Music in the Air

Music was everywhere at the Woodstock Film Festival this year, and the sound was change.

Among the five films featuring music, one of them made sure its message was heard loud and clear.

Sounds Like a Revolution, directed by Canadian documentary filmmakers Summer Love and Jane Michener, focuses on protest music today that is represented, or not, in the mass media. Sounds Like a Revolution showcases approximately six bands that make political and social awareness a part of their music.

Spearhead front man Michael Franti and punk band NOFX are featured in the film, along with hip-hop artist Ice-T. In the film, Ice-T, known for his role as a cop on the popular drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, tells how his song “Cop Killer” ended his career due to political controversy. While some people took to the streets raging against this song, Love decided to add it to the film as an example of what can happen when music goes political. And Ice-T certainly isn’t the only one.

“This story is just starting,” Love said.

In an exclusive interview with The Little Rebellion, Justin Sane, lead singer of the punk rock band Anti-Flag, said, “More protest music is being made today but the distribution is different.”

Sane, dual-citizen of both the United States and Ireland, was born into activism.

“My mom was the first person my dad knew who deeply protested the Vietnam War,” he said.

Much of music played today, especially on the radio, has a bad or “shallow” message, according to Sane. Major labels favor this music. He feels that radio stations don’t support or play songs that send a good message.

In the film, hip-hop artist Paris explained how major corporations exclude his music.

“Wal-Mart’s retail price is $10. My label, and most other independent labels, sell for $12,” Paris said.

As pointed out repeatedly in the film, protest music is out there but it is not readily available to the masses.

Some wonder why music with a message is buried by major labels and radio stations. During a Q&A session following the movie, an older man stood and commented, “In my generation, we were all over the streets. How are we going to get people back on the streets?”

Sane had the answer. “With films like Summer’s. It demonstrates that there are people who are concerned.”

Sounds Like a Revolution, Love’s first documentary, certainly revealed that many musicians and their fans are concerned and willing to act.

For those of us who weren’t born into social activism, Sane suggests logging onto to keep updated.

“As people become educated they become agitated,” Sane said. “The movement is on the horizon.”

John Cohen, director of the film Roscoe Holcomb: From Daisy Kentucky, once thought old-time string bands were a thing of the past. “Then this young band came along and it’s a continuation of my life,” said Cohen. That young band is The Dust Busters. At the festival, the Dust Busters performed several songs and had the room tapping their toes, some even their knees.

Julia Amberg

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