Music Notes March

Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en

Hundreds of Canadian musicians have signed an open letter in solidarity with the indigenous reoccupation of unceded Wet’suwet’en land in Northern B.C. The letter, released on January 21, is a response to the forcible removal of peaceful land defenders resisting the construction of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline. On January 7, a convoy of armed and camouflaged RCMP officers appeared at Indigenous checkpoints, blocking roads, cutting off media access, and arresting 14 people. The musicians’ open letter, addressed to the Wet’suwet’en people, declares: “the continued invasion of unceded Wet’suwet’en land by Coastal GasLink pipeline workers without your consent violates Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People and ‘Anuc niwh’it’en (Wet’suwet’en Law). We have heard your hereditary chiefs say ‘No’ to the Coastal GasLink development and we intend to amplify it.” The letter also takes aim at the PM: “Since 2015 Justin Trudeau has promoted a message of Truth and Reconciliation and professed the goal of building meaningful nation-to-nation relationships, but his government’s actions don’t align. Meaningful nation-to-nation relationships are not made at gunpoint.” Signatories include Tanya Tagaq, Sarah Harmer, The Sadies, Joel Plaskett, and members of Arcade Fire. For the complete letter visit www.musiciansinsolidarity.blogspot.com.

Sting plays for Oshawa GM workers

In a show of support for people affected by the planned GM shutdown in Oshawa, British singer-composer Sting and the cast of “The Last Ship” played a free concert at Oshawa’s Tributes Community Centre on February 14. Sting wrote the music and lyrics for the musical, which is currently playing at Toronto’s Princess of Wales theatre. “The Last Ship” is based upon his experiences growing up in Newcastle, where he witnessed the devastation of the city’s shipbuilding industry. The former leader of the popular eighties band, The Police, stars in the production, playing a protest leader fighting to hold the community together by building one last ship. Members of Unifor, which represents the Oshawa workers, received priority access to the show. Unifor president Jerry Dias thanked the musician for his support, saying that Sting has witnessed “first hand” what happens to families when a “core industry is ripped away”. In an interview with “Q” host Tom Power on CBC Radio, Sting discussed GM’s shutdown plan, which will directly affect 3,000 workers and, indirectly, thousands more. “For me,” he said, “the basis of economics is community; it has to be part of the equation”.

Cheers for Roger, Jeers for Mariah

Kudos to Roger Waters, fearless BDS advocate and outspoken defender of Palestinian human rights. The British stadium rocker has been expanding his solidarity efforts in recent months. Late last year, on a Latin American tour, he spoke out against the fascistic Bolsonaro regime in Brazil. Later, he called upon the government of Ecuador not to surrender Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange to the U.K. authorities, who will surely hand him over to the U.S. government. On February 4, Waters commented on Twitter about the ongoing U.S. coup against the elected Venezuelan government: “Stop this latest U.S. government insanity. Leave the Venezuelan people alone. They have a real democracy. Stop trying to destroy it so the 1% can plunder their oil”. Sadly, on the other hand, U.S. singing star Mariah Carey defied boycott calls from women’s rights activists and performed in Saudi Arabia on January 31. Omaima al-Najjar, spokesperson for Women for Rights in Saudi Arabia, dismissed Carey’s claims that she was promoting gender desegregation. “The Saudi government is using entertainment to distract the people from human rights abuses,” she says, adding that the kingdom is using such concerts as a diversion from its genocidal war in Yemen.

Jazz gender justice at Berklee

Boston’s reknowned Berklee College of Music has launched the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice. Its founder and artistic director is the prominent jazz drummer, Terri Lynne Carrington, who graduated from the college in 1983. The institute will focus on equity in the jazz field and on the role that jazz can play in the larger struggle for gender justice. There has long been, says Carrington, an “unspoken phrase” in the jazz world: “the men play the music and the women sing.” Beyond that, she says, the jazz world has been “historically biased,” on both the music and the business sides. The institute will celebrate the contributions women have played in the development of the art form, and frame more equitable conditions for all pursuing careers in jazz, in an effort to work toward a necessary and lasting cultural shift in the field. It promises to welcome students of all gender and sexual identities to achieve the goal of true gender diversity, and to work to address gender inequities at the college through curriculum, recruitment, residencies, performances, research and community engagement. For more info: www.berklee.edu.


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