Tag Archives: music

The Guevara Convention

A little project I was tangentially involved with, that deserves some attention, is accessible if you care to point your browser to: “The Guavara Convention” *//here\\*

previously mentioned herehere and here .

Crash Course in Australian 1970s music

First band I went to see was Skyhooks, though apparently I was taken to Sunbury Festival, but I do not remember (first international act I saw was Deep Purple, followed soon after by the Sweet). Anyway, Australia had some fine live bands allthrough the seventies, and thanks to things like GTK, Meldrum’s Countdown and Rage, you can see some of it. I nclude a selection of the more popular and somehow usually topically about TV/Media, below. But first…

Because I can (reciting from memory got 80% of this) I reproduce the lyrics from the track ‘Living in the Seventies’, written by Greg McAinish for the ‘hooks 74 album of the same name:

I feel a little crazy
I feel a little strange
Like I’m in a pay phone
Without any change
I feel a little left yeah
I feel a little weird
I feel like a schoolboy
Who’s grown a beard

I’m livin’ in the 70′s
Eatin’ fake food under plastic trees
My face gets dirty just walkin’ around
I need another pill to calm me down

I feel a bit nervous
I feel a bit mad
I feel like a good time that’s never been had
I feel a bit fragile
I feel a bit low
Like I learned the right lines
But I’m on the wrong show

I’m livin’ in the 70′s
I feel like I lost my keys
Got the right day but I got the wrong week
And I get paid for just bein’ a freak

I feel a little insane
I feel a bit dazed
My legs are shrinkin’
And the roof’s been raised
I feel a little mixed up
I feel a little queer
I feel like a barman that can’t drink a beer

I’m livin’ in the 70′s
I feel like I lost my keys
Got the right day but I got the wrong week
And I get paid for just bein’ a freak.


So as to show that Skyhooks did not come out of nowhere, nor have little influence on what comes after, here is my version of how to get from the Real Thing to the Go Betweens. Course this is arbitrary, reliant on memory,and not at all to be considered even remotely related to difinity (the possessive form of the noun definitive). Let me know what you think.

1969 (Russel Morris – The Real Thing


1971 (Daddy Cool – Eagle Rock)


1972 (Aztecs – Most People I Know)


1973 (Dingoes – Way out west)


1974 (Skyhooks – Horror Movie)


1975 (Skyhooks -Ego is not a dirty word)


1974 (again) (ACDC -Jailbreak)


1976 (Jeannie Lewis-Celluloid Heroes [I loved her so much)


1977 (Radio Birdman -TV Eye)


1976 (again) (Angels – Am I ever going to see your face again)


1978 (Go Betweens – Lee Remick)


1979 (Loaded Dice – Mam’selle)


1982 (More Go Betweens – Your Turn My Turn)


And your favourites are?:

Hektor Rottweiler Rethinks

adorno_cCurrent of Music is a very important addition to Adorno’s bibliography.

“Adorno mentions in a letter [to Rudolf Kolisch, 12 July 1940] that [for one of the sections of his planned book 'Current of Music'] he planned to use an English translation of his 1936 essay ‘Uber Jazz’ (‘On Jazz’). He speaks, however, in a later letter [to Friedrich Pollock, 3 October 1940], of wanting to conjoin this essay with a substantial body of new research materials. For, while he was living in the United States, Adorno had become aware that what he had known of jazz in Germany, and as he presented it in his early essay, was limited. He was thus making research visits to Harlem and had sought assistance from experts such as the American composer Milton Babbit – who would have nothing to do with him. But, in any event, Adorno never wrote anything new for this section” – Robert Hullot-Kentor, editor’s introduction to Current of Music.

This is only one of the electric points of interest in this third volume from the collected posthumous writings of Adorno. Vol 3 was published in German in 2006, in English in 2009 – but most of the work, some 480 pages, was originally written in English when Adorno was in the USA.  Adorno had help with his English grammar – a heavy Teutonic style no doubt - from people like George Simpson who was a young American communist. In a 1969 essay, Adorno acknowledges him for ‘making the first attempts to transform my [Adorno's] distinctive efforts into American sociological language’ (Adorno 1969:146).

Current of Music offers a whole lot more than these snippets however, and its a shame it was left as a draft in his lifetime (but then he had Minima Moralia to write), Current includes a course on good listening, and an entire unpublished theory of the listener(s) that suggests rethinking the usual dismal dismissal of Adorno as some sort of elite purist who thought mere circulation was epiphenomenal.

More Hektoring herehere and here.

The Internationale in its many varied forms. Many Languages, One Struggle – Workers of the World Unite. Nothing to lose but chains.


1976Any similarity of this pic to persons living or dead, or having been in a band variously called “Stomp Stomp Wild Dance Crazy Turkey”; “The Thirteenth Battalion of Mind Raiders”; “Uncle Salty” or “Hoax” – or having a son named Emile – are purely co-incidental it seems. There are several things I hate, one of them being how slow I can be with the prefect rejoinder to a stupid comment (I usually get the right come-back three minutes later).  The other thing I hate is that if anyone thinks this sort of long hair was a bit out of date for 1976, they have to be reminded that the sixties happened later in outer suburban Melbourne. But we were still saved by punk. Our band name Uncle Salty, I should note, was ripped from a 1975 Aerosmith b-side track – the reverse of “Walk This Way” – itself later redone, as everyone must know, with Run DMC (and from there hip hop crossed over to a million Caucasoid ears). The effort to learn the ‘Walk’ and the ‘Salty’ riffs was worth it back then (no longer the done thing, as another gripester tells it): (file this under deep dark confessional & gripes):

Lyrics: S. Tyler, T. Hamilton

Uncle Salty told me stories of a lonely
baby with a lonely kind of life to lead
my mammy was lusted, Daddy he was busted
they left her to be trusted till the orphan bleeds
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

Uncle Salty told me when she was just a baby
that she’d get by and maybe someday she’d see
but soon she found her mother’s love for all the others
the pushers and the shovers was the life to lead
but when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window
oooh, oh yeah
oooh, oh yeah, yeah yeah

now she’s doin any for money and a penny
a sailor with a penny or two or three
hers is the cunning for men who come a-runnin’
they all come for fun and it seems to me
that when she cried at night, no one came
and when she cried at night, went insane

oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window

listen & watch here.

Recycled: notes for Satanic Majesties Request paper

Recycled post: notes for Satanic Majesties Request paperSatMaj3D
October 23, 2006

‘wa-what can a white boy do, but to sing for a rock and roll band?’

S. S. Sisodia, in Salman Rushdie’s politically incorrect Satanic Verses, stammers: “The trouble with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history happened overseas, so they don’t know what it means”. True enough, but this should in no way be mockery of stammerers, and I am discomforted by Rushdie now more than ever. Yet the point he makes about history is also relevant more now than ever. Sure the historical fault lies with education personnel and an administrators who have kept quiet about their Empire, or recruited pundits to excuse it (Simon bloody Schama, even now in audio book format), which – curriculum management enhanced strategy – buries any possibility of teaching that history critically with popularist flag-waving, dull media entertainments (variety quiz shows, Schama looking earnestly into the camera) and ball games (Empire games, Commonwealth Games – its hardly sporting old chap). Whatever Michael Palin might offer us on his travel tours, international working class solidarity is a more important a project, and an educational project that supports it, is crucial nowadays as ever before. The cotton mills of Manchester were closely linked to Calcutta, just as today’s MTV beams out to both cities regardless. We should watch these shows closely.

Maybe all we can achieve with (our) writing is to provide people with questions and ideas that allow them (us) to think through politics more clearly, more creatively, more. There can be no revolution without rev-revolutionary theory. There can be no rethinking without new new thoughts.

‘ttttalking bout my generation’

Anglo interest in non-European music has a long pedigree, which it is no longer my job to trace, though I once thought it was. Suffice to say that my interest began as a very mainstream version-The Rolling Stones, (especially Brian Jones derived from the urban white-boy blues of explorations of Joujouka drumming in Morocco and an image of Keef Richards smoking kif in Tangiers); a passing acquaintance with experimental Indo-psychedelic music epitomised by such commercialisations as The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and The White Album, and an early and never shaken interest in the writings of William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg. This developed into an interest in why we are interested in Asia – and a book on budget traveller experience in Calcutta. Along the way an edited volume on the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s celebrated work, and activist-led peripheral involvement in the music and rave scene in Australia, led me to various attempts to make sense of the ways English bands have included South Asia in their head space but not really got along with the politics, so, these notes for a paper on how white rock stumbled to the east.

“From Satanic Majesties to Satanic Verses: India in England yet again”.

The Rolling Stones, following The Beatles Sgt Peppers’ and the opening up of the India travel caravan (banana pancake trail with magic mushrooms), produced what some pundits label their least successful album in 1967: Their Satanic Majesties. It is a long way from the superficial Eastern flavour of that album too the burning of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in Bradford streets a quarter of a century later, but despite the trite comparison of Jagger and Rushdie as public personifications of the devil (for different audiences to be sure), there are still interesting changes to be charted in the intervening years. Any attempt to comment on the relations between anglo interests and things Asian need to begin with an understanding of significant movements across the globe. Travel to India for the children of the English bourgeoisie has fluctuated from fashionable drug-scenery to adventure tour and on to military tours (Afghanistan has even generals sounding mutinous now), and important dynamics within the Sth Asian diasporic presence in Britain need to be lyricized. The success of Indian trinketry in the souvenir shops and fashion houses of the UK youth market might be contrasted to the flow of British based recordings into India – the mid-1990s success of Apache Indian and Bally Sagoo for example.

What might still be interesting would be to explore these cultural forms – from the Stones to Zadie Smith serialized on C4 – for evidence that could provide an understanding of the contemporary dynamics of neo-imperialism and global order as it changes and as its screened for us in Bliar’s Britain. Such a project might update and contemporise Said’s historical and nineteenth century interest in the traces of Empire in Dickens and his ilk.

There is much written on the phenomenon called Global Music. Of course there are ways in which this can be categorised as a commodification process intricately linked to the global spread of capitalist marketeering of all cultural forms. But within this there are demarcations to be made, and the relative silence still accorded the influence of politically charged South Asian creativities in the Global Music discourse might be indicative of more important politically potent occlusions. Where Blues and Reggae are well established as antecedents of popular ‘Western’ music, the influence of the East always seems to be presented as a peripheral, curious, or at best experimental aside, if accorded any centrality at all. Why? Since in terms of Empire India was so central, Calcutta was the second most important city in the world, so muck-much of European culture can be traced to Asia (from pajamas to umbrellas, goodness gracious me – see Hobson-Jobson). I keep on saying, what would it be to write the history of Empire from a perspective outside of Euro-America? Say from Calcutta, or departing from the disaffected experimental out-of-his-mindset of a stoned Stone or a migrant-resident Indglish Sisodia-stuttering Intefada cursed crossover (both after all go for market share, belong to a well-to-do class fraction, profess a certain degree of – Ltd – left politics, and have been labelled devilish)?….

**** Update Note August 2009 – of course Ted already started out on this too: here.

Posted in drugs, music | Tagged drugs |

1.  We love you!
by Pirate Paul October 23, 2006 at 11:40 pm

2. sorry, but despite what Sir John sang, love is not all we need…. we need sympathy for the devil too… and some street fighting men and women, just to be sure
by victor October 25, 2006 at 9:47 am e

3. and some street fighting men and women, just to be sure

Victor– presumably you’ll be one of em
by Dixit October 25, 2006 at 1:30 pm

4. only if you’ll be the working class hero
by victor November 1, 2006 at 6:12 pm

Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the politics of the new Asian dance music

Reposted from Dark Matter.

by Sanjay Sharma • 8 Mar 09 •

Dis-Orienting Rhythms: the politics of the new Asian dance music (1996, Zed books), edited by Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk and Ash Sharma.

This book writes back the presence of South Asian youth into a rapidly expanding and exuberant music scene; and celebrates this as a dynamic expression of the experience of diaspora with an urgent political consciousness. One of the first attempts to situate such production within the study of race and identity, it uncovers the crucial role that South Asian dance musics – from Hip-hop, Qawwali and Bhangra through Soul, Indie and Jungle – have played in a new urban cultural politics …” (Back cover)

To celebrate the landmark edited collection being published over a decade ago, the whole text and individual chapters are available to download as searchable pdf files.

Note: Please be patient while the pdf files download (whole text will take a few minutes).

Dis-Orienting Rhythms – whole text (higher quality, 23MB):
Dis-Orienting Rhythms – whole text (lower quality, 11MB):

Individual Chapters (higher quality):

  • Introduction – Sanjay Sharma, John Hutnyk and Ashwani Sharma
  1. Sounds Oriental: The (Im)possibility of Theorizing Asian Musical Cultures – Ashwani Sharma
  2. Noisy Asians or ‘Asian Noise’? – Sanjay Sharma
  3. Asian Kool? Bhangra & Beyond – Rupa Huq
  4. Remixing Identities: ‘Off’ the Turntable – Shirin Housee & Mukhtar Dar
  5. Psyche and Soul: A View from the ‘South’ – Koushik Banerjea & Partha Banerjea
  6. Re-Sounding (Anti)Racism, or Concordant Politics? - Virinder S. Kalra, John Hutnyk & Sanjay Sharma
  7. Repetitive Beatings or Criminal Justice? – John Hutnyk
  8. Versioning Terror: Jallianwala Bagh & the Jungle – Koushik Banerjea & Jatinder Barn
  9. New Paths for South Asian Identity & Musical Creativity – Raminder Kaur & Virinder S. Kalra

Retro music formation

livingin70sI’ve been searching through the remnants of my old vinyl collection and my first records, including the classic ‘hooks album “Living in the Seventies”, whose lyrics, somewhat sadly, say it all.

There were about a dozen bands I played in during the late 70s – all of which never got anywhere. Moment of vacuous glory: I once played with the bass player that joined ‘The Birthday Party’ and just a few years later ended up looking like this:

Other approximate ‘that era’ highlights. First band I went to see that was not Deep Purple (who toured in 1974): Check out the very same Skyhooks (if only they had not glam rock fashions…). Here and Here.

Or, first band I saw at a festival – though I do not remember it – Daddy Cool doing  Eagle Rock (a throw back to the sixties, but…).

Its the Molly Meldrum produced masterpiece by Russel Morris that deserves credit for making me want to remember this stuff (various versions exist, but this is a more recent re-edit of the vid, worth watching to the end, I think it might be the best pop Australia produced ever)

Hands down, the Easybeats (for the perfect pop song)

and for mullet fans, the great Angels: here

all worth a look. Of course middle period Nick Cave owes much to all this, but still rules,

I am probably wasting your time…

no doubt.


Sonic Border/ Sonic Diaspora/Beyond Text

Please Go <here> for the more detailed (in process) Beyond Borders archive for this Project. There are a number of posts that lead up to the event described below, and a number of posts related to its aftermath, and details of the upcoming events in Berlin in April and Copenhagen in November will be posted there in dues course.


Draft Programme for:

Sonic Border/ Sonic Diaspora/Beyond Text

Monday 3rd – Saturday 8th November 2008

Centre for Cultural Studies

Goldsmiths University of London


Monday, 3 November

2:30 -3:00 pm – Rooms 137a and 138

Introduction by Julian Henriques – ‘Thinking Through Sound’

3:00 – 4:00 pm Chair: John Hutnyk

David Graeber. ‘Prisoners of Sound’

4:00 – 4:20 pm

Coffee and tea break.

4:20-6:30 pm

Johannes Anyuru and Aleksander Motturi ‘Clandestino Festival in an Age of Ethnicism’

6:30 – 7:00 pm

Explanation of Coventry Event, introduction of those from Kolkata and other guests.

7:00 pm

Drinks and dinner.


Tuesday, 4 November

1:00 – 2:00 pm – Rooms 308 and 307

Les Back ‘Siren’s Cry: The War on Terror and the Carceral City’

2:00 – 2:15pm

Coffee and tea break

2:15 – 3:45 pm Chair: Anamik Saha

Rangan Chakravarty. ‘Sound and Fury: The Language of Music: Contemporary Bangla Bands’

Paramita Brahmachari. tbc

3:45 – 4:00 pm

Coffee and tea break

4:00 – 6:00 pm Chair: Leila Whitley

Marc Teare. ‘The Secret History of a Musick Yet To Be.’

Carla Mueller-Schulzke. ‘Transcultural Soundscapes: Creative Musical Practice and the Politics of Sound.’

Kiwi Menrath. ‘Sounds Aquatic: From Oceans and Flows to Muddy Waters.’

Rico Reyes ‘Echolocating: Barrionics, Colonial Melancholia, and Technological Euphoria’<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>

7:00 pm

Tuesday evening we will be travelling to SE1 to join Thomas Altheimer for an event.

52 mins film Europe For President at Alma Enterprises’ project space on November 4th in Glasshill Street, SE1 (no street number, signs in the small street will lead you to the venue). Altheimer will open the event at 7 pm with an ‘Act Of Concession’.

The film documents Altheimer’s attempt to launch a European candidate for president in the US. It is produced by German, French and Austrian television and premières on French/German broadcaster on Nov 1st at 6 pm (see German press release: http://www.zdf.de/ZDFde/inhalt/28/0,1872,1404028_idDispatch:8094208,00.html ).


Wednesday, 5 November

College Open Day. Free Morning

In the afternoon we will attend this separately organised (by GMD, Deptford TV and CUCR) film/talk event in Deptford Town Hall, New Cross Road, London SE14 6AF

4.30-5.15 – Deptford.TV Premieres: Black History Month

Four short films made by Goldsmiths MA Screen Documentary students for Deptford.TV on Deptford’s black history. They look at the story of reggae sound systems in the area, the growth of the black community here, and the racist violence of the 1970s and 1980s, including the New Cross Fire.

5.30-8.00 – Talkoake on se14 6af: What will New Cross be?

Goldsmiths, University of London, is located in the heart of the dynamic and diverse neighbourhood of New Cross. The area is home to emerging creative businesses, deprived council estates and large numbers of students. How do these different communities interact?

see details at the end of the full program here .


Thursday, 6 November


Interdisciplinary Colloquium

November 6 2008 Rooms 137-138

Chair: Hanna Kuusela

11:00- 11:30 Introduction: Performing Crisis- Nicolás Salazar-Sutil

11:30-11:50 Crisis? What Crisis? Perspectives on the Credit Crunch- Andy Christodoulou

11:50- 12:30 The Madness of Decision- Dr James Burton- Goldsmiths College.

12:30- 13:30 Lunch break

Chair: Yuk Hui

13:30-14:30 Keynote Contribution: ‘Politicizing Crisis’ Professor Teivo Teivainen, University of Helsinki

14:30- 15:00 Value formation and crisis – Operativity of narrative – Lee Wan-Gi

15:00- 15:30 Something Between us: exploring social-fragmentation, philosophical anxieties and the economic crisis in America – John Ferrara

15:30- 16:00 Coffee Break

Chair: Cristóbal Bianchi

16:00-16:50 The inchoate situation of decline and the rhetoric of crisis- Dr Ina Dietzsch, University of Durham

16:50- 17:20 HO2Crisis: Water Wars and its trickling effect- Eva Slotegraaf

17:20- 17:50 Debord, Lautreaont and the aesthetics of negativity- Tom Bunyard

17:50- 18:30 The financial crisis as a window of opportunity: Hanna Kuusela


Friday, 7 November

11:00 – 1:00 pm – Rooms 308 and 307

Film: Jahaji Music, India in the Caribbean

Presented by Surabhi

1:00 – 2:30pm

Lunch Break

2:30 – 4:00 pm

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>

John Speyer and Music In Detention

‘Identities and Interactions in Border Institutions: Music in Immigration Removal Centres’

4:00 – 4:30 pm

Coffee and tea Break

4:30 – 6:00 pm

Karen Tam Songs not quite from Impanema.’

Camille Barbagallo. ‘Crossing borders. The xtalk project: free English classes for migrant sex workers.’

David Hysek ‘Quinta del Sordo – sense, theatre and sound’

6:00 – 7:00 pm

Future Events: February in Berlin, May in Copenhagen.


Saturday, 8 November

Noise of the Past – a poetic journey of war, memory & dialogue

Free bus to Coventry for this event (you have to book a place by emailing Leila on . Limited spaces available.

see the full program here .


Again, please Go <here> for the more detailed (in process) Beyond Borders archive for this Project. There are a number of posts that lead up to the event described below, and a number of posts related to its aftermath, and details of the upcoming events in Berlin in April and Copenhagen in November will be posted there in dues course.

Sonic Border is part (also see here, here and here) of the Beyond Borders network funded by the AHRC Beyond Text.


Sonic Borderlands

The first “Laboratory” of the Centre for Cultural Studies Beyond Text project will be on “Sonic Borderlands” and will be held 3-8 November 2008 (at Goldsmiths College all through ‘reading week’  and on the saturday at Coventry Cathedral in conjunction with Nirmal Puwar’s *Noise and War* event with Nitin Sawhney).  Workshops at Goldsmiths will include David Graeber on the sound of protest; Les Back; considerations of the border and philosophy, crisis, periphery and frontier, streets, porousness and location; and presentations by Clandestino, Music in Detention, from visiting scholars Rangan Chakravorty and Paramita Brahmachari out of Bengal, and including Surabhi Sharma’s film “Jahaji Music, India in the Caribbean”, and more.

We are still looking for presentations/papers from CCS people that broadly deal with the question of sound and the border.  Please send suggestions. Presentations should be up to 20 minutes.

The deadline for submissions is October 20, 2008. For further information or to submit your contribution please contact us in CCS (John or Leila)

Please note  there is a “Border Crisis” day within this week of events – and some of you may have been contacted separately about this. If you are involved with that day, all well and good, but we are also organising additional talks on other days.

The Beyond Text project gathers Border activists and artists from a couple of organizations to meet for six connected week-long laboratory workshops over the next two years in London, Berlin and Copenhagen. Those involved include Clandestino music festival Gotebourg, Re:Orient theatre Stockholm, Migrant Media London, various people from Kolkata and colleagues from Berlin FU and Copenhagen Doctoral School.  These casual meetings will be variously on music, theatre and film and will work on border activism, transnationality, diaspora, streets as borders, and the border between ourselves, everywhere, everyday. The workshops seek ways to break with conventions of border arts and pursue border activisms – and of course tamper with border patrols.


Writing to Kiwi who is doing great work on Snoop and presenting soon in Oldenberg… Thinking about all the Celebrity literature that has emerged, and is pretty tame, in the last few years… Alongside the minor cults of celebrity in regard to popstars, what can be gleaned from the self-critical internal documents of the communist parties who had to deal with the aftermath of the great personality cults of Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il Sung? Without wanting to repeat the attacks on these guys and so line up with anti-communism, nor to particularly endorse the deification of these figures (who were/are more important than as mere models for statues, t-shirts or badges), there is surely something of interest here in these greater personality cults and the ways they had to be managed by really existing communist states (or former communist states). Might not the personality cult open up the various texts on celebrity in a unexpected/interesting way? And could we have a kind of deStalinization process for Kylie? Ah, for that matter, its not just communists who had such personality cults is it – is there a need for a denazification process for Madonna? A Nuremburg trial for the Rolling Stones and their sell-out to VW etc…?

The Society of Dissonance

Notes for Sonic with Julian.

The sound of contemporary society within which the entrepreneurial mode of fabrication prevails, is one which flails about with immense clamour and commotion, the noise of each elementary moment now bereft of shape or form.

The Society of Racket, The Society of Din, The Society of Uproar or The Society of Dissonance – its clear as a bell that the spectacle has been drowned out by a cacophony of beats. It was never more or less the right time, but now might be when we need to be rethinking the visual/geographic biases of text-image based cultural comprehension, in order to sound out new critical questioning and evoke – metaphors at the ready – abstractly aural registers with which to practice politics. We think.

Such a politics would be echoed in the sonic reverberations of protest movements of old – the chants, songs, hubbub, the drums, critique, tone, the sirens, the roar, helicopters, loudspeakers, whistles and horns, and those mad(denning) anarcho drummers etc., – right through to the dominant ker-ching of cash register commerce. By way of the self-selecting sonic domination of ipod-wearing or mantra chanting devotees of the music promo, through to the resonances of self-criticism and interrogation as testimony to knowledge practices both emancipatory and oppressive. The stomp of marching jackboots or the anguished ‘NO’ of revolt – the lyrical romanticism of alternatives and the thud of hard cash. The rumble of tanks, the bang of car bombs, the doom doom doom of the bass drum; the tonality of critique trumps perverse property. New tools for thinking the border beyond geography, beyond the logic of the visual, beyond property and supremacy.

Add to Cross Border and Resonance Beyond Text.

Cross Border

I am rereading Eyal Weizman’s really excellent book “Hollow Land“, and I’m taken by his comment that the border is not always symmetrical. Of course, some are blocked, some pass freely, Capital flows through, commodities glide on by, others stand in line or have to sneak under the wire (if lucky). What else crosses the border, and how? Can this symmetry be tampered with in innovative ways, so as to support… Add this to the street as the border right here right now, and the ubiquity of border controls in our every move (for and against) and … Anyway, this below just had to be elevated from the comments of this post here, with dates amended, since its now time to start thinking out loud how to implement the thing. Get in touch if interested:

June 25 2008: I have been awarded some money from September for a network on the theme of ‘Beyond Text‘, and propose to use it for work on border activism and creativity – music, theatre, film. AHRC in their wisdom and generosity have included money for people from India to come to Berlin London Copenhagen – and possibly Barcelona, this year and next.

The project: we are gathering Border Activist/artists from a couple of organizations and propose to meet together over a week X 6 in the next two years – some casual meetings, some workshops, some public talks – to work out some ways to break with conventions of border arts, pursue border activisms – and of course tamper with Border Patrols. The thinking needs to be furthered as its pretty sketchy as yet, but I want that to happen in concert with others. Migrant Media London, Clandestino music festival Gotebourg, Re:Orient theatre Stockholm and friends in Unis at Barcelona, Berlin FU and Copenhagen Doctoral School.

The times are not yet fixed, but I wanted to give advance notice….

A slightly better outline of the plan: The money I have is small, and specifically for events in Berlin, London and Copenhagen and for visitors from Calandestino festival, Re:Orient theatre, and Migrant Media film, and various people from Kolkata. It is to run a series of week long laboratory-workshops. These will be variously on music, theatre and film. The focus is on border crossing activisms in some way, I hope. Nothing is worked out yet, but at a guess the dates would help – approximately, a week each in:

early November 08: London (music)

end feb 09 Berlin (theatre)

May 09 Copenhagen (Film)

Sept 09 London (film)

Feb 10 Berlin (music)

May 10 Copenhagen (theatre)

The people involved will be working on border activism, transnational, diaspora, streets as borders, the border between ourselves, everywhere, everyday…mainly, but specifically with a film, theatre and music angles. Any ideas welcome…

The first meeting at least will be music focused. A week long ‘laboratory’ on ’sonic diaspora’ to be held in London in November. There would also be a big music night at the Amersham Arms pub. The laboratory would involve various practitioners in music, and academics from Europe, in a series of workshops (no idea exactly on what yet) in the week.

So, these are just preliminary ideas, but get thinking of border again… and have a look at your calendar. – John

More New Guevara Convention.

So Clandestino has come and gone and this year I missed it because I was in Budapest (which was also great) – but Dave went to Gotebourg, and its good to hear from friends there.

Also, this news just in:

…the latest addition to the Guevara Convention is now up.
Filastine has given us La Muerte, inspired by the work and unfortunate death of Brad Will. Brad was in Oaxaca, Mexico videotaping the teachers’ strike when gunmen opened fire. Will was shot twice and died while he was being carried away from the area. Along with Will, two protesters – Esteban Zurita López and teacher Emilio Alonso Fabián – were also killed. The snare sound in the track is one of the shots fired at Brad just before he was killed.

So, in honour of those cut down by the reaction, listen. The music is here in the box a the bottom of the right hand column.

While Clandestino is a great festival, the Guevara Convention is also a very fine project – as I have possibly previously mentioned here, here or here.

non postings

* I really wanted to write a post about several things but there won’t be time. First up, I wanted to mark the passing of Bo Diddley last monday, aged 79. Hey hey hey R.I.P.

* Diddley was one of those who influenced the elegant wastrel Keith Richards, and I wanted to comment on the strange trajectory that would link Diddley’s box guitar riffs to Richards telecaster exoticist versioning on Brown Sugar and then on to him being channeled through ship-shape Captain Jack aka Johnny Depp, and thus remembering the slave stories that are obliquely if not totally occluded in recent blockbuster sailboat films (remember that Depp got to be a Caribbean Pirate after starting out as an undercover cop on 21 Jump Street).

All this flawed wanna be heroes stuff I would then render as some sort of twisted kinship diagramatic. But I won’t have time to draw.

* As is perhaps clear to some, I am reading a lot of PhD student work for annual panels. This allows me to learn, and reformulate my own thoughts and maybe even those of others sometimes. For example, randomly since it comes out of a text on performance art and immaterial labour, viral marketing and precarity, I remember Andy Warhol and rethink his slogan for more austere times:

In the future, everyone will be paid for just fifteen minutes.

Not sure if I will mean this as a critique of exploitation or as an aspiration for redistribution.

Answers on the head of a pin to the usual address please.

Budapest Keynote 13 June 2008

If you just happen to be in Budapest next week…

John Hutnyk – Keynote for the Conference “Framing Struggles”

“Framing Struggles or Containing Fears?

- Performative Paranoia and the Manufacture of Demons”.

Theatricality can sometimes out-perform theory. This presentation considers how insights from performance studies might provide a critical line on the range of theory-driven post-September 11 commentary that seeks to deal with the meaning of the war of terror and issues of public security. In particular the writings of Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou and Susan Buck-Morss will be examined, alongside the critical positions from media commentators and cultural artists. It seems that from the world of performance arts there might be a more nuanced understanding of the way the stories unfold, with implications for how we imagine scholarship and explanatory frameworks. The culture of fear creates demons, but a culture of struggle perhaps questions such framings.

Friday 13 June 17.30 PM (followed by a reception).


2ND CEU Sociology & Social Anthropology Graduate Conference

Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology

Central European University

Nador utca 9.

Budapest H-1051, Hungary

Hunting the Snark in New X

A Snark Dance specialist of our acquaintance has started haunting South London – the Laurie Grove Baths in particular. Read on for Andre Breton, Hauntology, psychogeography, camera technology, links to CCS’s occasional and spectrally astute visiting fellow K-Punk, and a grandmotherly connection. There is also a video link of exquisite remix strangeness. Do read on:

“There is a long history relating machines and ghosts and the supernatural and technology is definitely an interesting area to explore. Should this be viewed as being more than just a translation of the enchantment produced within us when faced with the finesse of impressive technical achievement?

My project for the Laurie Grove Bath House in November was an installation dedicated to the building’s ghost who was affectionately called Charley as he whistled the Charleston by James P. Johnson. For my installation I recorded someone whistling the Charleston and played it from the top of the stairs in order to lure people to a step, that when stepped on, projected old footage of people dancing the charleston on the walls accompanied by an old big band playing the song. The following video is nice cause it shows the ghosts of Al Minns and Leon James dancing the Charleston to daftpunk:” …. for the rest of this Snarkish post, see here.

Fair warning for Canadians

Fun-da-mentalMay 6 2008

Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies presents:

John Hutnyk, Academic Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London

Pantomime Terror: UK Hip Hop at War (or Paranoia in London: ‘Lookout, he’s behind you!’)

When: Tuesday, May 6, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Where: Room LB 646, McConnell Library Building, 1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd., W.

Performance studies and scholarship on popular culture has found a new more dangerous context.

With terror alerts and constant announcements at train stations and airports in the UK, where the Queen’s subjects are called upon to ‘report any suspicious baggage’; with stop and search security policing focused upon Muslims (and unarmed Brazilians shot on the London underground); and with restrictions on civil liberties and ‘limits’ to freedom proclaimed as necessary, it is now clear that spaces for critical debate are mortally threatened in contemporary, tolerant, civilized Britain.

This discussion addresses new performance work by diasporic world music stalwarts Fun-da-mental and the drum and bass outfit Asian Dub Foundation, relating to insurgency struggles, anti-colonialism and political freedom in the UK.

The presentation will argue for an engaged critique of “culture” and assess a certain distance or gap between political expression and the tamed versions of multiculturalism accepted by/acceptable in the British marketplace.

Examples from the music industry reception of ‘difficult’ music and creative engagement are evaluated in the context of the global terror wars and a new paranoia that appears endemic on the streets of London today.\

The lecture is open to all students and faculty and is co-sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture (CISSC).

For more information, contact the Communications Studies Department on (514) 848-2424 ext. 2555.


Seminar: May 6 2008

The Specialized Individualized Programs (SIP) and the PhD in Humanities Program (HUMA) present:

A seminar with John Hutnyk: Marx Writing Money

When: Tuesday, May 6, 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
Where: Room H-1120, Hall Building, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd., W.

John Hutnyk will lead a seminar discussion of the often read, and very often decontextualized, sections on Fetish and on Money in Marx’s Capital.

In order to make the argument he proposes that participants read or reread some of the framing sentences Marx offers.

A more activist-oriented appreciation of both Marx’s project and his method, as well as evaluating the place of money in his analysis, might thereby be possible — alongside a critique of some prominent commentators similar to the gentle chiding given to Jacques Derrida by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.

In this way it is hoped that something of Marx’s style and his engagement will be made apparent.

Participants are invited to read roughly 50 pages from the Penguin English language edition of Marx’s Capital — pp.126-131; pp.163-177; pp.198-209; pp.221-231; & pp.247-257. [And the German if you can, but the seminar will be conducted in English.]

The seminar is open to all students and faculty.

For more information, contact the Communications Studies Department on (514) 848-2424 ext. 2555.
Posted on April 29, 2008

Rock Against Racism

Closet Cleaner: I just thought I might post this in the run up to the 30th anniversary of RAR event next saturday [click here or on the picture]. This is an excerpt from my book Critique of Exotica (2000)but originally written as part of an article with Virinder Kalra and Sanjay Sharma in Dis-Orienting Rhythms (1996) – which really is due for re-release as its out of print and not cheap on the used and abused section of Amazon (note zed folks, how about it?).



Way back in 1976, on stage in Birmingham, befuddled rock star and prime candidate for exploitation agent status, Eric Clapton announced that he supported ultra-racist Enoch Powell and thought Britain was ‘overcrowded’.[1] In the south of London punky anarcho-poseur Johnny Rotten snarled at such dinosaur rocksters to ‘fuck off’ and said he ‘despised’ the National Front, that ‘no-one should have the right to tell anyone they can’t live here because of the colour of their skin’ (Zigzag 1977, no 77: 4) and that ‘England was never free. It was always a load of bullshit … punks and Niggers are the same thing’ (quoted in Gilroy 1987: 124).

In September of that year, Rock Against Racism was formed as a response by concerned activists to the racist comments of Clapton and other musicians, and the perception of an increasing turn towards racism and fascism within some sections of British society. Tony Parsons, writing in Zigzag, reported that the National Front ‘intended to ban all music with black origins from the airwaves and replace the “jungle music”, as they put it, with some Great British marching music’ (Zigzag 1977 no.76: 4). At the conjunction of music and politics, two trends of music history are often associated at the birth of RAR in the available record: the anti-everything anarchism of punk and the prominence of reggae with its anti-Babylon, anti-capitalist slacker messages. It is always difficult to assess political content and context for popular cultural forms, and never more so for those formations which attracted the moral panic that punk and Rastafari generated. Nonetheless, with many punk and reggae bands on the bills, Rock Against Racism managed to organise almost 800 events in Britain between 1976 and 1979. The largest of these ‘carnivals’ in collaboration with the Anti-Nazi League attracted 80,000 people in May 1978 (Gilroy 1987: 132) and 100,000 in September 1978 (Anti-Nazi League education pack).[2]

Paul Gilroy argues that the formation of a mass anti-racist movement in Britain ‘has passed largely unacknowledged’ (1987: 134).[3] It would be inappropriate to place too much emphasis on the lack of readily available histories of Rock Against Racism and the ANL, but the proliferation and significance of histories of the poll tax campaigns, anti-roads protests, and of the miners’ and docker’s strikes (from both anarchist and socialist presses) as documentations of counter-hegemonic struggle remind us it is important to recuperate multiple versions of what goes on in anti-racism in Britain. There are various interpretations of why the Rock Against Racism/Anti-Nazi League assemblage is important. One suggests that RAR and the ANL ‘gave expression to the feelings of young people who had seen the inadequacy of racist explanation [and] revealed for all to see the implicit politics of youth cultures which were defined by and often copied from Black forms and traditions’ (Gilroy and Lawrence 1988: 146). The SWP orthodoxy is that ‘Rock Against Racism aimed at promoting racial harmony through music, and was one of the first organisations to mix black and white bands at gigs’ (Anti-Nazi League educational pack), and with the ANL showed the way, indeed the ‘lesson’ of how, to fight fascism. More extravagant and optimistic assessments can be arrayed alongside these orthodoxies – most famous amongst them Tariq Ali’s proclamation at an early RAR event that ‘Lots of people will come for Rock Against Racism today and will see that it should be Rock Against the Stock Exchange tomorrow’ (NME 6 May 1978).

Although conjunctions of punk and reggae music inspired activists, it was the case that RAR remained mostly white boys’ adventure rock for both organisers and performers – the Buzzcocks, the Clash, Tom Robertson. With the exception of lesser known and often obscure local reggae outfits, and perhaps Marion Elliot, aka Poly Styrene, from X-Ray-Specs (Marcus 1989: 77), RAR was into a more mainstream form of cross-over like UB40 and ‘stars’ like Elvis Costello and the Attractions, than a forum for local black cultural productions. It is worth noting that the British bhangra (Indy-pop) scene was running parallel to these developments, but there was no involvement of Asian bands in RAR. Bhangra bands were playing the circuits of weddings and community events in a context largely neglected by the organisers of RAR. Politically oriented Asian musicians, for example from the Indian Workers Association, might have been invited to events, but as the imagined Other were inaccessibly beyond translation.[4] In one example the RAR organisers abandoned plans to stage an event in Southall with Asian bands on the bill (Street 1986: 78­–9). The potentially huge Asian audiences that might have been reached were all but ignored.[5] The diversity of the RAR crowds were often declared: ‘punks with green and pink hair mingled with skins, hippies, students, and the occasional lonely representative of the middle-aged middle classes. A lot of black kids too, though fewer Asians’ (NME 30 September 1978).

Political Front or Popular Struggle?

A key issue of interpretation that impinges upon evaluations of the nature and usefulness of this mode of cultural work which is discussed in the available histories rests on the relation between the Anti-Nazi League as organised mainly by Socialist Workers Party cadre, and the Rock Against Racism collectives working throughout the country. While RAR was formed some time before the ANL, and organised many successful local gigs, it was when the two organisations joined forces to promote the large London marches and carnivals and a three-day ‘festival’ in Manchester that the movement gained widest public prominence.[6]

Gilroy’s suggestion is that the difficult cross-over of punk and reggae,[7] manifest as a broad anti-capitalist anti-racism, dissolved in the face of the organisational bureaucracy of the Anti-Nazi League. He offers two explanations for this, both of which seem to have resonance in general black organisation complaints about the white left. First of all ‘an emphasis on neo-fascism as the most dangerous embodiment of contemporary racism inevitably pulls discussion of “race” away from the centre of political culture and relocates it on the margins where these groups are doomed to remain’ (Gilroy 1987: 148). Second, the neo-fascist use of the British flag and patriotism spawned an equally suspect nationalism on the part of the ANL (written elsewhere, but reclaimed?). ‘The idea that the British Nazis were merely sham patriots who soiled the British flag by their use of it was a strong feature of ANL leaflets’ (Gilroy 1987: 131). With the ANL’s appeal to older voters with the slogan ‘Never Again’, an appeal to put Britain first and above the interests of ‘foreigners’ was not far behind.

The first of Gilroy’s criticisms might be questioned on the grounds that the intention of the ANL/SWP was indeed to bring a version of RAR anti-racism to a wider constituency, although it is conceded that their methods and tactics were insufficient as they clumsily grasped the symbolism of Nazism, and therefore an anti-Nazi politics, and made it stand for anti-racism. The second criticism, of a nationalist undercurrent within the ANL itself, is difficult to refute since in the second manifestation of the ANL in the 1990s this tendency could again be found. The way in which the SWP’s Chris Bambury claims the ANL organisation and the lessons of the 1970s are ‘the model of how to organise against the Nazis’ (Bambury 1992: 34) might be questioned when he even goes so far as to recommend an ANL structure to French anti-fascists, along with a large dose of anti-communist sectarianism. This might raise suspicions that there is more hype in the SWP/ANL front than content – and especially so for those exposed to increasing racist attack on UK streets. Support for Gilroy’s analysis could be found in the work of Bonnett who summed up: ‘Unlike anti-Nazi anti-racism, the radical anti-racist perspective is firmly committed to some form of anti-capitalist critique’ (Bonnett 1993: 120).

A common black criticism of organised left groups like the SWP and ANL was that they arrive with leaflets and resources to impose a different agenda upon local struggles which then develop in ways which are sometimes at odds with the broad aims of black groups. Writing of black mobilisations against racism in the aftermath of the Notting Hill ‘riots’, Farrukh Dhondy warned that ‘there are well enough anti Nazi fronts in existence with well organised badges, posters and marching orders’ (Dhondy 1978: 85). These fronts were otherwise characterised as ‘a rag bag of local letterhead processors … and project hatchers’ (Bengali Housing Action Group 1978: 109). Although the sincerity of many of those SWP members who did get involved in local manifestations of anti-Nazi anti-racism could not be faulted, it is clear that often the limits of this perspective caused resentment and disruption to other anti-racist concerns. Describing such worries as ‘hysterical’, Graham Lock summarised: ‘the argument goes that the ANL is merely a front for the Socialist Workers Party’ (NME 30 Aug. 1978, italics in original). In Sounds the ‘smiling, laughing, dancing, happy’ carnival-ists gave ‘the lie to all those cynics who try to paint the ANL as some sinister Socialist Workers Party plot’ (Sounds 30 September 1978). In a less credible association, the ANL/RAR was described as ‘a wide ranging celebration of solidarity for freedom and against uniformity and bigotry, fired by the same spirit that fires dissidents in Russia and trade unionists in Chile’ (Sounds 30 September 1978).

The Spartacist League’s pamphlet Militant Labour’s Touching Faith in the Capitalist State, as already mentioned, slated ‘the tradition of the ANL’ popular-frontist practice of linking up with ‘Anglican vicars and Labourite politicians’ to confront fascism with dances. Spartacist assessment of the ANL in the late 1970s deserves consideration: ‘When the fascist National Front marched through the East End in 1978, the ANL organised an ‘anti-racist’ carnival ten miles across town [SL italics], deliberately preventing thousands of anti-fascist militants from confronting and defeating the National Front’ (Touching Faith 1994: 4). Lock, in the NME, reported that repeated calls at the carnival for ‘volunteers to defend Brick Lane elicited little response. People preferred to lie in the sun and enjoy the music’, and speculated that perhaps the absence of an Asian contingent at the carnival was thus explained: ‘maybe they were in Brick Lane, or maybe it is their culture tends to get overlooked on occasions like this. Where are you now Ravi Shankar?’ (NME 30 September 1978). Other reports suggest that the SWP leadership intentionally ignored the Asian activists (and some SWP cadres) who had assembled to confront the fascists in Brick Lane. In this scenario the SWP central committee actively worked to close out those SWP local branches with tendencies towards ‘squadism’ (organised militant anti-fascist squads). Subsequently, many of these cadres broke with the SWP into other formations and micro-sects.[8] The Spartacist Touching Faith pamphlet pointed out that ANL equivocation was not confined to the 1970s, and had continued into the 1990s – going on to record that although the large October 1993 anti-fascist rally was a significant event (known as the Welling Riot by readers of The Guardian), the follow-up ANL carnival at Brockwell Park was nothing more than a rehearsal of this populist avoidance (more on this below).

Gilroy, writing with Errol Lawrence, characterised as ultra-leftist those criticisms of the RAR/ANL that argued it was mere ‘fun music with no political connections beyond the private affiliations of the musicians’. A ‘chorus of professional revolutionaries’ (Gilroy and Lawrence 1988: 147) insisted that RAR had to be structured with delegates, conferences and cadres. That this ‘ultra-leftism’ did not organise RAR and that instead the SWP/ANL moved in with a popular front anti-Nazism does not seem an important distinction at this distance. Nevertheless, the calls of the Spartacist League for Workers’ Defence squads as a response to the Nazis, and those of the Revolutionary Communist Tendency and other revolutionary communist groups, and the editorial collective of Race Today, for ‘community defence’ groups to combat racist attack, are considerably different from what the ANL offered.

Jump to 1991. The SWP moved to re-establish the ANL in the face of renewed awareness of increasing racism in Britain and escalating racial terror in Europe. Fascists were again standing for political positions and the British National Party was successful in gaining a council seat in one London Borough. In the face of this resurgent threat the SWP declared that Nazism was again an issue – the ‘lessons of the 70s’ (Bambury 1992) were to be rehearsed once again. Yet old problems remained, and the ANL was without, on this occasion, a national network of grassroots activists, previously provided by RAR, able to give organised left politics a hip edge. Where previously ANL/RAR rallies had been flamboyant affairs, the 1990s versions were still further dominated by the mass-printed bright yellow lollipops. This was seriously uncool. Nevertheless, the popular support for anti-racist expression did draw considerable numbers to ANL rallies and the Welling demonstration in October 1993 was a success in terms of numbers mobilised, although police protection of fascists and confrontational tactics led to some disarray.

[1] Fighting the Nazi Threat, Anti-Nazi League educational pamphlet.

[2] An SWP pamphlet claims each event attracted 100,000 (Bambury 1992: 33), Sounds reported an estimate by Lambeth Council of 150,000, ITV news said 60,000. Who knows?

[3] Much of the material for discussion of musical anti-racism is found only in obscure pamphlets, the left press and in forgotten histories, but Paul Gilroy’s 1987 book There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack usefully refuses to allow Rock Against Racism to be forgotten. David Widgery’s study Beating Time: Riot n Race n Rock n Roll (1986) has been out of print for several years;, histories of punk only offer brief reminiscences, and histories of reggae and ‘Two-Tone’ remain either unwritten, or focus solely on the reggae of Anglo-British bands like The Police and associated personalities. Widgery was a co-founder of Rock Against Racism and member of the Socialist Workers Party, and though his book was described by Jon Savage in England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock as ‘full of insults for the groups who supported RAR’ (Savage 19911: 484), it was the best of a small lot.

[4] This point is emphasised in Kalra (2000a).

[5] Doubtless this occlusion should not be overvalued since part of the explanation for the distance between bhangra and ‘mainstream’ English music culture was an intentional and organisational separation. It is worth mentioning that this continues today in bhangra, despite occasional major label signings.

[6] Critical discussion of the relation between the ANL/SWP and RAR is important because it illustrates a difference of political practice that is common to the relations between the white and liberal left and  Black political activity. It is not without recognising this tension that Gilroy points out that RAR had an element of anti-capitalist critique which was effectively curtailed by the anti-Nazi focus of ANL - Gilroy writes that ‘Rocking Against Racism had allowed space for youth to rant against the perceived iniquities of “Labour Party Capitalist Britain”. The popular front tactics introduced by the ANL closed it down’ (Gilroy 1987: 133). In contrast the SWP claim that the ANL support of Rock Against Racism was ‘important in building support for anti-racism in schools, workplaces and the community, as well as exposing the Nazis of the National Front’, and ‘Of course this did not mean that institutionalised racism … or racial harassment was stopped’ (Anti-Nazi League educational kit). In reply to Gilroy’s criticisms, Alex Callinicos says: ‘It is in the nature of a united front that it brings together divergent political forces which are prepared to work together around a single issue, in this case combating the Nazis’, and shows that he is aware of the need to shore up criticism of this single- issue focus when he adds that ‘Focusing in this way on the fascists wasn’t a retreat from the more general struggle against racism’ (Callinicos 1993:64).

[7] Gilroy claims that the general anti-capitalist orientations of RAR came mostly from reggae and some aspects of punk rebellion, although this latter with ambiguities since some punks flirted with the iconography of the National Front . A June 1977 editorial in the punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue had characterised the National Front as ‘crud’, but also linked them with the ‘commies, the Socialist fuckin’ Workers, the head-in-the-sand brigade and the poxy Evening News’ (Sniffin’ Glue 10, June, 1977). Whatever the status of the Nazi symbols, it is acknowledged that punk brought an anti-authoritarian and anti-state orientation that complemented reggae’s evocation of Black urban militancy - Gilroy points out that the Notting Hill Carnival uprising coincided with the emergence of punk (Gilroy 1987:125) - and so RAR came together in a way that broke from what was considered a ‘dour and self-defeating’ approach, ‘devoid of fun’ (Gilroy 1987: 127). An organiser of RAR commented in the NME that ‘for some reason or other the British left have always thought that anything electric couldn’t possess any true political awareness and that acoustic folk was the only possible music they could ally themselves with’ (NME 6 May 1978). There was no doubt that ANL and RAR were part of a moment in the political history of Britain that, alongside tumultuous musical developments, heralded a comprehensive change of tempo.

[8] The more interesting of these are Anti-Fascist Action, Red Action and the Colin Roach Centre (see ANL-Critical Examination Pamphlet, Colin Roach Centre 1995).

Check the book for full refs.

Trinketized Morality Fable

It is not a matter of essences or of reductions as such, but the pantomime and the morality tale, the melodrama and the anecdote, as ideological tricks and rhetoric, are condensations with a perverse intent. They reduce for sure, but it is their economy that makes all this worthwhile, on all sides. Codification saturates all areas, trinketization abounds – the message is telegraphed and as a cipher works all the more. I would like to think that the music promo is an ideal form of this, perhaps in an unguarded moment we could suggest this was a little like zen, or a haiku (Eisenstein glossed via Rancière 2001/2006:25), in that its illustrative material offers so much more than it has to explicitly portray. But there is also a critical component to assimilate. This is true of the scene of pantomime terror where Aki Nawaz is presented as the suicide rapper in The Guardian, just as much as it is the strategy of Aki’s own intervention in ‘Cookbook DIY’ in so many ways. There are criticalities and complicities in the format. Consider ‘Cookbook DIY’ again: of all the masquerade figures in that clip, we need only note that the figure painting the graffito quotation from John F Kennedy is wearing orange overalls, thus referencing Guantanamo, to launch an entire argument. It is of course heavy-handed and didactic, but this is why it works. Quoting a US president as critique of the US Presidency. For the record, the graffiti reads ‘If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable’. This slogan comes from an address by Kennedy at the White House on March 12 1962. Since a source for this quote must be offered, here is one that has a certain resonance, and perhaps also illustrates the point about condensation. Martin Luther King speaking at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 on the topic of the war in Vietnam, calls for an end to all bombing and recognition of the National Liberation Front and calling for acts of atonement ‘for our sins and errors in Vietnam’:

“In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military ‘advisors’ in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable’. Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken – the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment” (King 1967/2007 [my italics]).

As reported by the Information Clearing House, Time Magazine called King’s speech ‘demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi,’ and the Washington Post declared that King had ‘diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people’, but bringing this forward to contemporary times and the reference Aki makes by way of a simple orange jump suit is all we need for hypocrisy to be utterly skewered. There is no justification for the camps, the torture, the rendition and the interrogations. Condensation makes the ‘defenders of freedom’ [and profit] sweat.

And isn’t that why the clergyman King should be quoted, because the critical irony gets us hot under the collar here, in what Rancière identifies as problematic in Eisenstein’s pantomimes (2001/2006: 27) and also in Bertholt Brecht’s identification of the cynical observer with the engaged critic, where the ‘lessons of dialectical pedagogy’ oscillate with the ‘athleticism of the boxing ring or the mockery of the cabaret’ (Ranciere 2001/2006:30). This is a difficulty with the ‘political’ haiku that infects the knowing critic with an irony that remains toothless without mobilization or party organization, and even Rancière’s SOS call to the ‘Battleship Potemkin’ from the prow of ‘The Titanic’ does not save us. The contradiction pierces the heart of the founding fable of brave egalitarian and free America. Thus, the question:

“what century we live in [that we] derive so much pleasure – our Deleuzes in our pockets – from the love affair upon a sinking ship between a young woman in first class and a young man in third’ (Rancière 2001/2006: 31).

Rancière, Jacques 2001/2006 Film Fables, Oxford: Berg.

More on Cookbook DIY.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,687 other followers

%d bloggers like this: