It’s not easy working with a band that’s overtly political. (Pssssssst: all music is political; even if your choice is to be non-political in this landscape, IT’S POLITICAL, FOO!) I’m constantly thinking about this topic and for years.
Have you read the recent piece in Salon, “Protest Songs Are Pointless“? I see what the author is saying; there is no action behind the lyrics, it IS pointless. What is inspiration without action, right? Delusion (as some quote on my wall says).
I could beg to differ based on my years watching concert audiences glow in illumination from hearing Manu Chao “Clandestino” or Los Fabulosos Cadillacs “Matador“. Was it mass delusion or did it mean something?
I remember back at my time at Nacional Records, I always wondered how my ex-boss, Tomas Cookman so gracefully handled Manu Chao, his US/Latin America management client; here was a business sheerly trying to survive in a cut-throat environment whose bread and butter beyond touring was licensing. And yet, Manu would not license his music for corporations. A version of action, sure. Then I watched crowds from Monterrey to Tijuana to Los Angeles lose their shit and have all the hope in their eyes to his music…it was such a paradox to me. I, too, got wrapped up in the hope of it all. But really, Manu Chao made really amazing songs and spoke up for those with no voice time and time again. More action.
Cut to the band, Outernational – white urban renegade rockers who, GASP!, care about the whole of humanity. Outernational sing, rock, talk and tour about it. Yes, yes – give me that knowing look that I must be one of those naive ones. But then go to Billboard.com or Rollingstone.com and name me off the top bands in the headlines or on the charts. I know these are busy times, so here are some examples of a lot of the work Outernational has put in over the years for the sake of making music with a mission: Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, Exhibit D.
Look, it’s COMPLICATED. But at the core, I believe (and you can disagree!!!) that the music is good. That’s why I work the project. That’s why the band self-booked 3 Coast-To-Coast tours (this year alone) after being a band for 8+ years and play diverse crowds from Mercedes, TX to Toronto to Chicago and LA, rocking multi-generational, multi-ethnic crowds in New York City; when’s the last time you have really seen that at a rock show in downtown, New York City in 2012? They aren’t the first band to do it and they won’t be the last.
Antagonizers both loud and quiet: WE NEED MORE VOICES IN THE FIGHT.
I could spend a lot more time being more articulate and thoughtful on the subject, but this is gut blogging at it’s worst or finest.
Mostly, I started this rant because I wanted to point out an exchange between a young fan who has obviously been through a lot of the pain and tribulation the band speaks about in their song, “We Are All Illegals“.
The video, which features Tom Morello, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Residente of Calle 13 – also features 100+ fans the band met while on their border tour who stand in solidarity during a time in the US where the state endorses the de-humanization of a lot of people by enforcing racist laws like Arizona’s SB1070 and others. Each collaboration – huge or small, artistic or periphery – is a testament from each soul who spent time on the project and with the band. There was/is connection there, there was/is action. The seed planting of a collective is carried thru culture. It does mean something.
Perhaps I should leave it alone, but I felt it was important to highlight where the band comes from at it’s core. I felt this exchange represented that. As this is my blog, I suppose this is more a reminder to myself, as their manager (who happens to be a proud, flaming Latina), I have to face a lot of side-eyes and questions of why I work with this band time and time again. So here we go.
YOUNG FANS COMMENT:
“Perhaps it is your skin color and the privilege that it provides you all that has created this perspective of us “all being illegals” but latin american immigrants are not illegals; not even immigrants, in fact! we are indigenous to the americas and it is this imposed government and its fictitious borders that are illegal. i think you all need to check yourselves and re-visit this ideology from another perspective, de abajo, just a suggestion.”
“Hi Oscar. We’d like to assume that you have seen the music video and heard the actual lyrics to this song. If not, please go back and check it out because you seem to be missing the whole point of the song. It is pretty clear to even the casual observer that the point of the song is that no human being should be deemed illegal. The whole point of saying “we are all illegals” is for people whom the system does not deem as “illegal” to pledge common cause with those living under the boot of this system, and in this case those tens of millions living in the shadows. Further, this song is hitting hard at the disgusting hypocrisy of a system which literally feeds off of the blood, bones and immiseration of billions of people yet declares as illegal and deems as sub-human those people on whose backs the wealth of the ruling class is built. The parasitism of this system is unparalled, from its inception all the way down to the present day. Unfortunately, though illegitimate and unjust, the borders are not fictitious. In fact, they are very very real. Historically, these borders represent the carving up planet earth and the conquest, rape and plunder of myriad groups, including the indigenous peoples as well as other countries (in this case, Mexico). Along with the enslavement of millions of Africans this all represented what Karl Marx so accurately and poetically referred to as the “rosy dawn” of capitalism. Go take a listen to Miles’ verses again and peep what he’s breaking down: not only this obfuscated, hidden and oft-belittled history but the present-day reality of “who feeds whom” in late-American capitalism. As for one’s nationality determining outlook and understanding, lets put it this way: Anyone can sell-out under this system. Anyone too can become an oppressor (Obama & Colin Powell to name a few) and enforcers of oppression (Buffalo Soldiers and bands of Pueblo Indian Scouts anyone?!). So while being white means one may never know what it actually feels like to be of an oppressed nationality in a white supremacist society that certainly doesn’t mean one can’t understand its root causes, underlying issues and the solution to all this degradation and misery which is the reality of US imperialism, here and around the world.”
IT AIN’T WHERE YOU FROM, BUT WHERE YA AT.
I leave you with this quote from the band in the profile piece in MTV Iggy:
“I hope that we not only have influence on people already out there doing good stuff, but I hope we’re able to kickstart a new culture of revolt against this revolting culture with thousands of bands and writers and actors,” he says. “ We’re not trying to go down this road by ourselves.”
I’m really excited for that culture which is popping up all around as more bands harness control of their careers away from the big labels. But beyond the bands, there’s a crop of really bold artists, rappers, business owners, screenwriters, playwrights, actors, students, investors, media makers, creatives all over the world continuing to plant the collective seed of ‘FUCK THE BULLSHIT THEY FEED YOU AND WAKE UP”. Will we rise to the occasion and join them beyond our safe spaces? Our same people of color spaces? Our same people of no-color spaces? In our communities, with our neighbors (shit, I’m working on that one myself). Time will tell. Or forced we will be.