Nina Simone once said that it is an artist’s duty to reflect the times, and her affirmation is as important today as it ever was. Since the early days of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, we have seen some excellent responses to the racism, misogyny, trans-misogyny, ableism, islamophobia, homophobia and other rubbish that he and his supporters have been spouting. Comedians have taken him on with satire, as in Saturday Night Live’s Trump administration sketches. Actors, like Gael García Bernal and Mahershala Ali, have used their platform to attack Trump’s rhetoric. Others, who certainly deserve to be called artists (read: geniuses), are tackling Trump’s hate in ever more innovative ways: with Trump piñatas, parody ‘Make America Mexico Again’ caps and even Trump toilet paper. Among these artistic responses to Trump’s offensive on Human Rights, musicians have done their bit, too. We’ve chosen a handful of our favourite anti-Trump songs to talk about, and the rest can be found on our ‘Not My President’ playlist here.’
1. Not my president’, OSHUN
Starting things off plain and simple: ‘Not my president’ by OSHUN. In April this year, the NYC-based duo — made up of Niambi Sala and Thandiwe — came back from a long break with this slow-burning resistance song. With lyrics like “and I wasn’t with her/I been with my ancestors who did it first”, OSHUN moves away from simply attacking Trump to critiquing the system and the society that brought him to power. In a recent interview with The Fader, Thandi said, “It’s not the narrative of ‘He’s not my president, somebody else is.’ It’s more so like, ‘None of y’all are my president.’ This song expresses the frustration that many people feel at election time, as they pick the lesser of two evils in a system that does not represent them. The incredible power of ‘Not my President’ is that it doesn’t let us wallow: it reminds us that election day is not the only time to make our opinions heard and it urges us to raise our voices.
2. ‘Mexican Chef’, Xenia Rubinos
‘Mexican Chef’ is a more upbeat take on the protest song, but it still packs a serious message. Brooklyn-based Xenia Rubinos created this powerful anthem that sings loud and proud just some of the ways that Latinx make America great. It’s the refrain of “it’s a party in America/ Bachata in the back” that made me fall in love this song. Firstly because I love bachata; look it up if you don’t know what it is (you’re welcome, in advance). But secondly and (probably) more importantly, it’s because this line so perfectly sums up the position of Latinx immigrant workers in the US: they make the US run but their contribution is barely ever recognised. Xenia has condensed the sentiment of the ‘Day Without Immigrants’ protests into a song, and it’s wonderful, catchy and danceable.
3. ‘Hijabi’, Mona Haydar
Activist, poet and rapper Mona Haydar makes the shortlist with ‘Hijabi’, an awesome song that so perfectly smashes two of Trump’s favourite things — islamophobia and misogyny — in one go. With the distressingly sharp rise in anti-muslim groups and attacks since Trump’s inauguration, ‘Hijabi’ puts a middle finger up to islamophobes everywhere, including in the Oval Office. On top of that, Mona reminds us all that covering up does not stop you from being a feminist. Millions of women took to the streets for the International Women’s Marches earlier this year, and it was very encouraging to see, but it seems that not everyone who took part really cares about making their feminism inclusive and intersectional. ‘Hijabi’ is the rallying cry for everyone who wants to shout, “covered up or not, don’t ever take us for granted”. Also, with rampant islamophobia and a damagingly limited and stereotypical representation of muslims in the media, we can’t underestimate the impact of powerful, unapologetically muslim role models like Mona. Check out this video to see what I mean.
4. ‘This land is your land’, Chicano Batman
Chicano Batman’s version of ‘This Land is your Land’ is a feel-good and summery song to end on. The LA-based four piece took Woodie Guthrie’s and reimagined it with Spanish verses and their own mix of US funk and Latino vibes. It is not the first time latinx musicians have claimed the “white everyman’s anthem” as their own, but the context of its release — just in time for Trump’s inauguration — gave it a new power. This song is also important because it makes us think about the commodification of resistance in times like these. From Diesel’s ‘Make Love Not Walls’ campaign to the infamous Pepsi advert, many advertisers have sought to use the backlash against Trump’s bigotry in their work. Chicano Batman’s cover was released as part of (Scotch whisky brand) Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking America’ marketing campaign, and it seems to me like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s great to see big companies use their platform to promote voices of resistance; but we’ve all seen how badly things can go wrong when corporations co-opt social justice movement for their own profit. It’s important to be a killjoy and think about these problems, but in this case it might not really be fair to tar Kendall Jenner and Chicano Batman with the same brush. Even though it was used in an advert, this song is still wonderful, subversive and powerful.
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