I've been helping organise a debate called Sounds of Political Freedom for the Urban Enterprise Network recently, and the main reason I said yes was Paul Gilroy was on the panel. If you don't know about him please find out - to jog your memory he wrote The Black Atlantic & Ain't No Black in the Union Jack - he also took up a tenured post at Yale University where he was the chair of the Department of African American Studies and Charlotte Marian Saden Professor of Sociology and African American Studies. Badman.
When they opened up to the floor I put my hand up as always, then started sweating realising I would now have to speak in front of my hero...I felt that the panel's viewpoints on such things as; technology fragmenting us & our musical culture, how the record shop brought people together, the idea that Africa is a prime producer of political music and that artists have a responsibility to lead debate were all a bit narrow. So I made my point, which went a little something like this:
"I'm one of those naughty downloaders, I don't have a TV or listen to mainstream radio, but I do run an online music blog and live music events. 5 years ago I dated a DJ and was too nervous to go in to a record shop - the attitude was very male and 'what's this girl doing in here, what does she know?'. The internet has enabled me to do find music I wouldn't have before, to research it and have the tools to find out without being fed - I do my homework. In a way I think we are discovering artists in a more 'pure' way because we aren't being told to like them, we're finding them for their music. I wouldn't have been able to put on some of the nights I have without the internet because I wouldn't have been able to contact the artists - and most of them you won't hear on mainstream radio but hundreds of people still came because of the music.
Secondly, when I go home to Nigeria no one wants to listen to Fela anymore, they think I'm mental if I do, they want to listen to 2Face Idibia. I agree with Paul, and think that artists are often very reactionary - if something is affecting you directly then you'll say something. Otherwise, as Beth said, we're pretty lazy and we might not feel the need to. I think the States is a prime example of hip hop artists making "political" music in reaction to events right now. Hurricane Katrina provoked responses such as Katrina Klap from Mos Def and Kanye West saying on live TV "George Bush doesn't care about black people" - he may not be a leader of the people but he does have a huge stage to make his point on. Also, the Obama campaign has artists making a lot of "political" music - from Will I Am's huge celebrity led internet campaign to smaller artists like Cody Chestnutt & Flying Lotus all making their point..."
I was shaking like a leaf at this point & worried I'd say something really dumb so I shut up, but I did get a big clap, haha. I didn't realise I said so much, felt like 2 seconds, oops. Anyway, I just felt inspired by Paul - everything he said was so interesting and I just wanted to share the moment with you that I got to agree with one of my biggest heroes.