Emilie Bourque gets political with Toronto Afrofunk band Mr. Something Something.
Change is possible. Anything can happen.
After spending a night grooving to the music of Toronto’s Mr. Something Something, you may be surprised what you believe.
With a festive style, socially-conscious lyrics, and a huge range of instruments playing beats that move your feet, the Afrobeat-inspired band will be making a stop here for the St. John’s Jazz Festival as part of their 3-month tour.
…Do those elements sound familiar? They should, especially to anyone who bought goodies from the Food Not Bombs bake sale outside the Funky Dory show last weekend… Or to people who caught a look at the anti-oppression messages on the shirts worn by The Idlers at their last couple of shows…
The Idlers and Funky Dory in particular are providing lyrical food for thought about social and environmental issues, and are providing barroom forums for us to think, mobilize, and act. And making us dance too.
Mr. Something Something’s Swedish lead vocalist Johan Hultqvist believes that not only are bars great places for people to gather and feel inspired, but that the dance floor can be an inspiring metaphor for global change.
“It’s just another representation of society,” he says. “That empty dance floor may look very hostile for a little while, but all it takes is that one brave soul to change the entire atmosphere in the room–to change the perception of what’s possible.”
“If you dare to take that step onto the dance floor, and you get out there and make yourself vulnerable, but empower yourself also in the process, that’s not so different from going out into society and going up against the odds and saying, ‘you know what? I’m gonna try to make something happen here, I want things to change.’”
“Anyone can be that one brave soul who sets things in motion.”
But why do funky drum beats and a few jazzy instruments mix so well with messages of political awareness? The music of Mr. Something Something in particular is inspired heavily by Fela Kuti, the man considered to be the father of the energetic, improvisational style called Afrobeat. He was a huge figure in Nigeria in the late 60s and 70s, and the music he produced was protest music, a loud voice against the corrupt political climate in many African countries in the 1960s.
Kuti was frequently harassed by the Nigerian government and military for being so outspoken. He was often jailed and beaten, and one incident, which involved a vicious attack by soldiers on the commune he had formed, resulted in his own mother’s death.
“He is sort of regarded as an almost mythic figure today in Nigeria, and in other parts of Africa as well,” Johan says. “He really became a political force, a true rebel. He was one of the few people who could speak out against the oppressive government through his music and kind of get away with it.”
Luckily for bands around here, political messages are not being met with jail time and death threats, but Johan says that although today’s politics are different than those addressed in Kuti’s music, the ideas raised are still very important.
“My focus is on the environment, my focus is on questions such as ‘How do we put the public good back in public hands? How do we reclaim citizen power and democracy?’
“I feel especially with music, and with this kind of band, you have such an excellent vehicle to reach people, so you may as well address these issues–you may as well talk about them.”
As part of some tours, they have set up shows on organic farms and co-housing projects, and Johan curated a film series in Toronto ealier this year called “(The Truth About) Food, Fuel & Free Enterprise.” This band is trying to show people what’s possible, and get people encouraged to consume less and create more.
“Every once in a while people need to be reminded that there’s a direct link between sustainability and happiness,” he says. “I think it’s easier to lead a meaningful life if you feel that you are making meaningful choices.”
You can catch Mr. Something Something and others at the Pier 7 Outdoor Stage (behind The Keg) 7pm, Saturday, July 21st, or at The Majestic ‘Closing Night Party’ 10pm, Sunday, July 22nd. Advance tickets & festival passes are available at MusicCity, 278 Waterford Bridge Road: 739-6999 and 27 Stavanger Drive: 739-8921. Or call Spirit of Newfoundland Reservations Line: 579-3023.