Perhaps one of the funniest moments of the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics was one that seems to have been cut from NBC’s mainstream coverage – The Russian Red Army Choir performing the Daft Punk hit “Get Lucky.”
On the left, a great poster for a music festival in Poland – we think both Daft Punk and the Russian Police Choir would like. Well, Daft Punk for sure, the Russians… maybe not so much. Like the guy in the back row – he definitely wouldn’t like the poster. At all.
The fine line between music and politics is occasionally so transparent as to be invisible; our Italia Regina music sheet is a perfect example not only of Fascist melodies but also of the very strict (pardon the pun) graphic code from which Mussolini would not permit any deviation. The loosey-goosey magic mushroom counter-culture reality of the 1970’s Grateful Dead Taj Mahal poster could not be further along the spectrum either in terms of graphic design or musical approach; and the Publicite Sauvage Cafe Campus (done within the last couple of years) seems, incongruously, to be a perfect evolution of both Art Deco refinement and late mid-century aesthetics. (I know, it surprised me too…)
In Britain between 1871-1896, two men, known as Gilbert and Sullivan, were able to combine music, politics, parody and theater to great comic effect in theatrical operettas. Gilbert, who wrote the words, created fanciful “topsy-turvy” worlds where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion: fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondolliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong. The operas also influenced political discourse, litterature, film and television and have been widely parodied. I love our G+S posters!
I started thinking about the connection between music and politics when I read a short article in the New York Times on Friday (Feb. 7, 2014) called Words Spoken and Sung in the Service of Freedom. The article describes the efforts of musicians like Lauryn Hill, Imagine Dragons, Blondie and Nadezhada Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina (Pussy Riot) to support Amnesty Internaltional’s human rights efforts. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina spent 21 months in penal colonies for the ‘hooliganism’ of daring to oppose Vladimir Putin through their music and performances. They remain unrepentant and, the NYT notes, ‘undaunted by their prison time.’
Music has the power to transport, to oppose, and to change… and occasionally, to accomplish all that at the same time. Who would have thought that the Russian Police had the media savvy, the chutzpah and the ability to “Get Lucky?” (In case you are interested, they also do a pretty good rendition of Adele’s Skyfall.