Finding Appropriate Music For ‘Reclaim Australia’ Is Surprisingly Difficult

Photo from Reclaim Australia Facebook Page.

Photo from Reclaim Australia Facebook Page.

It’s not easy being part of Reclaim Australia. To begin with, their nationwide protests on the weekend were met at every location by anti-racism protesters who largely represented left-wing groups, namely No Room For Racism. Some of the protests were also marred by violence, with five anti-Islam protesters being arrested in Sydney. With their messages being heard across all of Australia, it’s not just left-wing anti-racist activists who are not happy with Reclaim Australia. Early this week, Australian musical icon Jimmy Barnes found out that anti-Islam groups had been using his songs at their protests. In response to this, Barnes took to Facebook to announce his disapproval of his music being used by such groups. “I only want to say the Australia I belong to and love is a tolerant Australia. A place that is open and giving… It is a place that embraces all sorts of different people, in fact it is made stronger by the diversity of its people.” It should also be noted that Barnes was born in Scotland and his wife is from Thailand. Following suit, fellow Australian musical superstar John Farnham also declared that his music was off-limits to anti-Islam protesters. “I have successfully pulled down the use of You’re the Voice from Youtube that these guys have been using,” said Farnham’s manager Glenn Wheatley. On their Facebook page, Reclaim Australia expressed their regret of the two musicians’ requests but also said that their music will no longer be played at rallies.

To be fair, it doesn’t get much more Australian than draping the Aussie flag over your shoulders and belting out ‘You’re The Voice’ and ‘Khe Sanh’ like the entire pride of your nation depends on it, no matter how bad your singing is. Well, there are a lot of other ways to be Australian but when it comes to music, that one’s definitely up there. So this leaves Reclaim Australia with a bit of a problem. With two of the truest, bluist, most fair dinkum Aussie singers distancing themselves from Reclaim Australia, what music can the group play at its protests? Being a musical snob and always up for a challenge, I’ve decided to find some music that is not only suitable to play at anti-Islam protests, but that won’t upset its creators… hopefully.

What do these groups hate? Islam. Plain and simple. Sure, they also oppose things like ‘cultural Marxism’, but Islam is a good start. So, what kinds of songs are out there that would make Zaky Mallah wet his pants in fear? Anti-Islamic sentiment can be found in the form of black metal.

What better way to express your disapproval of Islam that with the lyrics

I poured the kerosene around
And sparked.
I set the history on fire
I set the Islam on fire

I’ve lightened away the night
Around the holy shrine
The flames licked the holy corpse
And blew up Mohammad’s history

For musical plebeians who are unaware, black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that largely originated in Scandinavia in the mid-late 1980s, spawning from thrash metal and early death metal. However, unlike the two other genres, black metal has gained a lot of notoriety not just for its prominently occult and anti-Christian lyrics, but for the criminal activities of several of its most famous musicians. Take Varg Vikernes as an example, the sole member of Norwegian black metal band Burzum. Vikernes was sent to prison not only for the arson of three historic churches, but also the murder of fellow black metal musician Øystein Aarseth a.k.a. Euronomous (it should also be noted that Vikernes is not the only Norwegian black metal musician to be responsible for church arson and murder). That’s right. Not only do black metal bands express their disgust for Christianity through their lyrics, but through actual fire in actual churches. While most black metal bands target their musical hatred towards Christianity, this idea has also been picked up in other parts of the world.

In the same way that the Norwegian black metal bands commit blasphemy against their country’s dominant religion, so too do Seeds of Iblis. Except Seeds of Iblis are from Iraq and therefore, their hatred is directed against Islam. Keep in mind that countries like Iraq aren’t exactly known for being tolerant of speaking out against Islam, so the band runs the real risk of being arrested on blasphemy charges. Pretty much all their songs are anti-Islamic, with other titles including  ‘Allah Is Dead’ and ‘Sex With Muhammed’s Corpse’. So, would their music fit in to a Reclaim Australia rally? Unfortunately, the answer is probably no. Musically, black metal is renowned for harsh screeching vocals, harsh ultra-distorted guitars, harsh atonal riffs and harsh machine-gun drumming. In fact, the music is so harsh that many fans of other heavy metal sub-genres find it hard to listen to. If plenty of metalheads find black metal too harsh, what will the predominantly conservative Reclaim Australia protesters think when they hear Seeds of Iblis blaring from a Holden Commodore’s fully sick sound system? Imagine you’re a prominent anti-Muslim activist who turned up to address Reclaim Australia but instead of delivering a rousing speech, you pull out a circular saw and grind through some hardened steel while screeching at the top of your lungs into a megaphone. The reaction you’ll get from the crowd will probably be similar to that if you played black metal. So, while Seeds of Iblis and other Middle Eastern anti-Islamic bands may provide a message that sort-of fits in with with Reclaim Australia, black metal isn’t probably the best rallying cry.

Dismissing black metal, I then turned my attention to punk rock. While punk music itself is usually anti-racist, there are elements of the scene that focus on far-right politics and of course, racism. Rock Against Communism is a good example of this movement and good example of a band from this movement is Skrewdriver.

Considering that Reclaim Australia’s concerns are directed at Muslim immigration, the lyrics of this song are particularly relevant.

I stand and watch my country today
It’s so easy to see that it’s being taken away
All the immigrants and all the left wing lies
Why does no one ever ask the reason why

Skrewdriver started in the late 1970s as a punk rock band but after a line-up change, the band evolved into a skinhead white power band. Skrewdriver were also aligned to far-right nationalist groups, and this is very evident in their lyrics. In particular, the songs ‘When The Boats Come In‘ and ‘We Look To The East‘ have strong xenophobic and anti-immigration themes. Does this mean that Skrewdriver’s music has a place at Reclaim Australia rallies? Despite common themes, Skrewdriver were first and foremost a white power band and as Jewish journalist and commentator John Safran reported, the Reclaim Australia rally was surprisingly ethnically diverse. When you’ve people like Danny Nalliah (born in Sri Lanka) and Jonathan Eli (of Cook Island descent) addressing the crowd, it’s a bit hard to get them as well as the many non-whites in the movement excited for protest when they hear lyrics like

Are we gonna sit and let them come?
Have they got the White man on the run?
Multi-racial society is a mess

The fact that Skrewdriver’s anti-immigration themes don’t fit in with a large portion of Reclaim Australia’s membership highlights a key problem with the movement. They are singling out a particular group of people as bad for this country even though racial tension has been experienced (and largely overcome) with the introduction of pretty much every ethnic and religious group that has come to Australia. If Reclaim Australia consisted entirely of white Anglo-Saxon/Nordic people who have far right-wing political views, then Skrewdriver’s music and that of other white power bands would be fine. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work with an ethnically diverse protest base. Nonetheless, I pressed on and turned my attention to the trueist of blueist of musical genres, Australian country music.

Like its American counterpart, Australian country music largely deals with subjects related to life in rural areas. Country songs are also used to inspire a strong sense of Australian patriotism. Of all the Australian country musicians, the most successful would most likely be Slim Dusty, selling over 7 million albums over a music career that spanned 65 years. For the most part, Dusty’s songs focussed on life in the Australian outback. However, he did occasionally venture into political territory.

(Please note that the person in the video is not Slim Dusty)

Slim Dusty’s lyrics are nowhere near as in-your-face as those of Skrewdriver or Seeds of Iblis but he still does get his point across effectively.

Our country’s been sold by the powers that be
To big wealthy nations way over the sea
We couldn’t be taken with bayonets or lead
So they decided to buy us instead

Could Slim Dusty be the musical saviour that Reclaim Australia needs? For this one, I’m going to say maybe. The amount of foreign investment is a concern among many Australians, including the current government. It’s not exactly what Reclaim Australia is protesting about, although another nationalist group by the name of Party For Freedom has compared Chinese investment in the Australian property market to an “invasion”. Still, ‘You’re Country’s Been Sold’ is about a theme that most Reclaim Australia protesters will probably agree with. As for the music, Slim Dusty’s voice is easy to listen to, you can actual understand what he’s saying and sounds of his acoustic guitar probably won’t ruffle too many feathers. However, one large question remains. Will Dusty approve of his music being used this way? Well, that doesn’t really matter seeing as the country music legend has actually been dead for 12 years. His family would most likely make a statement regarding the use of his music but even if they object, it won’t be as embarrassing as Jimmy Barnes or John Farnham directly telling Reclaim Australia to go and play something else.

As you can see, finding music that sums up Reclaim Australia’s message while still be accessible to its members is very difficult. So, even though I’ve settled on Slim Dusty as a ‘maybe’, to create some vague illusion of journalistic impartiality, I’ve also decided to find some music that the No Room For Racism protesters can use. This, I found, was an easier challenge, but not without its own problems. During a protest, the most effective kind of music is loud and aggressive (hence why I looked at black metal and punk), especially when you’re a radical left-wing activist who sees both Reclaim Australia and the police as equal threats. Sitting down in a circle and singing about racial acceptance while playing acoustic guitars, bongos and any other instruments that you’ll find at the Woodford Folk Festival camp site (or whatever it is that hippies do) works well when you’re in that group, but when you’re facing two separate enemies at an incredibly noisy protest, you’re going to need something a little louder and in-your-face. First up,

Australian punk rock band Frenzal Rhomb are known for their left-wing political views and this song is no exception. The lyrics themselves would be a particular insult to members of white power groups who turned up at Reclaim Australia.

No I’ve never met someone so full of hate
It’s a wonder you’ve got time to masturbate
Over images of men in uniforms
And you better keep an ear out for the door
Cause dinner could be ready.

Because your mummy doesn’t know that you’re a Nazi
Your mummy doesn’t know about the national front
She doesn’t know that you’re a Nazi
You’re sitting in your room being a Nazi cunt.

A few months ago, I went to a Frenzal Rhomb concert in Brisbane. This song was part of their set and I can tell you that screaming out “NAZI CUNT!” while fist pumping along with a hundred or so punks is a lot of fun. Now, imagine doing at a protest and directing that feel-good warm and fuzzy rage at some neo-Nazi skinheads. Sounds fun, right? The next song contains even more opportunities for group chanting-and-air-punching.

While Frenzal Rhomb cover many topics in their humorous fashion, Guerilla are an all-out anti-fascist punk band from Germany. Keep in mind that in Europe, clashes between left-wing anti-fascists and extreme right-wings groups often become very violent,* so bands like Guerilla aren’t dicking around. Their lyrics also give plenty of  opportunities for group yelling.

Speak out where prejudice lies
Intervene when integrity dies
No place left for no-go areas
For nationalism and racist thoughts
FIGHT THE FASCIST SCUM!

Unity means power
ANTIFASCIST ACTION!

Considering that the main reason for anti-racism protesters turning up to counter Reclaim Australia is to stop, well, racism, these lyrics are perfectly suited to their cause. Of course, Reclaim Australia claims that they aren’t racist and more moderate elements of the organisation do try to distance themselves from actual white power neo-Nazis who turn up. Nonetheless, these upstanding members of society do make their presence felt. In this case, there is one more song that I can suggest for the anti-racism protesters.

The message of this song by old-school American punk rockers Dead Kennedys couldn’t be clearer. They are addressing a group of Nazis of the punk variety and are kindly asking them to fuck off from the vicinity. The repeated and catchy chorus is almost tailor-made to be yelled out at protests and the targets of those requests just so happen to be at Reclaim Australia. Aside from the song title, the lyrics of the song also ring true to the counter-protest movement.

If you’ve come to fight, get outta here
You ain’t no better than the bouncers

And

You still think swastikas look cool
The real nazis run your schools

Like finding music for Reclaim Australia, it’s hard to find something that fits in perfectly with the message and the protest vibe of No Room For Racism. However, I consider the messages of these three songs to be fairly appropriate for the movement. They have the aggression that’s needed to drown out their opponents’ chants and they contain catchy phrases that are fun to yell out while flipping the bird to whoever cares enough to pay attention to you. Now that I’ve found some music that both sides can use without too much fear of repercussions, I’m expecting my cheques to arrive in the mail from Reclaim Australia and No Room For Racism any day now.

*In contrast to the not-so-serious tone of this post, I will officially declare that I do not support any form of political violence, even if it is committed against far right-wing groups. Ideologically, I support Anti-fascist groups but I do not agree with their tactics of committing violence against their opponents. Just remember this lyric from ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’,

You fight each other, the police state wins.

 

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