Harmer & Downie rock against Line 9
More than a thousand people turned out October 6th on a foggy afternoon in Toronto to hear activist singer-songwriter Sarah Harmer, the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, and the Sadies give a concert at Mel Lastman Square. ‘Rock the Line’ was initiated by Environmental Defence Canada and Harmer, who chose the north Toronto venue because of its proximity to the path of Line 9. The Enbridge corporation seeks to reverse the existing flow of oil along Line 9 between Sarnia and Montreal so it can pump tar sands oil through southern Ontario to world markets. The risk of toxic spills to humans and the environment is well-documented. Within 50 km of the pipeline there are 9.1 million people, including 99 towns and cities and 18 First Nations. The ‘Rock the Line’ concert was just part of what will be an epic struggle to Stop Line 9. To get involved visit http://environmentaldefence.ca.
Springsteen’s homage to Latin America
Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to several revered Latin American musicians on his recent tour of the continent. On September 12th in Santiago he delivered a eulogy in Spanish for Victor Jara and performed a haunting rendition of the Chilean singer’s Manifesto. It was a fitting contribution to the observances of the 40th anniversary of the notorious military coup that overthrew the government of Salvador Allende. Later in Buenos Aires, at the end of a marathon concert, Springsteen spoke of a 1978 protest song by Argentinean composer Leon Gieco. He’d learned Solo le pido a Dios/I Only Ask of God from the late singer Mercedes Sosa, and he’d intended to perform the anthem as an encore, but he was too tired to do it justice. Next day Springsteen delivered on a promise and posted an acoustic bilingual performance of the song on his website. Check it out at http://brucespringsteen.net/. For his Chilean performance visit http://peoplesworld.org/.
GSY!BE wins 2013 Polaris Prize
Montreal rock band God Speed You! Black Emperor (widely known as GSY!BE) was awarded the prestigious Polaris Prize at a gala in Toronto on September 24th. The prize was established in 2006 to honour the “best” Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales or record label. Sponsors include Toyota, Sirius XM Radio, the Government of Canada and several Canadian musical organizations. GSY!BE was not present at the gala but in a statement they questioned the inclusion of Toyota as a sponsor at a time when environmental catastrophe is fast approaching. They promised to spend the $30,000 prize money on musical instruments for inmates in Quebec prisons. GSY!BE is noted for its progressive stance on social and political issues. They’ve played a nurturing role in the Montreal indie music scene. In 2000 they founded the Casa del Popolo club, where many local bands, including Arcade Fire, got their start. For more info visit www.brainwashed.com/godspeed.
Emma’s Revolution: working for peace
Emma’s Revolution is respected in the folk music world for its close harmonies and its commitment to social justice. In the aftermath of 9/11 the duo (Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow) composed “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” a song that invokes the longing for peace between all peoples and nations. The chant has since become a staple in the repertoire of progressive community choirs. Of late Emma’s Revolution has been reaching beyond its base in the left-leaning folk world to work with faith-based groups that are committed to working for peace and justice. Notably, they’ve collaborated with the Missouri-based Community of Christ. The church (which claims 250,000 members) is including “Peace, Salaam, Shalom” in its hymnal and has just released “Peace Through All People,” a video of the song performed by Emma’s Revolution with church members and musicians from around the world. On October 19th the duo performed in Independence, Missouri at a “Peace Colloquy” where the new hymnal was launched. For more info: www.emmasrevolution.com/.
Scottish ‘girl band’ protests tar sands
A timely reminder that the whole world is watching the tar sands was broadcast during a break in a September episode of the U.S. news show “Democracy Now!” Between news segments a video was shown of a youthful ‘girl band’ dressed as ‘oily’ bankers performing some brilliant street theatre in Edinburgh outside the Royal Bank of Scotland’s greenwashing (and taxpayer-sponsored) “Low Carbon Conference.” The five young women, all activists with Friends of the Earth Scotland, altered the lyrics of U.K. singer Jesse J’s 2011 hit single “Price Tag” to tell the story of RBS’s destructive oil and gas investments – including mining tar sands in Canada. Friends of the Earth Scotland calls the tar sands “the most destructive industrial project on earth.” The street theatre took place on September 24, 2011, but “Wanna Pump the Tar Sands” by the Girl Band of Environmental Activists remains relevant and uplifting. Check it out on YouTube.