Wednesday, December 7, 2011
SONGS FOR CLANDESTINOS
Manu Chao sings in French, Spanish, English, Italian, Galician, and Portuguese. He is one of the most influential and politically active musicians in the world today, the Woody Guthrie of his time, and you probably never heard of him. Too bad. Here he sings "Clandestino" at a protest in Arizona. The song tells of the plight of immigrants crossing the border searching for work. Manu Chao was drawn to participate in this protest by the human rights and migrant issues raised by the backward laws of Arizona (specifically Senate Bill 1070) and the tent cities created to house all the prisoners those laws have created.
You've heard of Bruce Springsteen. He sings in English. He, too, can be a political songwriter. Here he sings about the plight of migrants in "The Ghost of Tom Joad," a character you may remember from The Grapes of Wrath. In the book, and in the movie (where he is played by Henry Fonda), Tom Joad and his family are uprooted Okies hounded by poverty, injustice, rigged laws, crooked employers, company goons and violent cops. Some things never change.
These songs are more timely than ever. Unless you're Native American, your people came from somewhere else. Don't let all that Mayflower pilgrim jazz fool you, people have been escaping hunger and oppression to find America since the first "Indian" said "There goes the old neighborhood." Think about that next time you hear the word immigrant--or next time some Republican asshole tries to drum up votes by stirring up hate against the poor, the hungry, the stranger, the illegal, the clandestino.