Viva The Revolution: British Protest Music Is Alive and Kicking

Viva The Revolution: British Protest Music Is Alive and Kicking

Every protest needs a soundtrack. The American civil rights movement was accompanied by Bob Dylan's Blowin' In The Wind - in Britain Thatcher's decimation of the industrial North was epitomised by The Special's Ghost Town. In the eyes of many, protest music in Britain hasn't had a platform for years - but in a political landscape defined by further government cuts to public services, the refugee crisis and the upcoming EU referendum, music is once again finding its voice.

Confined to the underground until recently, punk, UK rap and grime are producing a number of new political champions who express the views of young people through their art. Radio 1 have been quietly A-listing punk bands like Slaves and Sleaford Mods, whilst urban web-based broadcasters like SBTV and Link Up regularly bring through politically conscious rappers and MCs from the UK scene. Freestyles from inner-city rappers like Logic and Akala regularly go viral and dominate young people's Twitter and Facebook feeds, whilst mainstream radio frequently spins punk songs critical of government policy.

Sure, there hasn't been an era-defining moment just yet to rival God Save The Queen's ascent to number one during the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977, but artists across a number of different genres are readily providing hard-hitting political anthems to accompany seismic events. Grime MC Ghetts name-checks David Cameron in Rebel, his response to the 2011 London riots, which served as the lead single to his high-charting debut album. Enter Shikari's Anaesthetist, which delivers a lyrical assault on the current Conservative government's treatment of the NHS, hit the top ten of the UK rock charts and won a Kerrang! award for best single.

These songs haven't ingrained themselves into the public consciousness but they hardly exist solely in the sub-culture - it's only a matter of time until a mainstream song truly defines the views of young people who have become disillusioned by politics.

After all, Britain has recent history when it comes to voicing its views through the democratic tool that is the UK top 40. Following her death, people protested what they deemed to be unbalanced media coverage of Margaret Thatcher by campaigning to get Ding, Dong! The Witch Is Dead from The Wizard of Oz to the top to the charts. This led to widespread debate about whether this was anarchic, righteous or just outright offensive. Decades earlier people were having the same debate about The Sex Pistols - just like God Save The Queen, the BBC refused to play the song on its chart show.

The narrative from mainstream media is that protest music hasn't had an impact on popular culture since the eighties - something the Guardian's Jonathan Luxmoore blames on "the decline of radical politics in the 1990's alongside the rise of New Labour". It's a claim that's not without foundation - the last two decades have seen the ascendency of British indie, hip-hop and dance, but none of these movements have produced music with true political bite.

Whether it comes from the emerging punk or grime scenes, the pop charts are ready to embrace artists who tackle the issues closest to the hearts of young people. Finally, the British music scene is once again rife with potential champions.


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