Mesmerising Beats

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(292)

Review of 'Peace Not War volume 2', Various artists

Peace Not War volume 1 generated over £50,000 for anti-war and peace groups across the world.

Hopefully Peace Not War volume 2 will raise this and more. Yet it seems to me that this compilation, which targets the youth market specifically, has a greater potential.

The press release for the compilation is littered with bold statements - 'The past three years have provoked the most prolific period of protest music in history' - but one smacks of authority: 'Compared to being lectured to at street marches, repeatedly singing and dancing around to anti-war ideas is far more emotionally engaging.'

This double pack CD makes politics cool; it penetrates to a deeper level. Young people want something stimulating and contemporary, a new rhythm for their day and a lyric for their heads. If you spend your week travelling about the place listening to music, you'll know its potential to mesmerise the mind and infect it with rhyme. One that's been stuck in my head - not, I must say, for its subtlety - was Jurassic 5's 'I am never hesitant / to say: Fuck the President'.

The second CD, Chords, has some real gems (The Rub: 'George Bush is an Islamic Fundamentalist'), but I think the energy and adventure of the first CD is far better suited to the cause. While the tracks on Chords will no doubt appeal to many, I could not help thinking that parts of it might be more appropriate to advertising margarine. The peace message does not have to sound so passive.

The first CD is entitled Beats, comprising a diverse mix of drum'n'bass, hip-hop, breakbeat, and reggae. The tracks are inspired, fresh and experimental - not just mainstream jukebox fodder. There is rap, freestyle, blank verse, song, and some inspired storytelling. Samples of Bush's lies roll out over a looped drum - he never sounded so in tune!

Beats, such as these are, are often grouped together on CDs. Just as often they are united by the misguided perception that the genres are somehow synonymous with bigotry and aggression - rarely associated with peace and concord. But the artists on this compilation - nearly all of them hitherto unknown bedroom DJs or first-time producers - provide a response to that stereotype, redirecting that bigotry, and refashioning that aggression into resistance. It is as refreshing an approach as it is effective.

Go out. Buy the CD. If you're too old to suffer it, give it to your kids. You never know, they might make it out of bed for the next rally.