Grime and graft: the new pol­i­tics in mu­sic

Who will be the next politi­cian to get mu­si­cians and artists on their side?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

Sen­si­ble think­ing is al­ways hiding in plain sight. It’s the night be­fore the Bri­tish elec­tion, the night be­fore the DUP be­came the most un­likely queen-mak­ers of the modern age.

In a ski-themed bar in a new bou­tique ho­tel in Belfast, there are a cou­ple of peo­ple dis­cussing the city’s mu­sic past, present and fu­ture. It’s a gath­er­ing un­der the Ban­ter um­brella so I’m there to guide the con­ver­sa­tion and speak faster than ev­ery­one else.

We chew the cud over a range of top­ics, from Van Mor­ri­son and Good Vi­bra­tions to Su­gar Sweet and the Ava fes­ti­val, which had taken place the pre­vi­ous week­end in the city. There’s a dis­cus­sion about what hap­pened in those giddy post-Trou­bles years from 1994 to 2000 and about what’s go­ing on now with DJs and elec­tronic mu­sic pro­duc­ers.

You al­ways know it’s a good night when the con­tri­bu­tions from the floor add to rather than sub­tract from the dis­cus- sion. There’s an ob­ser­va­tion about how tech­nol­ogy is en­abling acts to get their mu­sic out far from home, a point about the state of venues and au­di­ences in the city and a com­ment about pol­i­tics or rather the lack of pol­i­tics in to­day’s mu­si­cal breed.

One of the pan­el­lists is writer and broad­caster Stu­art Bailie, an ex­pe­ri­enced hand who has been there, done that and has the John Smed­ley woollen shirt to back it up. He has a coun­ter­punch to that ar­gu­ment about pol­i­tics, and it’s worth weigh­ing up.

There are still pol­i­tics in mu­sic, says Bailie, although they’re of a dif­fer­ent ilk to be­fore. The is­sues now are equal­ity, LGBTQ rights, racism, sex­ism, iden­tity pol­i­tics, men­tal health, abor­tion and much more, a wide swathe of dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal is­sues that are deeply em­bed­ded in the words and mu­sic of many prac­ti­tion­ers. The songs may not be as overt or pointed as in olden times, but the pol­i­tics are still def­i­nitely and de­fi­antly there. It’s just that their con­cerns are as much global as lo­cal.Fast-for­ward 26 hours and the UK gen­eral elec­tion exit poll tells a tale that is am­pli­fied as the hours go by. His party may not have won the night, but there’s no doubt about the ex­tent of Jeremy Cor­byn’s per­sonal vic­tory. Writ­ten off and rub­bished by al­lies and en­e­mies alike, Cor­byn has demon­strated an­other way of do­ing things.

You’d get sev­eral books, TV pro­grammes and ra­dio shows out of pars­ing the rea­sons for the Cor­byn spring. Although hard data is hard to come by re­gard­ing turnout and vot­ing in­ten­tions (it’s a se­cret bal­lot for a rea­son), the youth fac­tor was cer­tainly to the fore dur­ing the cam­paign in terms of ral­lies and turnouts. For once, the dis­il­lu­sioned didn’t want to set­tle on be­ing the dis­en­fran­chised and re­peat what hap­pened with the Brexit vote a year ago.

Tellingly, many grime stars were to the fore in ad­vo­cat­ing and evan­ge­lis­ing for the UK Labour Party leader. While it may not have been on the same or­gan­ised scale as the Red Wedge move­ment of the 1980s, it proved to be far more ef­fec­tive in the fi­nal count­down to see and hear di­rectly on so­cial me­dia from peo­ple such as Stor­mzy, Nov­el­ist and Jme about why they were back­ing Cor­byn.

Cou­ple this flex­ing of pro­mo­tional mus­cle with the new po­lit­i­cal edge many mu­si­cians are now ex­plor­ing in their mu­sic and you have the stir­rings of some­thing ex­cit­ing. It’s a far dif­fer­ent kind of man­i­festo, but all po­lit­i­cal play­ers would be daft to ig­nore it.

The youth fac­tor was cer­tainly to the fore dur­ing the cam­paign. For once, the dis­il­lu­sioned didn’t want to set­tle on be­ing the dis­en­fran­chised

Photograph: i-D

Jeremy and friend Jme en­dorses the Labour leader and his elec­tion man­i­festo.


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