Music Notes June 2018

Roger Waters exposes White Helmets

At a Barcelona concert on April 13, Roger Waters, the British rock musician and Pink Floyd co-founder, denounced the Syrian White Helmets. The 74-year old musician called them “a fake organization that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.” Speaking from the stage, Waters warned fans that the claims about chemical weapons attacks made by the White Helmets are aimed at triggering western military intervention, which, he said, would be “a mistake of monumental proportions.” Waters told American journalist Max Blumenthal that he was approached in 2016 by The Syria Campaign, a PR firm which represents the White Helmets. Just days before his recent Barcelona concert, Waters was lobbied again to endorse the White Helmets.

But unlike actor George Clooney and singer Justin Timberlake, celebrities who were taken in by the propaganda campaign, Waters, a prominent advocate of BDS against the Israeli occupation of Palestine, took the time to do some research. The White Helmets were founded in Turkey by James Le Mesurier, a “former” British MI5 officer. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has proudly stated that they have received upwards of $55 million from the U.K. government. Blumenthal states in his article that they’ve also received $23 million from the Office of Transition Initiatives of the U.S.  Agency for International Development, plus millions from the anti-Assad Qatar monarchy. Waters has provided Blumenthal with e-mail documentation of the attempt by the White Helmets to recruit him. You can check out the video here:

BDS calls for boycott of Eurovision

The Eurovision Song Contest, that annual celebration of kitschy pop music, has been called by the left-leaning Spy Culture website, “a platform for projecting soft power and engaging in cultural warfare”. Its televised broadcast has been running continuously since 1956 and boasts an audience in the hundreds of millions. About 40 countries compete, though, oddly, not all are European. Australia and Israel, for example, have been participating for years. Indeed, this year an Israeli singer, Netta Barzilai, emerged victorious at last month’s extravaganza in Lisbon. Because of that victory Israel won the right to host next year’s competition. Barzilai’s quirky song of women’s empowerment, “Toy”, sung in English, has become a massive world-wide hit.

It’s clearly a success story in the ongoing campaign to brand Israel as a socially-progressive society. While Barzilai, in her acceptance speech, thanked voters for “choosing different”, she also proclaimed “next time in Jerusalem”, a phrase loaded with historical meaning for supporters of Israel. Expect Eurovision to be the centre of a struggle between the Israeli government and supporters of BDS over the next year. That struggle intensified on May 14, when IDF snipers massacred more than 60 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators and injured thousands more, while, at the same time, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump joined Israelis in a glittering (and grotesque) celebration of the U.S. embassy move to Jersualem. The next day, Mícheál Mac Donncha, Lord Mayor of Dublin, called for Ireland to boycott next year’s Eurovision in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Just days before, while Netta Barzilai was gearing up for the Eurovision finals, Mac Donncha opened the Palestinian Freedom Conference in Dublin and announced the Dublin City Council’s full support for BDS. (https://electronicintifada.net)

“Understanding What Black Is”

Before the advent of hip-hop, in the 1970’s, there was a band of poets from Harlem called The Last Poets. They first read their politically-charged verses in 1968, at a commemoration of the third anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Their celebrated 1970 album “The Last Poets” was both an urgent call for radical action and a stylistic innovation that led directly to rap and hip-hop. Like their contemporary, Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets cast a long shadow, influencing countless spoken word artists and musicians, from Public Enemy and NWA to Common and Kendrick Lamar. Now, fifty years after their debut, and twenty years since their last album, The Last Poets have returned with “Understanding What Black Is”, an album as full of social criticism and prophetic rage as their earlier work, but with a different sound. While the instrumental accompaniment on their early albums was restricted to conga drum and hand-held percussion, on the new release, poets Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan and percussionist Baba Donn Babatunde, are backed by a fully-orchestrated reggae-jazz ensemble. If a militant song like “Rain of Terror” shows the elders still burning with rage against today’s manifestations of systemic racism, the eponymous title track is an appeal to the younger generation to care for one another. Bin Hassan addressed this theme in a recent Rolling Stone interview. Asked for his views on contemporary hip-hop, he stated, “We don’t go for the violence against each other. We don’t respect all the things it has come to be, like the calling of bitches”. Stream tracks from the album for free at www.indierockmag.ca.


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