Friday, December 25, 2009

"Going Surfing for Christmas" ? : Noisy Planet Artist Review

Jingle bells, eggnog, snow, and Santa Clause. Is this what Christmas really is? Decorating your house with Christmas ornaments and colorful lights, rushing through malls to buy presents, singing Christmas carols, and of course, spending time with loved ones. Okay, but where does it state to follow this traditional and socially-expected event of Christmas? Sorry mom, not this time. First of all, I'm broke, and don't want to tackle through "hungry for discounts shoppers" during last minute shopping. I'd rather be doing something different, something out of the ordinary; maybe like biking around town, or watching surfers on Christmas day!
"I don't need Santa to take my worries away" sings Noisy Planet Artist, Todd Rosenberg, also known as Feelgood Todd, in the holiday song, "Going Surfing for Christmas." Santa is NOT going to tell me what to do this year! This acoustic, rag-time, and playful song encourages us to do what we enjoy, and does not lavish the stereotypical and romanticized Christmas idea of what many holiday songs suggests.

Lucky bunches, local Santa Barbara musicians (because they can go surfing during Christmas in sunny Santa Barbara), Todd Rosenberg, and from The Mad Caddies: Chuck Robertson, Eduardo Hernandez, Keith Douglas, and Sascha Lazor, Graham Palmer from Kinothek, and Ray Fortune from Wil Ridge, perform this song in hopes of getting it circulating through radio stations and reaching it to a Christmas classic. This is where Noisy Planet, Inc. comes in.

Importantly, the song comes at a good time when many of us folks are fed up with having a bunch of the superfluous excess of commercialization on street ads and television. Todd says "People are pretty much sick and tired of a bunch of BS on television...It's time to get real!" This vibrant and good-humored song definitely sets the platform for this. It suggests for the counter mainstream Christmas peeps, to have a real good time! For sure…

listen on

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mexico’s 1968 Student Movement and The New Song

This is an expansion of a previous blog posted on October 2nd, 2008.

Similar to Chile’s protest musicians, Mexico’s nueva canción was a heroic act to change the homogeneity of the elite through songs. These musicians influenced many other people, and artists, to become politically active for generations to come. They took active roles in conscientisizing the public by singing about controversial ideas and statements and proclaiming revolution, exposing government corruption and its oppressive behavior. During the 1968 student movement, the new song was a catalyst for inspiring the masses to protest against the government’s lack of student attention due to the Olympics held that year. These protests caused national attention which led the government to commit one of the most scandalous acts.
October 2nd of 1968 has remained one of the first major atrocities of Mexican authorities. The student movements of the U.S. and Europe that same year had a profound impact in Mexico, where the memory of them would prove to be enduring. The emergence of Mexico’s student movement began in the summer of 1968. The student movement was inspired from six demands that formed the actual framework of the students’ official petition. They were: 1) freedom for political prisoners, 2) elimination of Article 145 of the Penal Code, 3) abolition of the tactical police corps (granaderos), 4) dismissal of the Mexico City chiefs of police, 5) indemnification for victims of repression, and 6) justice against those responsible for repression (Zolov: 1999; 121). The students wanted to exploit the attention focused on the Olympics.

However, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz was determined to stop all sorts of demonstrations by taking it to the federal level, instead of letting the local police handle it. The government took strong interests since this caused embarrassment due to heavy tourism because of the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Alas, the government decided to solve the situation of outspoken students by shooting one of the school’s doors off with a bazooka during a student conference. Instead of diminishing the authority’s problem maturely, it caused a bigger dispute and other schools got involved causing massive demonstrations. Because the government had a brutal repression towards its students, and their refusal to meet with the students needs, logically the rallies grew exponentially. The masses increased from 20,000 students to 200,000 students, and finally to half a million people demonstrating at the heart of the city, Zocalo. The image of the nation was out of control, especially since the whole world had its eye on Mexico City, due to the Olympics.

Early October 2nd, ten days before the big day of the Olympics, students called out a rally to inspire people to demonstrate and meet with the leaders of the state. This demonstration was held on the Plaza de tres culturas. The setting was a symbolical landmark located in Tlatelolco since the plaza has three cultures in one space: Aztecs ruins, a Spanish colonial cathedral, and modern buildings of the time by the ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI). For this demonstration, about 10,000 people showed up. Strangely, there was a very unusual and suspicious vibe around; a heavy police and army presence, and boxed in plaza with no easy exit. There were undercover police and military members dressed in civilian clothing; however, each wore a single white glove indicating they were not civilians. Dreadfully in this demonstration, the protesters paid their consequences for “embarrassing the country” during international attention. Commanded by president of the time, Díaz Ordaz, the protesters were forcefully trapped in the plaza. The snipers with the white gloves fired into the crowds slaughtering activists who strove for national justice along with innocent residents including children and elders. Tremendous amounts of people were heartbroken, frightened, yet raged. The Mexican government had reported eighteen deaths of people in the massacre of Tlatelolco, which in truth resulted to be around 300 to 400 deaths.

Folk singers, or nueva canión activists, started chronically narrating this movement, the 1968 student movement. Because as mentioned before, the ruling political party, PRI, would not allow any officially distributed news to favor or sympathize these students, any media representation expressed towards this movement were all in a negative light. Several new song musician/activists who created a counter narration of the events are Jose de Molina, Oscar Chavez, Judith Reyes, Pedro Calderon, and Angel Parra. In the case of Judith Reyes, she was another musician who was abducted and held imprisoned under the strict custody of presidential guards, where she remained in complete darkness under physical and psychological torture. Her release was obtained after major protests demanding it.

These outspoken and innovating musician/activists, or in Gramscian terms ‘organic intellectuals,’ paved the way to other upcoming musicians to touch upon this particular event. This was a boom of musicians singing about Mexico 1968 of folk-rock, punk, and rock en español genres. They include Masacre 68 (punk group named after the massacre), Maldita Vecindad, Panteon Rococó, Tres Botones, Banda Bostik, La Parranda Magna, Rodrigo Gonzalez, amongst others. A major theme reoccurring within lyrics was the concept of “October 2nd will never be forgotten.”
Major reasons of why once controversial folk music survives today are largely because of the growing technological expressions for media representations reaching the hands of the rest of the population. Old footage retrieved that documents these events and songs, like Calderon’s song (see his footnote), and added on social media networks, shared through P2P file sharing, and other forms of media expressions, have constituted forms of resistance and raised consciousness for such events badly represented by official modes of communication.

When music uncovers and spreads the message of oppression, injustices, public militaristic executions, and state massacres, the rest of society starts questioning the governing of the nation and the media. When repressive and physical coercion reaches a point of breakage, such as how these folk revivals disrupted the hegemonic system, then those in control have to reinvent methods to keep society controlled, oppressed, and watched. Although the commodification of music had already existed during this folk revival, hence one of the reasons for its emergence, then technology and media furthermore tie in stronger to aim towards public consent and ideological coercion.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"My Guitar Is Not For The Rich" (Taffet's Title): The New Chilean Song Movement

Culture and music in Chile during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s provide us a famous illustration of challenging the elite’s cultural hegemony. This case study retraces briefly retraces the actions of the New Chilean Song Movement, also known as the NCCh. This was a move made by a group of traveling musicians and activists that oversaw the extreme oppression, marginalization, and injustices of the working class. During this time in Chile, foreign and pop music to some degree distracted Chileans from worrying about real life issues, such as poverty, indigenous marginalization, and political injustices. The administration of the time allowed large proportions of foreign cultural production to invade Chile, such as U.S. films, popular music, television programs, and popular magazines. The music was also standardized and those Chileans who had airtime allowed by the State were those who imitated these foreign bands, otherwise pop lyrics without any means of threatening content and all sung in English. This was a mechanism for control as Adorno quarrels, “The products of the culture industry are such that they can be alertly consumed even in a state of distraction. But each one is a model of the gigantic economic machinery, which from the first, keeps everyone on their toes, both at work and in the leisure time which resembles is (1969: 46).
U.S. and Latin America Researcher, Jeffrey Taffet, in his article, “My Guitar is Not for the Rich,” examines the concept of cultural hegemony during Chile’s foreign cultural invasion, it “posited the control of national culture [to] strengthen the elite’s hold on power” (1997; 92). By controlling culture, the elite manage a far more stable domination, and eliminate the subordinate ’s capacity to conjure up the conceptual tools to defy the structure of the system. Founders and members of the NCCh such as Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, challenged this cultural hegemony by redefining the establishment of popular culture and reinforcing ethnic and folkloric Chilean music. This music was not spread through mechanical means, but orally and “aurally.” They used traditional instruments instead of typical foreign rock’s electric guitars, drums, and such. NCCh’s musical lyrics were about social commentaries and protest songs, commonly called la nueva canción, or the new song movement, where it also favored certain leftist political ideas and strove for anti-imperialism, anti-monopoly and anti-Americanism.
As the NCCh gained large amounts of popularity with their radically alternative music versus the imperialist mainstream music, the movement was becoming a minor threat to the government. Consequently, lead activist of NCCh, Victor Jara was captured by the coup and executed by militaristic forces. This was to put and end to the movement when dictator and fascist ruler Augusto Pinochet arrived to power. Jara’s body was savagely thrown out on the street. His fingerers were tortured and mutilated. The myth goes that while he was captured, he was forced to play those songs that caused a threat to the governing system. Subsequently, while playing those songs, the guards cut them off. Taffet concludes, “Unfortunately for the left, that power was strong enough to threaten the elite, but not to destroy it” (100).

The song “Manifiesto” was one of Jara’s last written songs, and it was somewhat prophetic that in his lyrics he states “A man who will die singing.” Extreme cases have led to artists being tortured and as far as their being executed for publically conscientizising their listeners about governments’ dishonesty and corruption. Music has encouraged and inspired revolutions; thus governments tortured musicians like Victor Jara in hopes to destroy a song by silencing the composer and maintaining its power.

The NCCh without mass reproduction or distribution of its music, but with word of mouth, the songs were able to awake the Chilean working class without integrating into the culture industry.

Yo no canto por cantar
ni por tener buena voz,
canto porque la guitarra
tiene sentido y razón.

Tiene corazón de tierra
y alas de palomita,
es como el agua bendita
santigua glorias y penas.

Aquí se encajó mi canto
como dijera Violeta
guitarra trabajadora
con olor a primavera.

Que no es guitarra de ricos
ni cosa que se parezca
mi canto es de los andamios
para alcanzar las estrellas,
que el canto tiene sentido
cuando palpita en las venas
del que morirá cantando
las verdades verdaderas,
no las lisonjas fugaces
ni las famas extranjeras
sino el canto de una lonja
hasta el fondo de la tierra.

Ahí donde llega todo
y donde todo comienza
canto que ha sido valiente
siempre será canción nueva.
Victor Jara, "Manifiesto" (1973)

[English Translation]
"I don't sing for love of singing
or to show off my voice
but for the statements
made by my honest guitar
for its heart is of earth
and like the dove it goes flying
tenderly as holy water
blessing the brave and the dying
so my song has found a purpose
as Violetta Parra would say
yes, my guitar is a worker
shining and smelling of spring
my guitar is not for killers
greedy for money and power
but for the people who labour
so that future may flower
for a song takes on a meaning
when its own heartbeat is strong
sung by a man who will die singing
truthfully singing his song

I don't sing for adulation
or so that strangers may weep
I sing for a far strip of country
narrow but endlessly deep
in the earth in which we begin
in the earth in which we end
brave songs will give birth
to a song which will always be new"