‘Rebel Music’ plans to make itself heard Thursday

By Michelle Williams

(Courtesy Wikimediacommons)

From classical to reggae, music has been a form of social protest for centuries. The  University of Massachusetts campus, no stranger to social protest itself, will host  journalist Alexander Billet tonight as he explores the connection between rebellion and music in the event “We Want Rebel Music: The Sounds of Crisis and Resistance.”

Named after a song and album by Bob Marley, “Rebel Music” is more than a catchy title, according to Marah DeFlavia, an organizer of the event.

“Rebel music is music made by the people on a grassroots level,” said DeFlavia. “It is used to express our anger and frustration. It allows ordinary people to start a revolution.”

DeFlavia said the event, being organized by the International Socialist Organization, will show the links between music and politics, and what this means for the youth of today. It will begin with Billet giving an hour-long presentation, followed by a question-and- answer session. The event will be held in Campus Center room 904 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. this evening.

Billet is a writer for Z Magazine and The Socialist Worker. According to DeFlavia, Billet was asked to speak because of his experience and expertise writing about the connection between two groups which each exert social and political influence in their own ways – musicians and politicians.

“Alex has been writing about the links between music and politics for almost a decade,” said DeFlavia. “He was willing to pay his own travel expenses to come speak, and we’re really excited to have him.”

While growing up, Billet said his political views were influenced by musicians.

“I remember the effect that groups like The Clash, Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy and countless others had in shaping my world-view,” said Billet. 

Unimpressed by many writers in the entertainment industry, Billet said that “after a while, I got sick of how drab and uninspiring most music journalism was, and how few writers actually questioned what was going on in the entertainment industry … So I started writing music articles that have now been in a variety of publications.”

Billet has written hundreds of articles on the topic since graduating from Syracuse University in 2006, and hopes to publish a book in the future.

Billet views music as a way of making politics more accessible to everyday people.

“The problem is that most folks are told that their only role in politics is to go into a voting booth every few years,” he said, “when actually our role in them is every day in the streets, the workplace and on our campuses.”

“Music – good or bad – always tells us something about our time and place,” said Billet.

Organizers from the International Socialist Organization said they hope the stories of musicians standing up against racism and oppression will inspire others to take action.

“I hope that people come out of the event understanding that music, art, and human creativity itself has a role to play in making the world a better place – but that it doesn’t just end there,” said Billet.

Michelle Williams can be reached at [email protected]