March 13, 2018

Can music be a force for change?

In the second of our week of shows from SXSW, a trio of artists tell The Stream how they tackle thorny political issues while staying true to their roots.

At a time when populism is on the rise and traditional politics appears to be splintering, singers and bands are raising their voices to convey messages of empowerment to marginalised communities. We'll meet three musicians at SXSW who express political activism through music.

Alice Bag is a US punk luminary, based in Los Angeles. Her first band The Bags were one of the progenitors of the massively influential LA punk scene. The Bags' 1977-1981 career was an inspiration to other established musicians, not least Courtney Love of Hole and the Riot Grrrl feminist punk movement in the early nineties. Following her formative experiences as a punk musician Alice went on to write two acclaimed books, and as a solo artist she has remained a commanding voice in the fight for racial and gender equality. Her second solo record 'Blueprint' will be released on March 23.

Reverend Osagyefo Sekou is a St Louis-born preacher and theologian. His music is rooted in Arkansas blues and gospel traditions, while his lyrics examine issues as wide-ranging as police brutality, gay/queer/trans rights and the incarceration of black people in the United States. His commitment to political activism saw him vociferously call for urgent police and criminal justice reform in the wake of the deadly police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014. His album 'In Times Like These' was released in May 2017.

Lido Pimienta is a Colombian-born musician, artist and curator. Her 2016 album La Papessa won the coveted 2017 Polaris Music Prize, ahead of Leonard Cohen and Feist. Her work combines Colombian indigenous music with contemporary avant-garde electronica, and explores issues of gender, race and colonialism.

Well ask these very different artists what inspires them to compose and perform, how they maintain their independence and critical eye, and how music can lead people from the sidelines to act.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Alice Bag @AliceBag 
Musician, author, punk feminist

Rev. Osagyefo Sekou @RevSekou
Musician, Activist, Pastor, Author 

Lido Pimienta @LidoPimienta
Toronto-based, Colombian-born interdisciplinary musician and artist-curator

Matt Cohen @Matt_D_Cohen
Arts editor, Washington City Paper

Read more:

Punk pioneer Alice Bag explains waiting 4 decades to drop her solo debut and why diversity disappeared from LA punk - Billboard
For Activist Rev. Sekou, ‘The Revolution Has Come’ - Ebony
Why you need to know Lido Pimienta, who just jon Canada’s most important music prize-  Pitchfork

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.