Mobs, Gangs, Rogues… & The Lumpen

This is a repost from this blog, ten years ago…

As we approach the 40th [now *50th] Anniversary of the founding of the BPP it may be worth remembering that music and politics produced some fine and dandy sounds: Here they are (click the link) The Lumpen – a Black Panther Party Revolutionary Singing group

The Lumpen were: “comrades who liked to harmonize while working Distribution night in San Francisco to “help the work go easier” (another tradition). We had all sung in groups in the past, Calhoun having performed professionally in Las Vegas, and it just came naturally. I don’t remember just how it came about, but Emory Douglas, Minister of Culture, suggested that this could be formed into a musical cadre. Elaine Brown had already recorded an album of revolutionary songs (Seize the Time) in a folk singing style, and this quartet singing in an R&B or “Soul” form could be a useful political tool. Some folks don’t read, but everybody listens to music”.

another new vid from the album A Philosophy of Nothing by Fun-Da-Mental

Lyrics – from Shamil Khan\s FB

Selected lyrics translated from Arabic

Levels, being stacked upon levels
The meaning of these words?
Who does divulge?
Who is the creator? The beneficent!
And what know ye of the thumping star? Telling signs, that we have not seen before. Follow.

Trees and grasses, sprout in the desert.
The green has overcome the crust.

Profit, we only bill the orphans and the elderly.
The murderer.
The murderer knows not why he kills.
The murdered knows not why he has been killed.
The wind asks the rain…
Who replies ‘I am amazed’
As she turns into wine.
Adultery and usury.
Provocative Dancers and singers.
Egregious acts in the streets and back alleys.
The time draws nearer.
Killing and civil strife is rife
We have awoken and the authorities are as a noose around our necks The hour is upon us.

The Promise is a promise, your time shall come. This world, however it is, shall twist and turn.

And yet the Sun, shall rise from the west.
And the one-eyed one from the east
Claiming divinity, yet he lies.
And I swear by God the Almighty that he is a liar. He shall birth a new order, uni-polar.

Virinder Kalra “Sacred and Secular Musics”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 14.39.58‘writing a book about music may seem anachronistic given the state of crises that announced itself in explicit acts of violence and multiple human violations’

This is a book not to be missed. Sacred and Secular Musics explains with detail and nuance the contexts of emergence and understanding – and criticism of misunderstandings – of musics from the Punjab. Kirtans, Qawwali, folk and film tunes are given analytical and biographical treatment here – based upon extensive interviews and well-tuned listening practice. Virinder Kalra’s return from a combative engagement with musicological terrain reunites what has been torn apart by scholarship and politics.

A sonorous demolition of colonial era music orientalism is articulated as a necessary and ongoing project. Here it is informed by historical and archival work used as parallel anti-colonial movement against the drone routines of latter day musicology and its patterned responses in hierarchical mode. That surely ever so well-meaning contemporary music scholars repeat the platitudes and privileges of East India Company judgements is not just an error of disciplinary isolation or demarcation – a book on music is never only about music – here at last is one up front about the isomorphism of soundtrack and power. Get this book not so much to read your way into a better music history or to decolonise your record/mp3 collection’s exotic moments, but to recognise those moments as part of a wider dis-orientation through rhythm and poetry – which could perhaps be claimed as the sonic register of a wider Global South resistance, and not to be merely commercialised and packaged into some rote-learning documentary format.

‘despite increasing hardening physical borders and political sabre rattling. Perhaps only music is able, in the absence of cross-border transnational, political or social movements and institutions, to provide an example of another possibility of a refusal to endorse and promote the outcomes of colonial modernity. Even though, this is only a minor chord in the hugely amplified soundscape that is invested in the continuation of the boundaries between religions. It is one that is worth straining for and making the effort to hear’

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