Category Archives: Music

One Year in Prison: Letter from Julian Conrado to the People


By Julian Conrado
June 8, 2012

From my trench of dignity

Those of us who turn singing into a manifestation of love for the people, we’re always going to be hated by the enemies of the people. That’s why they insult us, slander us, persecute us, jail us, torture us, make us disappear, and kill us. However we express ourselves, this is what has always happened to those who, because of pure love for the people, struggle for their happiness.

But those who imprison a fighter for the love of the people should know that no one has ever been freer than Antonio Nariño in the Cartegena tombs and Francisco de Miranda in the Spanish empire jail [Translator: both were independence fighters], that no one has ever been freer than the five Cuban heroes, or Simon and Sonia [Colombian guerrillas] in the dungeons of North American imperialism, that no one has ever been freer than [Venezuelan communist singer] Ali Primera in the basements of the DIGEPOL [Venezuela’s Intelligence Service, under previous governments] or Hugo Chavez in the cells of the DIM, the Yare jail or the Orchila island.

Those who kill a fighter for the love of the people should know that no one has ever been so alive as Jesus, crucified on Mount Calvary, that no one has been more alive than Ernesto Che Guevara, shot in La Higuera [Bolivia], that no one has been more alive than Alfonso Cano, bombed in the Colombian mountains… Don’t the indignant of Spain feel Miguel Hernandez and Federico Garica Lorca?  Those Allende-ing in Chile don’t feel [the presence of] Victor Jara and Pablo Neruda?

Isn’t Ali Primera felt Bolivar-ing in Venezuela?

Sisters and brothers with dreams of peace with justice and love:

This 31 May marks a year since I became a prisoner on land of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Since my extradition to Colombia or the United States isn’t fair in any way, now the hairy hand of the oligarchy oppressor that strangles my country, regretting not having killed me the day of my capture, has invented a new plan that consists of killing me in prison.

I want the enemies of peace in my country to know that I am more than just a man, I’m a hymn of the poor of the land, a hymn that now, imprisoned, is sung more, is heard more, is danced to more… so what if they kill me?

But… how will they manage to kill a song that blooms in the heart of the people?

Sisters and brothers: despite my difficult physical problems and the uncomfortableness of imprisonment, morally, I feel fine; like a Guayacan [tree]! This metal and cement cage, I’ve converted it into an unyielding trench of dignity, from where I continue resisting and firing Bolivarian verses for the de-privatisation of the planet and its salvation, as well as for the freedom of the 99% of humanity – enslaved to the point of terror, by the heartless capitalist beast.

With a guitar full of red stars, that the young singer Ali Manaure brought me, visiting hours are a true party of fraternal revolutionary happiness. Here I’ve had the immense honour of singing with Gloria Martin, Lilia Vera, Chiche Manaure, Sol Musset de Primera, Amaranta Pérez, Sandino Primera, Lil Rodríguez, Centauro Saher, Oswaldo Mussett, the poet Neybis Bracho, Gino González, Víctor Moreno of the IVEN band, the poet Elí Briceño, Armando López, the journalists Indira Carpio and Ernesto Navarro, Luis Miguel Badaraco of the Cantera Collective, David Gómez “Lucerna”, Floridimar, the poet Carlos Angúlo, Carlos Ruíz, Tamanaco “tocapalma”, Sandino Márquez, Manuel Azuaje, the photographer Paz Capielo, Aura and Alfredo of Neruda Culture, the Argentine Gerardo “cumbia del sur”, Paula, Jhonalbert and Edwin of the R, who else?, Javier, Cira, Carlitos “comrade”, Daniela… the list peaks and grows longer.

But furthermore, from all the points of light of Venezuela, of Our America, they are sending me loving hugs of solidarity and manifesting their unconditional support to the movement for my freedom and political asylum.

My sisters and brothers,  thank you for so much love, but I ask you for more: I ask you from the bottom of my heart that you help the children of the people of the tormented Colombia to get out of the horrible night that we have been kept in for so many years, by the exploiting classes.

The struggle of the Colombian people is about to return to the light of sublime freedom!

We can’t stand seeing our flag trodden on by the invading military boat of imperialism. We want a national, patriotic, democratic, and Bolivarian government! We want reconciliation and national reconstruction, we want economic and ecological development with social justice, we want, finally, peace, with justice and love.

Now I remember, that night under rain of bombs and bullets… my companion and myself, we kissed. Don’t worry my love, I said, if they kill us, we’ll leave a beautiful example of dignity behind. She told me she thought the same. So then we hugged more strongly and we waited. But such a death didn’t come… surely it was scared of so much love. The same thing happened in the little town of Altamira de Caceres, that other night of terror on the 31 May 2011: Love again defeated parched death!

My people: From prison I send you a liberated hug! Dammit!

Loving, we overcome!



R.I.P. Adam Yauch (MCA); Thoughts on the Beastie Boys and Tibet


May 8, 2012

First things first, RIP to a Adam Yauch, a hip-hop innovator whose contribution to the art form is widely recognised. The Beastie Boys form an important chapter in hip-hop history. Even as white, middle-class kids whose main effect was to make hip-hop more accessible to other white, middle-class kids, they were generally respectful of the art form and of the communities that created it. Chuck D commented on Twitter:

“Adam & the boys put us on our first tour 25 years & 79 tours ago. They ARE essential to our beginning, middle and today. A very real cat R.I.P MCA”

While Yauch deserves respect as an artist and innovator, the aspect of his life that has earned him the most praise in the liberal press is his activism in favour of Tibetan independence. This is interesting. While the press censors musicians who call for Free Palestine, it lauds artists who call for Free Tibet. And while western governments actively support the Israeli government against the Palestinian movement for national self-determination, they actively support the Tibetan independence movement against the government of the People’s Republic of China. Why the discrepancy? In short: because Israel is a ‘friend’ and China is an ‘enemy’. The west has consistently used the issue of Tibet in order to paint China as an evil, ruthless coloniser, thereby making it morally abhorrent, even to those that support other aspects of Chinese politics (you know… little things like the most significant poverty alleviation programme of all time).

Every western liberal knows that Tibet must be free. And yet 99.9% of them haven’t got the slightest clue as to the history of Tibet, or the relationship between Tibet and the rest of China. Wearing that ‘Free Tibet’ t-shirt is simply the easiest, most acceptable and least confrontational way of saying “I am a good person”, absolving the wearer of all responsibility for developing their knowledge and understanding.

In fact, the issue of Tibet is not an open-and-shut case of Chinese colonialism. And perhaps more importantly, there are better ways for people in the ‘first world’ to be active in pursuit of a fairer, more peaceful world. The Beastie Boys were/are privileged white Jewish kids from affluent families in New York. They have made a fortune, and built a musical legacy, on the basis of a culture created by people of African descent in the poorest districts of New York. Instead of taking up a cause celebre which poses zero challenge to the US ruling circles, surely it would be more appropriate to use their privilege and wealth in support of the oppressed communities that hip-hop grew out of?

Incidentally, New York wasn’t always called New York – it was given that name by English colonisers in 1664. Native Americans have lived in that area for an estimated 12,000 years. Wealthy European settlers could consider supporting indigenous rights and power as an outlet for their activism. But that would be a bit difficult. It would mean standing up to their government; it would mean getting labeled in the press as subversives rather than lauded as heroes; it would mean taking on corporate interests; it would mean not sharing the same views as George W Bush. It doesn’t take any courage for a wealthy North American or European to stand up to ‘Chinese tyranny’. The Chinese are an easy target. The west is generally anti-China to begin with, and there’s a prevailing sense of indignation that they are no longer our colonial subjects (things were soooo much better in China back when we fought wars for our right to get the Chinese masses hooked on opium). In the US this sentiment is mixed up with the intellectual legacy of McCarthyism, which means that anything called ‘communist’ is automatically considered demonic. The prevailing hatred only grows as China is developing into an economically and politically strong country, the number one challenge to the total dominance of US imperialism.

One international cause which doesn’t typically attract the support of many wealthy western celebrities (especially Jewish people from New York) is that of Palestinian national self-determination. Why not demand an end to Israeli oppression of Palestinians? There are few such clear-cut cases of ongoing colonial occupation, organised and paid for by the west. Opposition to Israeli occupation is a lot more valid than joining in with the fashionable Hollywood-liberal cries of ‘Free Tibet’. However, I can’t find any record of the Beastie Boys voicing their support for Palestine. Indeed, they played concerts in Israel in 1995.

So in celebrating the legacy of the Beastie Boys (Paul’s Boutique is playing in my headphones as I write this), I suggest we emulate their creativity rather than their activism. Be an activist, for sure, but pick the right side!


Remembering Smiley Culture one year on


By Lizzie Phelan
March 15, 2012

Kingsley Burrell

Mark Duggan

On this day a year ago pioneering reggae artist Smiley Culture was killed while four police officers were in his home. A media campaign tried to drag his name through the mud to paint him as though he deserved to have his precious life taken from him.

In the months following his murder, Kingsley Burrell from Birmingham was killed in police custody and Mark Duggan was shot dead on the streets of London by police sparking off the riots.

At the time of the riots I was in Libya, and the then Libyan government which was under daily bombardment by the same British authorities that killed those three, released a statement saying that the riots showed that the British government had lost legitimacy. While the British media had shown no sympathy to the families of Smiley, Burrell and Duggan, like it had shown no sympathy to the Libyan victims of Britain’s bombs, Libya’s most popular talk show host Dr Yousef Shakir who at the same time was working tirelessly to counter the lies coming out of the western press about his own country, showed the photos of Smiley, Burrell and Duggan on his show and sent the solidarity of Green Libya to their families.

It is time we connected the dots between the injustices committed by our government against the most oppressed here and the injustices committed by our government in Libya, Syria and the whole of the “Global South”.

Smiley’s nephew Merlin Emanuel made this point very clearly in a meeting shortly after his murder, when he said that while our government pretends that injustices committed by governments abroad are a justification for them launching their brutal wars, the real injustices are being committed by that same government on our own doorstep.

Noone has been held accountable for the deaths of Smiley, Burrell or Duggan. Or the thousands of others killed in police custody.

Rest In Power Smiley. We will never forget. All our love to your family.


“Hand On Your Gun” by Lowkey


The following music video was shot at the first rally held by Occupy London: 

[Intro: Lowkey]
This one is dedicated to the suit-wearing arms dealers
To the champagne-sipping depleted uranium droppers

Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone
Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone

[Verse 1: Lowkey]
First in my scope is BAE Systems
Specialize in killing people from a distance
Power is a drug and they feed the addiction
Immediate deletion of people’s existence
Who says what is and what isn’t legitimate resistance
To push the buttons you don’t need a brave heart
State of the art darts leave more than your face scarred
You might impress an A&R with your fake bars
Cause you probably think Rolls Royce only make cars
This is for the colonizers turned bomb-providers
Take this beef all the way back to Oppenheimer
They call it warfare but your wars aren’t fair
If they were there’d be suicide bombers in Arms Fairs
Scam for the funds, they will mangle your son
If you try to speak out they will stamp on your tongue
To your land they will come till you stand up as one
It’s begun

Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone
Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone

[Verse 2: Lowkey]
Next in my scope is Lockheed Martin
They will tell you when the bombs need blastin’
Don’t think, just listen to the songs, keep dancin’
Do they really want us to have our own brains
Who do you think is really running Guantanamo Bay
And it might be sensitive but I’ll mention it
Who do you think has got us filling out the censuses
Who do you think is handing out the sentences
This ain’t the BBC so there’s no censorship
Heard of many mercenaries gettin’ with the clever pimp
Not a gun seller but none’s better than Erik Prince
Make money off many things, mainly it’s crime
This one is dedicated to the Raytheon 9
Scam for the funds, they will mangle your son
If you try to speak out they will stamp on your tongue
To your land they will come till you stand up as one
It’s begun

Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone
Keep your hand on your gun
Don’t you trust anyone

“Troy Davis Lives Forever” by Rebel Diaz


Another lynching has gone down in the US
And it’s 2011. Nothing has changed.

What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[Rodstarz verse]
I feel the pain, I feel the anger and the race to show it
I hit the streets and spread the word so the world knows it
I’m sorry we didn’t save you
Shoulda been braver
But at times I feel alone when I’m surrounded by these strangers
2009 we first spoke, after I met Martina
I got the shirt but since then I haven’t really seen her
Been on the road with these raps just tryin a spread a message
But when I think about our talks they were such a blessing
You was in jail reading your poems on the phone
And all I did was just listen, back stage of the show
Then I heard the crazy news about a week ago
That the date had been set and they wanted you to go
11.08pm, September 21st
Never forget, my inner being still hurts
Obama stayed quiet, like he did for Oscar Grant
Clarence Thomas’ bitch ass never gave you a chance
See, you was innocent, there was too much doubt
7 of 9 witnesses wanted their testimony out
They was scared, police threats, serious like cancer
But you know it wasn’t true, years later they recanted
I wish I had the answer what to do next
Gotta do more than tweet, Facebook and send texts
We need freedom, Uhuru, organise like Zulu
Feel the pain of injustice even tho I never knew you

[Chorus x2]
What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

[G1 verse]
They still lynching from plantations to the prisons
Methods changed but it’s the same system
White robes used to burn a crucifix
Now black robes sign a death sentence
Instead of Jim Crow and legal segregation
It’s yuppie condos and cuts to education
And I ain’t gotta say it Troy, you said it in your last letter
Thanking your supporters worldwide for they past efforts
More than half a million signed them petitions
The pope, the archbishop, stars and politicians
A who’s who on Twitter weighing in like Mayweather
But what happens to my bro after the storm let up
New day
Pray you in a better place
Over here we coping, tryin a channel that rage
To abolish these legal lynchings, abolish they broken system
Abolish the need for prisons, in defense of the human spirit

[Chorus x2]
What up Troy, I can’t believe they actually did it man
To tell the truth they ain’t never gone kill you man
You live forever in the hearts of those who fought for ya
You fought for us, you gave us strength like a true soldier

Video: Lupe Fiasco and Erykah Badu supporting Palestine and Occupy Wall Street at BET awards


Hey Moneyman: A poem by Lupe Fiasco for #OCCUPYWALLSTREET


By Lupe Fiasco

Hey Moneyman the crowd is outside. The past, the future and the now is outside. The teachers and cooks and the drop-outs too. Word on the street is they looking for you…

Hey Moneyman they saying whats the score? And how much blood have you spilled on the butcher shop floor? Those numbers keep running but what they running into? The crowd is outside and they asking of you…

Hey Moneyman Moneyman the mayors’ on the phone. He says he wants to know if all those people went home. Those momma’s and poppa’s and students and cooks. Those teachers and preachers, one second I’ll look…

Hey Moneyman Moneyman the tents are still up, the songs are still singing and the coffee’s in cups. The nights due to fall and the sun’s going down but its still a whole mess of good folks hanging round…

They eyes are wide and their voices are loud. Its white and black and colorless proud. The signs are big and the smiles are bright. By heaven I reckon its gone be one hell of a night!

Hey Moneyman poor Moneyman you should slip out the back. Cuz the forces of greed are under attack. No bombs or bullets or rocks or guns. Just hashtag’s and voices at the tops of their lungs!

And Moneyman Moneyman I wont need a ride. But if you need me…

You can find me outside.

By Wasalu “Lupe Fiasco” Jaco



Rise Against: Make It Stop (September’s Children)


Tyler Clementi, died September 22, 2010

Woah, woah.

Bang bang go the coffin nails, like a breath exhaled,
Then gone forever.
It seems just like yesterday, how did I miss the red flags raise?

Think back, to the days we laughed.
We braved these bitter storms together.
Brought to his knees he cried,
But on his feet he died.

What God would damn a heart?
What God drove us apart?
What God could

Make it stop?
Let this end.

Billy Lucas, died September 9, 2010

Eighteen years pushed to the ledge.

It’s come to this,
A weightless step.
On the way down singing,
Woah, woah.

Bang bang from the closet walls,
The schoolhouse halls,
The shotguns loaded.
Push me and I’ll push back.
I’m done asking, I demand.
From a nation under God,
I feel it’s love like a cattle prod.

Born free, but still they hate.
I’m born me, no I can’t change.
It’s always darkest just before the dawn.

Harrison Chase Brown, died September 25, 2010

So stay awake with me, let’s prove them wrong.

Make it stop.
Let this end,
Eighteen years pushed to the ledge.
It’s come to this,
A weightless step.
On the way down singing,
Woah, woah.

The cold river washed him away,
But how could we forget.
The gatherings hold candles, but not their tongues.
And too much blood has flown from the wrists,
Of the children shamed for those they chose to kiss.

Cody J. Barker, died September 13, 2010

Who will rise to stop the blood?

We’re calling for,
Insisting on,
A different beat, yeah.
A brand new song.

Woah, woah. (Tyler Clementi, age 18)
A brand new song
Woah, woah. (Billy Lucas, age 15)
Woah, woah. (Harrison Chase Brown, age 15)
Woah, woah. (Cody J. Barker, age 17)
Woah, woah. (Seth Walsh, age 13)

Make it stop.
Make this end,
This life choose me, i’m not lost in sin

Seth Walsh, died September 28, 2010

But proud I stand of who i am
I plan to go on living (woah)

Make it stop.
Let this end,
All these years pushed to the ledge.
But proud i stand of who i am
I plan to go on living. (Woah, woah)

Strange Fruit


A painting by Linda D, then a song by Billie Holiday


ANC Youth League Statement on the Banning of ANC Songs by Equality Court


The African National Congress Youth League has noted the judgment delivered by Judge Collins Lamont on Monday, the 11th of September 2011. There are so many glaring flaws and misrepresentation of reality in the judgment delivered. Part of these flaws include, but not limited to the following:

  • The Judge has granted the complainant what they never asked the Court to grant. In the presentation of their case, both Afri-Forum and TAU-SA recurrently said that they are not calling for the songs to be banned, but asking for a possible dialogue. The Judge chose to give them what they did not ask for and ban many liberation songs of the ANC led Liberation Movement.
  • The Judge made remarks to the effect that the Equality Act is enacted to protect minorities only, which is not true because all laws in South Africa are designed to protect all citizens equally. The Judge is concerned with protection of minorities’ interests at the expense of black majority’s aspirations.
  • The Judge’s conception of Ubuntu is totally flawed and opportunistically used to reach horrible conclusions.
  • The Judge’s only pre-occupation was with protection of what Afri-Forum and TAU-SA said to the extent of relying on inflammatory evidence and false alarms of insecure groupings on possible genocide, which will never happen in South Africa. The judgment reflects hatred of individuals, not protection of South African laws and Constitution.
  • The judgment also echoes a trend in Court judgments that seek to criminalise the struggle against apartheid, to the extent that Freedom Fighters are referred to as Murderers by South African Courts.

What the judgment has revealed is that despite political democracy and majority rule, the minorities continue to control South Africa through Courts and control of the South African economy. This judgment is a revelation that minorities continue to control our lives in every aspect, including on aspects of which songs we should sing. We should ask a question of whether the struggle is over when white supremacy continues to dominate all aspects of South African life. This is despite the fact that the democratic government has not demolished apartheid symbols such as Statues, street names and monuments.

The ANC Youth League has met and will continue to meet with fraternal organisations to formulate an appeal to both the Supreme Court of Appeals and Constitutional Court. The ANC Youth League and its leadership will never apologise for singing struggle songs, because that is what inspires our courage and determination to fight for total liberation of the people of South Africa. Songs of the ANC led liberation movement will never be banned and the ANC Youth League will work with all fraternal organisations to unban our songs. When apartheid banned political formations and activities of black people and Africans in particular, they masses of our people unbanned them and we will also unban our liberation songs.

The judgment serves as a clarion call that we should fight tirelessly for the total liberation of the people of South Africa. We cannot forever live in a society where an absolute component of land, minerals wealth, culture, heritage, Courts and everything is owned and controlled by Settlers. No Settler brought land to Africa, and no Coloniser will impose on us how our lives are lived.