Last night I caught the tube to Shadwell and walked to the corner of Rampart and Sly Streets (hmmm, significant street names – Ramparts was a 60s magazine of some importance, Sly – well, that’s clear enough – a the end of the street there’s a great sweet shop…). So, I arrived at the corner to find Aki Nawaz slumped in a broken office chair beside a dumpster and a pile of crushed cardboard boxes. ‘Welcome to my office’, he greets me. We sit and chat about the mad media responses to his new album “All is War”; we run through recent events in the horror that is Lebanon; approve the resistance of Hezbollah; and consider the possibility that bruiser John Reid is going gung-ho in his new home secretary job because, like an earlier blind incumbent, he is jockeying for position as a possible future leader of the Labour Party, so acting tough is what he thinks will get him noticed in the tabloids. We talk about how the tabloids make public opinion nowadays and its mainly a way of scaring people into silence, apathy and into nothing but the joys of shopping. Then a Green Party representative comes over and asks Aki what instrument he plays in the band (I only wish Aki had replied, ‘Hi, my name’s Pink’).
Home Secretary Reid, believe it or not, is a former CPGBer (old version) and perhaps best noticed for calling Jeremy Paxman a West London Wanker (henceforth W-L-W) – well, Reid has his chances I guess, so why not be gung-ho at a time when the Deputy PM John Presscaught is invisible and war criminal Bliar is off hiding out in some Caribbean terror training camp after paving the way for the IDF to make pavement out of Southern Beirut. A airport carry on luggage scare and the arrest of a bunch of teenagers is a great service to the no-hoper piggy pollies that need the cover (but gung ho is a funny expression; a mix of Bruce Lee and Ho Chi Minh springs to mind, so I best stop using it, because Reid has long ago left the Left behind, and I am told, anyway, that gung-ho was taken up by the US Marines but was originally the abbreviation for a Chinese Communist organisation, so using it to refer to the Labour Party is far too uncanny… I digress, see here and also contrast the film, and laugh out loud).
Anyway, politics by tabloid. Aki has himself been noticed in the tabloids quite a bit of late – The Sun called him a ‘suicide rapper’ and the Guardian had a go – as I have mentioned already. The event at Ramparts – a social centre in Shadwell – is to discuss the controversy, and to host the premiere screening of the video for ‘Cookbook DIY’ (lyrics here; download track here). The evening kicks off in somewhat desultory manner with a half hour video on the history of Fun-da-mental that presses various key buttons – ‘Tribal Revolution’, ‘Dog Tribe’, ‘GoDevil’ clips and plenty of send-up footage of a lame Australian TV interviewer who pretty much can’t cope with Aki asking if Australian Aboriginals had rights and land back yet – ‘what are you doing about it?’ ‘Nothing.’. Point.
Slowly the RampArts social centre fills up, and people take their seats to find a gift FDM cd – its not about the sales – and Ken Fero, co-director of Injustice – kicks off proceedings by introducing Aki, John Pandit and the guy from the GP, noting that two other guest speakers were still on their way. Aki starts speaking about how democracy is a weapon that kills, that there is a silencing that is as much blame, that the leader in Downing St needs to be put on a donkey and paraded through the city, and that he can’t understand why there is nobody doing anything. He is really angry. The youth in Britain are angry, There are people being killed in thousands and everyone seems to be going on and on as if there was nothing they could do. They tried to protest against the gulf war, but were ignored and since then, nothing. Why, he says, aren’t people out there burning down town halls and the like? (This last comment almost an aside, but it will become more and more the hot topic of the night). The Green Party representative speaks next, about free speech – frankly, the usual routines– thank-you Shahrar Ali, invited by the organisers Red Pepper. Then Natasha Atlas arrives – her music is also released under Aki’s Nation Records imprint – and she talks of her Syrian partner, the troubles musicians have getting visas in Europe, her anger and frustration at the war, and she apologises for being emotional. In fact it’s the most passionate thing I’ve heard her say ever, and not at all prima donne-esque. Great. Then the final late speaker walks in, Louise Christian, human rights lawyer(and she reminds us the event is organised by Rod Popper…). She speaks in favour of free speech and against the new additions to the terror laws, that will criminalise anyone who speaks in favour of – glorifies, encourages – acts of terror. The intent of criminality is to be assumed even if they did not inspire anyone to act, even if they were vague about whether they really intended people to go out and – Louise looks over to Aki – say people should go and blow up buildings. She says she does not think these laws will ever be tested, that they are like clause 28 – crime of encouraging homosexuality – or the incitement to racial hatred law – a kind of public relations gesture. She says we should not get paranoid, that at least in this country we can have debates like this – there has been no debate as yet, but restlessness in the audience suggests one might start soon – and debate is something we have to cherish, because – here’s the clincher – they don’t have it in Turkey, Burma or North Korea (double take – wha??? axis of evil redux).
Cmde John Pandit from ADF speaks next. Quietly pointing out the need to organise and to do so on new creative ways, to make a new set of alliances. To do the work required to build a movement that is not just protest marches that go from A to B (this will also become a refrain, the issue of how the Stop the War coalition does all it can to minimize confrontations and have us all hide out in Hyde Park provokes considerable agitation). And its important, he emphasizes, not to fall for the self-censorship that means that so many musicians who do have media visibility say nothing.
The first question is from the reporter from the Daily Star, Neil Chandler – he told me his column appears in the Sunday edition. I might even buy it as his question was ok, and in a short exchange with the reporter from the Morning Star (and representative of the STW coalition) Neil seemed by far the more credible. But it is the Daily Star, so no high hopes eh. In any case, in response to questions the point was made forcefully by Aki that the issue was British foreign policy. A simple persuasive argument he offers runs: we put up with years and years of racism and it did not mean any young people felt the need to strap on bomb belts and jackets and blow the trains; we endured years and years unemployment and it did not mean anyone went out to bomb buildings [well, Baader Meinhof excluded, but …]; but now the nightly news footage of innocents killed one after the other in their hundreds and no-one wants to discuss it, no-one listens, no debate, no significant movement to defend Muslims; no defence of mosques from attack; no way the STW coalition was going to deliver on its promise that ‘if Blair goes to war we will stop the whole country’, despite 2 million marching in February 2002…the problem is foreign policy. Change that and its over.
Some audience members were keen to point out that there were ongoing efforts to defeat Blair. Protests against airports and weapons manufacture, dealers, delivery, sabotage, various campaigns. There was some discussion of how music is important as a way of airing issues, that musicians are more than the soundtrack of a movement; that since the 60s Vietnam protests music could be something more than entertainment. But so often its not. I am of course reminded of Adorno saying that the debate was not yet over about art, and perhaps art still carried the ‘secret omnipresence of resistance’ in its hidden core. But this is not enough in a world of shopping. All this is admirable but it does not get to the question of just what kind of organisation is needed to defeat the imperialist foreign policy. The questions I ask have to do with this: the need for debate and action on all these points; on what sort of organisation is needed; on what sort of action is needed (someone heckles ‘but not blowing up buildings’); and on what sort of analysis is needed to support both organisation adequate to succeed, and the actions necessary. This does not get taken up; instead the chair notes there is always resistance, there will always be resistance. Another speaker asks a question about violence, naming Gandhi and the struggle against British colonialism. Aki makes the point that Gandhi was not alone, there was always a range of others involved, from Uddam Singh and Subhas Bose. Gandhi, it is insisted, wanted peace, not blowing up buildings – this is becoming the defining phrase, spiralling into architectural defence. Aki exasperated says ‘you lot care more about buildings than people’ – hands thrown up in the air. Everyone wants a say, a filmmaker is shouting from the back, the guy with the roving mike has gone outside to answer a phone call, with the mike still turned on. Chaos. So the movement shall be organised like this…
Dave Watts from FDM stands up. The discussion has dragged on and his frustration as clear as many. He starts by saying he understands why people want to be suicide bombers, he understands the frustration that would make someone want to go out and do it. You can imagine how this rubs up against the Gandhians. Dave says there has to be some understanding of where those who have tried to discuss have now ended up – ready to do violence and blow up buildings . But then he says he is a man of peace, a lover of peace, but he is angry and we have to fight for peace. The video clip we are about to see is called ‘Cookbook DIY’ and Dave explains its in three parts, that the person who in frustration because the is no other avenue for discussion, expression, action, has made a home bomb for 50 quid, is a small version of the guy who makes a dirty bomb, with materials bought on the black market, but neither are as obscene as the scientist who kisses his wife in the morning – Dave mimes a smooch, playing to the audience – who then goes off to work in a pentagon lab or some such to make a neutron bomb that kills all the people but leaves the buildings intact. Have a look at the video people … at which point, the screening:
And that is exactly what Cookbook DIY does. Just as it says on the tin. Do not mistake this for advocacy - its an analysis. This ‘suicide rap’ exposes the suicide scientist making the neutron bomb, the daisy-cutter, the cluster bombs and all those other armaments that the Lords of War – Blair, Reid, etc etc – threaten us with, under their terror laws, their terror regimes, the bombing runs and their surveillance systems. Their free speech that is no speech, their diplomacy and their democracy. Under the veneer of democracy, the bloodied hands of the piggy pollies; under the musical refrains, the resistance; under the cover of the Daily and the Morning Stars, another secret possibility. The global resistance, Zindabad!
Cookbook DIY lyrics:
I'm packed up ingredients stacked up my Laptop
Downloaded the military cookbook PDF
Elements everyday chemicals at my reach
Household bleach to extract the potassium
Chlorate Boiling on a hotplate with hate
recipe for disaster plastic bomb blaster
I mix up 5 parts wax to Vaseline
slowly ... dissolve in gasoline
add to potassium in a large metal bowl
knead like dough so they bleed real slow
Gasoline evaporates... cool dry place
I'm strapped up cross my chest bomb belt attached
deeply satisfied with the plan I hatched
electrodes connected to a gas cooker lighter
switch in my hand the situation demands
self sacrifice hitting back at vice with a £50 price
I'm 31.. numb ...but the hurt is gone
Gonna build a dirty bomb
us this privilege and education
My PHD will free me
Paid of the Ruskies for weapons grade Uranium
Taught myself skills from Pakistan Iran
upgraded its stage two of the plan
Rage... a thermo nuclear density gauge
stolen by the Chechens from a Base in Georgia
I get some cobalt 60 from a food irradiator
so easy to send the infidels to their creator
its takes a dirty mind to build a dirty bomb
The simplicity is numbing genius is dumbing
down the situation to a manageable level
to make the world impossible to live for these devils
a suitcase of semtex a mobile phone trigger
Blow them all to hell for a million dollar figure
I insist I'm a legitimate scientist
paid by the government with your finances
I got a private room in the Whitehouse suite
So I can develop according to presidential Brief
The megaton don Gulf war veteran
The foremost proponent of the neutron bomb
at the centre atomic surrounded on all sides
wrapped in layers of lithium deutaride
the bomb detonates causing lithium to fission into helium
tritium neutrons into Fission
The blast causes shockwaves that melt body fat
uniquely though it leaves the buildings intact
I made the 25 megaton daisy cutter
a great blast radius with very little clutter
There's less radiation so you get a cleaner bomb
its your money people it cost a billion
Also - from "All is War" - check out 'Bark Like a Dog' - a Pistol-whip of a track that deserves to roar up the charts...