We the Music

Every movement has its own distinct sound. Music helps capture the time and people of a movement. It reveals who they are, what they believe in and expresses what’s on their minds.

Folk songs and rock became platforms for anti-war sentiments during the Vietnam war, Hip-Hop and rap were born from the inner cities of New York City highlighting social issues over beats to get down to, punk and grunge were generations of young teens resisting societal norms expressing their fears of a bleak future.

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Today we are in the middle of yet another time of great change. A new movement born out of the political and social climate is being created. It is my intent to share and discuss some of the music that is being made and that is helping to define this movement’s sound, the people’s sound.

The first song I want to highlight is the cover of the folk classic “This Land is Your Land”. It’s a simple, timeless tune that grade school kids learn when they talk about inclusiveness. Woody Guthrie wrote the song 77 years ago on February 23rd in 1940 according to this NPR article. It was written in response to “God Bless America” which was a jukebox favorite in the 40s. As a frequent hitchhiker, Guthrie developed a unique view on what was going on in the country and it differed from the America portrayed in “God Bless America” leading him to write the tune.

Countless musicians have covered this alternative national anthem but one of the latest bands to do so I think does one of the best versions. Chicano Batman debuted their cover of “This Land is Your Land” at the end of January for a Johnnie Walker commercial. The Los Angeles band puts a slightly psychedelic/rock spin on the classic tune. It’s got a synthesizer going on giving it an element of funk and with a chorus in the background a hint of soul. If you didn’t know what you were listening to you might have thought it was a new hit on the Alternative charts.

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What makes Chicano Batman’s cover especially important is what it represents. A Latino band from East L.A. takes a classic American folk tune and puts their own spin on it. The lyrics are sung in English but they slip into Spanish by the end singing “Esta tierra es para ti y para mi,” the famous line “this land is made for you and me.” It’s as much of a statement of resistance as it is about hope.

When our head of state has declared their intention of creating barriers for people wanting to make a better life for themselves and their families, this song becomes undeniably relevant. The members of Chicano Batman come from both L.A. and countries in Latin America. Without their different backgrounds their sound wouldn’t be the same. When cultures collide it results in better art, new perspectives and new ideas.  

Guthrie wrote “This Land is Your Land” as he witnessed a side of America that was struggling during the Great Depression, that didn’t have the blessing of God on their side. Today, we aren’t going through a Great Depression but we are going through a time of great division. “This Land is Your Land” sung by Chicano Batman reminds us with the words of Guthrie that all people of America that they belong too.

Chicano Batman’s new album Freedom is Free is out March 3rd. They play The Crocodile on Thursday the 23rd, tickets available here.

-Grace Madigan

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!

The Continuous Evolution of JAHKOY

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Though I didn’t get to meet him in person, from talking to R&B singer JAHKOY, it’s clear that he makes a very strong impression.

“I’m still not the artist that I’m going to be, in the next 5 years,” the Canadian artist said to me, in a phone interview conducted recently, and if there’s one major takeaway I got from talking to him, it’s that he is a motivated guy, always looking to expose himself to new ideas.

Jahkoy Palmer grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Los Angeles, and his route to the City of Angels is an interesting story.  He first moved to Atlanta, a city he described as vibrant and thriving.  Atlanta is a big place for R&B and rap right now, with artists like Lil Yachty leading the way for the scene, and it was clear that his time there was influential on his artistry.

“It was cool to see the way things operate and people connect” in an urban environment, he told me.  However, JAHKOY’s time in Atlanta would turn out to be limited.  “I wasn’t finding what I was looking for,” he said, and so he packed his bags for Los Angeles.  Having very few connections in a city where connections are everything, he wound up sleeping on his friend’s couch.  However, this was only temporary for the singer, and he quickly grew to love LA; “I’ve found my heaven,” he told me, echoing his latest single, a ScHoolboy Q-featuring slow jam called “California Heaven”.

Indeed, LA has been good to JAHKOY.  Since moving earlier this year, the singer released his debut EP, Foreign Waters, through Def Jam Recordings.  Signing with Def Jam is a major step for any artist, as its roster boasts some of the biggest names in pop right now, including Kanye West, Justin Beiber, and Jeremih, who helped produce Foreign Water, along with Boy Wonda and Rico Love.  For a brand new artist, working with such big-name producers could be intimidating; however, Jahkoy seems rather unfazed by the experience.  He merely notes that it’s nice “not using SoundCloud beats anymore.”

Even though he’s now a rising star in one of the biggest American centers of music, JAHKOY hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.  I asked him about his experience growing up in Toronto, and he immediately got into how different the music scene is in Canada.  “The approach to music is different,” he said, pointing out that dancehall music, which has recently entered American mainstream conscious through the genre known as “tropical house”, has long been an influence on many Canadian artists.  One notable example of the influence of dancehall on a Canadian artist is the #1 hit “One Dance” by one of JAHKOY’s best-known contemporaries, Drake.

Although there are certainly some similarities between the two singers, JAHKOY has managed to carve out a niche in the R&B scene.  His silky-smooth vocals drift over every beat on Foreign Water effortlessly, and it’s immediately clear to a listener that this 22-year old is going to be big.  If this is the first you’ve heard of JAHKOY, it certainly won’t be the last.

Foreign Water is out now on Def Jam Recordings.

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-John Morse

Check out more music and news from Rainy Dawg Radio @ RainyDawg.org!