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Activist and Freethinker Musician Jeffrey Lewis Wants to Rock Beyond Belief

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MAR 28, 2012 - JTMP has been blogging on the freethinker event and concert Rock Beyond Belief this Saturday, March 31, 2012 at the Fort Bragg, NC military base, and JTMP got a chance to interview one of the musicians Jeffrey Lewis that will be performing. This event is being held in response to a 2010 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association “Rock the Fort” event that was heavily evangelical in nature. The activist organizers of the event, such as Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, wear the uniform but spoke up as citizens and wanted equal access, and wanted to promote non-discrimination towards freethinking people such as agnostics, atheists, secularists, humanists and people who just want to be left alone when it comes to religion.  (photo: Sonya Kolowrat and courtesy of TheJeffreyLewisSite.com)

Jeffrey Lewis is a musician who describes himself as anti-folk, but also does animation, video, comic books, illustrations and more. Here is the interview, and check out Jeff's cool website here.


JTMP: I love your anti-folk style, very interesting. I have to confess I was not very aware of this genre. Can you describe what the anti-folk means to you?

Jeffrey Lewis: “Anybody who was playing music at the Sidewalk Cafe in New York City in the 1990s or 2000s was automatically labeled "antifolk" no matter what kind of music you played, so the term doesn't really mean anything other than that.  But it also makes sense for me, more than for some other people, because it describes a certain attitude towards writing and recording and performing that the term "singer-songwriter" would not describe.  I had never heard of antifolk before I started playing at Sidewalk in 1998, but I already would not have thought of myself as a "singer-songwriter," I was more into music as a raw expression in words and sound, NOT so much the delicate craft of piecing words and melodies together.  So I'm glad there's a term that already existed that seems to be some sort of description of that, a description of songwriting that falls outside of the normal image.  So that's what "antifolk" means to me, if it means anything.  I don't mind it, because no matter what you play there will be people who come up with a genre tag for it, you can't escape that, so at least antifolk is a more unique and mysterious tag than "indie rock" or "alt country" or "post punk" or whatever.  If people want to call me antifolk I won't fight it.”

CLICK READ MORE FOR REST OF INTERVIEW

Freethinker Band Aiden Gets Hate Mail From Evangelicals After Fox News Distorts Song

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MAR 28, 2012 - JTMP has been reporting on the freethinker gathering and concert "Rock Beyond Belief" that will take place on this Saturday, March 31 at Fort Bragg, NC. Having a non-evangelical and/or non-religious event was a hard pill to swallow for the base commanders, and was met with fierce resistance and backlash. One of the bands participating at the event Aiden received hate email from religious people saying that the band Aiken was "burning down churches for the Obama campaign video" and other ridiculous nonsense. This arose because one of their videos shows a scene of a church burning (watch below), and Fox News reporter Todd Starnes wrote an article twisting the words of the song so badly and taking them totally out of context. Aiden's intention of the scene of the burning churches represents Christians, Muslims and Jews burning their rival's churches through the centuries, and the violence and nonsense perpetrated in the name of religion. The band in no way shape or form condones or promotes violence against churches or religious people. They just don't want discrimination against freethinkers. Read a good article about it here.

Saffron Uprising? – Burmese/Myanmar Activist Musicians Being Jailed, Supporting Suu Kyi’s Bid For Parliamentary Seat

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FEB 20, 2012 - Numerous musical activists have sprung up in Myanmar in a "Saffron Uprising" by the youth calling for more freedom and democracy in Myanmar/Burma, and one group ACID who put out the first hip-hop album ever in Burma/Myanmar, had songs that contained lyrics about the hard life in Burma/Myanmar and got them into trouble with the government. Two of the members of the group were arrested in 2008, including Zayer Thaw (photo left by Daisuke Furuta) and was sentenced to five years imprisonment for “breaking State Law and Order Restoration Council Law No. 6/88, Organizing under the Unlawful Association Act.” He was finally released in May of 2011 and in an interview told MSNBC, “I have to be careful about saying things now, Big Brother is watching.” 

ACID is back together, and is part of a group of over 50 musicians coming out in support for Suu Kyi, who is running for a parliamentary seat. Many of the musicians gathered at her house last November, to plan an album to help her raise funds for her campaign. Then in December of 2011 Zayer was fortunate to meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a part of a Burmese Civil Society group. 

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting with Zayer Thaw (to right of Clinton) and Burmese Civil Society members
(photo State Department public domain)

When asked in an interview by Free Muse about how it felt to be in prison he replied, "Once you get involved in politics in our country, you have a 90 percent probability of ending up behind bars. I took this into consideration before I decided to take part in politics, so I don't feel sorry for myself. In fact, I feel honored. They also asked him, “Why did you decide to get involved in politics?” and he told them, ”As an artist, I am always in touch with people and their feelings. Their hardships and sufferings always touch my heart. That's why I tried to give voice to their feelings.” Listen to a song from ACID and Zayer below, and you can get more informed and involved on this issue over at the US Campaign For Burma website here.

Musician Gets Fired After Starbucks Rant Song

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FEB 2, 2012 - Christopher Cristwell, a musician who eventually wrote 2 "Starbucks Rant Songs", was fired from working at Starbucks after the first video eventually went viral on the Internet. In a fast paced and very catchy tune, he details the blues of working at Starbucks and dealing with the customers, but Starbucks management was not pleased. He has lost his barista position, and no word yet on a recording contract but we will keep an ear out for that. Meanwhile, watch this highly talented musician and his hilarious "Starbucks Rant Song" below, and if you are curious as to what happened to him after the song, be sure to check out Part 2 (link at end).

Harry Belafonte Gets Hope From Occupy Wall Street Protesters

HBO Documentary Covering the Musical Activist's Life "Sing Your Song" Debuts Tonight

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Oct 17, 2011 - Harry Belafonte, a long time musical activist, will be featured in a HBO documentary debuting tonight called "Sing Your Song". His musical career has spanned decades and paralleled the civil rights movement, and he always spoke out and worked against social injustice in the world. In a recent Reuters interview, he commented on the Occupy Wall Street protesters saying, "I'm very encouraged by what young people are doing, and I think that the examples that we set with our own lives in the past have been a good measure for young people to begin to evaluate their own lives."

Harry Belafonte was a ground breaker and crossed over the segregated lines to become a star in 1956 with Calypso, and he was the first artist ever to sell over a million copies of a record. His activism caused him to be blacklisted and harassed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the CIA and FBI spied on him.

Some of the causes he has fought for over the years has been equality, civil rights, human dignity, and voting rights. In 1985 launched "We Are The World" to help fight famine in Africa. He constantly speaks out politically, and is not afraid at all to speak out against wars, Presidents, and more. When asked if he feared criticism from his remarks he said, "Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy."

To read more about the documentary go the HBO website or click here.

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