Forget the Bond tune, listen to Ergo Phizmiz!

Blimey, bring back Gangnam Style. No, sorry, I don’t much like that Adele Bond tune. Too “polished”, too “polite”, too predictable for me.

(Then again, I was never going to be the target demographic for this one. You probably won’t believe it possible, but I don’t even like James Bond films …).

But OK, the Skyfall hype’s got the office talking about music and that, I always think, tends to be a good thing. This week my own musical listening has been devoted to hardcore/noise stuff and a lot of US folk-blues. Both are great, but wrt the latter, I’ve been enjoying a lot of the well-known names - John Lee Hooker, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott et al - as well as a new discovery for me: Odetta, the US singer and civil rights activist. Listen to her amazing voice on “Chilly Winds” for example.

I actually don’t know much about Odetta - why isn’t she more famous? - but according to Wikipedia she’s sometimes referred to as “The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement”. Quite a claim! I prefer to see her as one of dozens, hundreds, actually thousands of voices of that particular movement (surely the Mississippi Delta musicians of the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s were as much part of the wider US civil rights movement as Bob Dylan and all the Newport Folk Festival types).

Singing and all things musical start when you’re young. Kids like to sing, and nursery rhymes have famously contained a lot of social detail (check out the work of Dan Jones and Michael Rosen in this regard). It makes sense, then, for Amnesty to have stuff about the history of protest songs as resource for teachers to use in the classroom. My colleague - and fellow music-lover - Naomi Westland has a new article in SecEd about that. Check it out - where else are you going to see mention of The Sex Pistols, London rapper Kate Tempest and the Zimbabwean women activists Women of Zimbabwe Arise, all in the same article …?

Music has the ability to move you. Emotionally, physically, and into taking action, demanding change (a change gonna come etc ….). This morning I did something I’ve almost never done before - I actually sang in the shower! (Yes, I am living proof that people really do do this). It was to Dandy Livingstone’s excellent A Message To You Rudie, made famous in the UK by The Specials in 1979 (when I was - yes - at school, in Specials-loving Coventry; we were all Midlands rude boys back then). The Livingstone tune was on Desert Island Discs, a choice of Ade Adepitan’s, the wheelchair basketball star. He said how it reminded him of the days his father used to tell him to work hard at school - to avoid being a rude boy etc. It was for him a sort of protest song (against failure and racism in 1980s Britain) as well as a song of inspiration.

A final plug for protest songs (keep ‘em coming, I say). Regardless of your politics, I reckon you’ll find this song from the artist Ergo Phizmiz worth a listen. It’s called Dear Mr Cameron, Dear Mrs Clegg

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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