A Music Festival With Strong Social Messages

By Eduardo Stanley Special to EGP

LOS ANGELES – It’s not news that a song has a social or political message. Nor is it news that many artists are activists for various causes. But what is original is that there is a music festival that features bands whose songs contain a well-defined social message, and it is being held in coordination with organizations that promote social change.

This is precisely what happened at the “LA Rising” music festival held July 30 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Not surprisingly, the event was planned by members of the rock band Rage Against the Machine, whose leader, Zack de la Rocha, is well known as an immigration rights activist and vocal opponent to the war.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Sublevación Musical: Festival con Fuertes Mensajes Sociales

Nearly filled to capacity, thousands poured into the Coliseum to hear El Gran Silencio from Monterrey, Mexico, with its “ska” music style; Immortal Technique, a rapper from New York, whose real name is Andres Felipe Coronel of Afro-Peruvian origin; Lauryn Hill, who brought her hybrid music of soul, reggae and more; Rise Against, the radical punk group; Muse, which had a great show with their most recognized issues. And finally the main course, Rage Against the Machine hit the stage drawing loud cheers from the crowd.

“It’s nice to be somewhere and hear a message of change,” said Axel Caballero, with the organization Cuéntame. This group collects the stories of immigrants and other people interested in more democratic social change. “The name comes from ‘Tell me your story…’ and we use social networks to distribute text and documentaries that we produce.” Those interested can join Cuéntame on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cuentame

Caballero said he was pleased with the number of people who stopped by his organization’s kiosk, located in
the festival’s “re-education camp,” to find out more about what they do.

A number of unions were also among the group of organizations promoting social justice issues, such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Food not Bombs, Youth Justice Coalition, Axis of Justice, others.

The festival was a daylong affair and many of the participants said they expect it to become an annual event.
Between each band’s performance, in keeping with the festival’s theme, videos with compelling pictures and messages designed to raise awareness were shown on giant screens located on each side of the stage.

The music served as the unifying element and driver between messages, whether direct, like those of Immortal Technique, or subtle, as in the case of Muse.

Rage Against the Machine is a special case of talent and activism that has become almost legendary in the music and social justice world over the last 20 years. The group’s style of punk rock with influences from hip-hop, keep them a favorite among younger fans still today.

Their stage performance is simple, with few special effects. But their energy and rhythm shake the audience that continues to sing along and tremble with each of Zack de la Rocha’s jumps or during Tom Morello’s guitar solos.

The next showing of the festival is not to be missed.

Isaac Valdez, from the Mexican band El Gran Silencio, during the group performance at the festival on Saturday, July 30. (Photo by Eduardo Stanley)

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August 4, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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