Archive for Peggy Seeger

Money and Mining Men

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2012 by Weary Hobo

Download, listen and rate our new song ‘Mining Man’ free here!

The last year has been great for us as a band with highlights including a baby(!) and new album and performing at Woodford Folk Festival. For me this last one was a dream since I first went there in 2004.

Devastatingly in the lead up we started hearing comments from friends about a Coal Seam Gas (CSG) company financing the festival. Santos is a major Australian oil and gas company that has been pushing CSG hard. Here is a map of CSG in NSW and Australia showing areas affected.

This was a dilemma. We want to play for the people. We don’t want to pay to play nor accept money from greenwashing miners. This has happened at a different small regional festival and the money we earned we gave to an environmental group to campaign against the miners.

So, either we boycott and no one hears our songs up there or we play and take money from a CSG company? We figured we’d find out what was going on up there, play it by ear and drove up there in our silly yellow van with partners, friends and a new baby.

At the festival we saw “Artists against CSG” stickers and heard others talk about the problem on stage including a great poem from Peggy Seeger (here). Eventually it was our turn and we got up and played a new song called ‘Santos’. Our song encouraged people to Lock the Gate and got a great reception! It is always a massive relief when the audience sings along to a new song.

The festival directors decided to put the funding from Santos on hold. In my opinion this was because of community members who went to the sponsorship meeting and were vocal about these concerns. The hold period was set till June 2012 to make a decision about whether or not to keep it. Do you know what happened at the meeting in June? I’m still

Since Woodford the CSG problem is not leaving us without a fight so we’ve kept on playing the song and recorded it for you. It’s a little different to the original performances but pretty true to form. If you want to hear it on triple j we need your help!

Visit the site and listen, download and rate this song. Here is what ‘Cozzabags’ said

Another great track from the Lurkers – still my favourite band in this style of music!” Cozzabags 


Weary, Rat, Rocky and Pretty

What makes music political?

Posted in Activism, Anarchism, Climate change, Copenhagen, Culture, Folk music, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2010 by Desert Rat Shorty

What is it that makes songs more meaningful than the musical equivalent of dinner party conversation??

I think it all comes down to whether the music is a catalyst for change of some kind.  Just because a song is about a political issue, if it doesn’t make anyone or anything change then I don’t think you can call it political song.  The change can be in action – people changing their behaviour because of the song or the experience.  Or it could be people changing their mind about something as a result of the music.

Eric Drooker's 'People vs Military'

Eric Drooker's 'People vs Military'

Ok, bear with me while I pull out some complicated sounding language…  Collective singing is an experiential metaphor for collective action.  What I mean is that rather than just using a metaphor as a verbal illustration, you actually get people participating in a ‘collective action’.  Through singing together, people experience the power and togetherness of acting in a group.  Singing all by yourself is scary and exposing.  Same as political action – it’s scary confronting a police line or a coal train all by yourself.  So collective singing gives people the direct experience that doing things collectively gives power.  However, it’s not enough just to sing – that’s just step one!  Then you have to take that feeling and apply it into political action.

Image by Oxfam

We have more power collectively than we do alone

Music and performance can be political in other ways.  There are lots of examples from theatre that can be equally applied to music.  Brecht used the technique of Verfrumdungseffekt – roughly translated this means “alienation effect” or “making strange”.  The way it works is that evoke contrasting feelings in people by putting things together that don’t really match.  So you tell a funny story and make people laugh.  But the joke is followed immediately by a song that is sort of related but tragically sad.  So it gets people thinking about the same thing from two different points of view, and question their own assumptions about something.  People wonder why they laughed at the funny joke when it’s actually really sad.

Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes and and The Weavers were involved in Agit Prop theatre, after the style of Brecht.  They appropriated lots of old tunes like hymns and traditional folk tunes that people know in their bones.  That way, people feel like they already know the song, and are singing along before they realise it.  And articulating a political view is a really important step in taking action. (Incidentally, the Nazis also used this technique, which has meant that many German people now associate those songs with the Nazis and have stopped singing those songs).

And in another example from theatre… Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty aimed to spur people into action in a different way.  He would assault the senses, with bright lights, smelly fish, bad language… whatever.  Often it would be offensive or cruel.  The point is to provoke a visceral response in the audience.  Music can use this technique in a way – offending people is not always bad.  It can get people thinking and acting differently as a result.  You just need to be thoughtful about how you offend people and for what purpose.

Music can also be a way of bringing people together for political organising.  Anne Feeney did a superlative job of this at a gig we played together in Copenhagen.   She used her songs to inspire people into action.  And she used them as an excuse to start some conversations like any good union organiser would do with a group.  “Who got arrested this week?”, she asked the crowd.  A few people had.  “Did they take you to the cells?  And did they take you names?  Did you have to pay to get out?  No? Good” (The crowd cheers).  “In my opinion if you haven’t been in a position to get arrested, you haven’t been doing shit”.  Or something to that effect.  Followed by her song Have You Been to Jail For Justice.

If you have anything to add (or dispute!) I’d love to hear it.