Music Notes – July 2014


Historic solidarity concert in Toronto

Toronto’s Common Thread Community Chorus joined forces on May 31st with local Chilean musical ensemble Proyecto Altiplano for two performances of the Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique by the composer Luis Advis (1935-2004). The 1969 work, composed for the reknowned Chilean group Quilapayún, uses classical forms and indigenous folkloric traditions to tell the story of a nitrate miners’ strike in the northern Chilean province of Iquique in 1907. The dispute led to the massacre, by the Chilean army, of more than 2,000 workers. In preparing for the concerts the organizers worked closely with two Canadian mining justice organizations: Mining Injustice Solidarity Network and Mining Watch Canada. Approximately 75% of the global mining industry is based in Canada. It is therefore fitting that speakers from these groups were invited to address the audience. Congratulations to all of the participants for an inspiring use of culture to build awareness and solidarity with exploited communities throughout the world. For info on mining justice visit and

Musicians unite to save Alaska salmon

The campaign to protect Alaska’s salmon fisheries from the devastating effects of the proposed Pebble Mine has achieved real success in the past year. Notably, on February 28th, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will protect Bristol Bay, using its authority under the Clean Water Act. A significant role in achieving these positive results has been played by Musicians United to Protect Bristol Bay (MUPBB), a resourceful solidarity group whose public face is the American folksinger and organizer, Si Kahn. This spring MUPBB released its annual report. It’s an inspiring catalogue of movement tactics, including: booking concerts and workshops by members at all Alaska folk festivals; organizing booths and workshops at national and regional folk festivals; soliciting and publishing songs on the struggle; recording and promoting Si Kahn’s best-selling Cd “Bristol Bay”; sponsoring a contestant in the 975-mile “Mushing for Bristol Bay” wilderness race; plus numerous TV and radio appearances and print media stories. More than 400 musicians have joined the campaign including two well-known artists from western Canada: Connie Kaldor and Maria Dunn. The fight to protect Bristol Bay is being won, but it’s not over. Unless it’s declared a federally protected area, the EPA decision can be undermined by a future federal administration. For more info visit

Anti-Flag on Justice for Cecily McMillan

Justin Sane, co-founder and lead singer of the popular punk rock band Anti-Flag, released a YouTube statement in defence of activist Cecily McMillan on May 19th. McMillan, 25, was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest at Zuccotti Park on March 17, 2012. She was accused of elbowing a police officer who, she claimed, had grabbled her breasts from behind while police were clearing the park of protesters. The farcical trial resulted in McMillan being sentenced to 90 days in prison and a five-year probation for giving the officer “a black eye.” She was also ordered to undergo mandatory mental health evaluation and treatment. Since the altercation McMillan, a socialist activist with a demonstrated commitment to non-violence, has lost not only her freedom, but school, work, friends, and family. Justin Sane, in his statement, noted that her case highlights the problem of police brutality and the injustice of a legal system that is set up “to protect the powers that be and trample on the rights of anyone that questions their authority.” It illustrates, he adds, “the way in which the police, and those who command them, use intimidation to create a chilling effect.” For more info on the Cecily McMillan case visit

Seeger’s FBI files to be released

The death of Pete Seeger on January 27th was followed by a flood of requests for his FBI files from journalists, researchers, and the the general public. Now, thanks to the sheer volume of Freedom of Information Act applications, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has announced that thousands of Seeger files will be released online. They’re thought to total 2500 pages. NARA spokesperson Miriam Kleinman said in a May 27th interview that the archive is waiting for a review to be completed, adding that it will publish the documents “as soon as possible.” As is usually the case with Freedom of Information requests, documents will be screened for information that is “exempt from disclosure” (i.e. redacted). NARA was initially going to release individual files on request, for a hefty and prohibitive “administration fee” of $2000. FBI and CIA files on Pete Seeger go back to the 1940s and never really stopped. Redacted or not, it should be interesting to find out what nefarious behaviour of Seeger’s the FBI snoops were monitoring. So far, my own search of the NARA website has not come up with any FBI documents on Pete Seeger. For the source of this story visit

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