsh farmers who joined the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. It features an anti-fascist slogan used during the conflict: “If I can shoot rabbits/Then I can shoot fascists.” The EDL used the song in a video promoting a Birmingham march in July against “radical Islam.” “It’s ironic that the EDL are using an anti-fascist song to actually encourage fascism,” said Weyman Bennett, spokesperson for the U.K. group Unite Against Fascism. “They are taking what is a struggle for equality and trying to turn it into something about division.”  Incidentally, the Manic Street Preachers were the first British rock band to tour Cuba. Check them out at http://www.manicstreetpreachers.com/.

Toshi Ohta Seeger RIP

Toshi Ohta Seeger, wife of folk musician Pete Seeger, died at their home in Beacon, NY on July 9th. She was 91. Toshi was an environmental activist, a filmmaker and a key figure in her husband’s remarkable career. She was born in Germany to an American mother and a Japanese father who’d been banished from Japan for leftist activity. Toshi was brought to the U.S. at the age of six months and grew up in New York City in a progressive household. She met Seeger at a square dance in 1943 and they were married soon afterwards. In 1949 the two built a log cabin home in Beacon and spent their lives there. Toshi managed Pete’s finances and produced thousands of his concerts. She was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival, and later of the Clearwater campaign to clean up the Hudson River. She produced Pete’s mid-sixties TV show “Rainbow Quest” as well as the award-winning 2007 documentary “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song.” A good obituary can be found at www.nytimes.com.

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