Playlist: The Big Noise

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What does it mean to be a man? That has been the subject of many a song and is also the subject of the winter 2019 issue of Index on Censorship magazine, where we consider how leaders are using concepts of masculinity for their political gain and our free speech loss. While you’re reading the mag, have a listen to your playlist which features artists from Bob Dylan to Taylor Swift, who are all singing, one way or another, about the problems with macho men. 

Enjoy the songs below. Hopefully the outspoken lyrics of women like Lily Allen and Shania Twain will leave you feeling more empowered than despondent.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

When US President Donald Trump tweeted that he is “so great looking and smart”, Carly Simon’s classic take down of an unnamed man sprung to mind. Ditto every time we see Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appearing topless on a horse. But what are these mega egos doing to our rights? Editor-in-chief Rachael Jolley spoke to New York Times lawyer David E. McCraw about the state of media freedom in the USA under Trump.

Macho Man – Village People

“Macho, macho man! I want to be a macho man!” Is this what the current pack of male leaders listen to every morning? And do they also add their own words, like dominant, aggressive and infallible? For a more complete list of what they are like, how they are destroying our freedoms and how you can be a macho man too, read Rob Sears guide for the modern despot.

The Man – The Killers 

Brandon Flowers told NME in 2017 that the then-newly released single The Man depicted his attitude towards masculinity when The Killers started out, an attitude he now regrets. With lyrics including “don’t try to teach me, I got nothing to learn”, it’s easy to see why Flowers is glad to have grown out of such youthful notions. Unfortunately, the men who dominate world politics don’t seem to have matured out of their eagerness to be “The Man” and all that that implies. Case in point China’s Xi Jinping.

Boys are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy 

Irish rock band Thin Lizzy had a hit in 1976 with The Boys are Back in Town, a joyful ode to, well, boys being back in town. Its catchy melody means it’s still a feature on many party playlists, but delve into the lyrics and evidence of toxic masculinity is there. When the boys go out, “The drink will flow and the blood will spill, And if the boys want to fight, you better let ’em”. Kaya Genç reports on a rap collective in Turkey using music to take down that kind of ‘masculine’ behaviour men can exhibit.

Little Lion Man – Mumford and Sons 

While “lion man” is used with some irony by Mumford and Sons in this song, to show a man who hides his insecurities behind a facade of machismo, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro does not appear to exhibit any irony when he refers to himself as a majestic lion surrounded by hyenas, as he did last year. Stefano Pozzebon reports on the uphill battle faced by the Brazilian press to hold this lion to account.

Masters of War – Bob Dylan 

Bob Dylan’s moving, acoustic attacks on macho world leaders sending young people off to spill their blood on the battlefield are timeless. “When the death count gets higher, you hide in your mansion” sings Dylan in Masters of War. Somak Ghoshal reports on India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is a fervent patriot with a strong war cry.

That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain

Macho leaders are eager to impress, whether it be to their citizens in a bid to maintain fearful respect and loyalty or fellow world leaders who they want to come across as heads of powerful states not to be underestimated. What would Canadian powerhouse Shania Twain say? If this song is anything to go by, they don’t impress her much. Arrogant intelligence, vanity and fast cars are all big no-nos, and we’d assume draconian policies and the quashing of free expression are too. It’s bad news for Tanzania’s “Bulldozer” President Magufuli.

Fuck You – Lily Allen

Did Lily Allen write her song Fuck You with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán in mind? The song takes aim at small-minded, hate-filled, racist homophobes, with lines like “So you say it’s not OK to be gay, well I think you’re just evil”, which could be one way to address a leader whose party continues to assault gay rights by promoting “family values” that exclude LGBT people.

The Man – Taylor Swift 

Taylor Swift captures the inequalities between the sexes in The Man, her song about the respect she would get if she was a man for the same actions that result in criticism for a woman. Female journalists could sing the same song, often being targeted as much for their gender as for their words. Miriam Grace Go reports on Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte, for example, and his explicit denigration of female journalists and politicians. 

Make America Great Again – Pussy Riot

No-one writes a protest song quite like Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk rock group. In October 2016, two weeks before Donald Trump was elected as US president, they released Make America Great Again, a dystopian vision of the USA under Trump. Lyrics include “Can you imagine a politician calling a woman dog?” Unfortunately, we don’t have to imagine this as it’s become all too real. Caroline Lees reports on how world leaders are using slurs to undermine their opponents in a trend that appears to be getting worse.



Playlist: Beats and borders

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Borders – not so great for free speech, but not so bad for music it turns out. This is the theme of our latest playlist, which ties in with the autumn 2019 Index on Censorship magazine. The magazine looks at how borders stop the flow of information, movement and speech, whether you be a South Korean wanting to be in touch with your loved ones in the north or an artist being denied a visa to perform in the UK. And we highlight how this trend is getting worse, specifically how border officials are demanding access to individuals’ social media accounts at frontiers around the world.

Enjoy the below songs. Just remember to be vigilant when crossing state lines. In fact for tips on how to keep your personal information just that – personal – click here.


M.I.A, Paper Planes

British-Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A has made a name for herself exploring the trials of life as a refugee through her music. The Sri Lankan government previously accused M.I.A of being a liar, while her song Paper Planes is inspired by her difficulties obtaining a visa to work in the USA, a problem Jan Fox highlights in her article. Despite her own trials she has stayed vigilant and continues to use her voice to call for political change.

The Police, Every Breath You Take

“Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you,” sings Sting in the 1983 classic by English rock band The Police. His lyrics bare a striking resemblance to the theme of this issue, in which we reveal the extent to which border forces are snooping into your own personal information and data. Ela Stapley gives advice on what you can do to keep your information safe when crossing borders.

Icehouse, Cross the Border

Australian electronic rock band Icehouse take you to a border crossing in their hit song from their album Measure for Measure. Against edgy beats and a dreamy synth, lead singer Iva Davies talks about walls standing still and freedom fading away, specifically at the border. It’s musical escapism on many levels. 

Neil Diamond, America

 Also known as Coming to America, this song written and performed by the legendary musician Neil Diamond in 1980 presents a positive depiction of immigrating to the USA. Flash forward to the USA of 2019 and Diamond might struggle to muster as much optimism. The increasing difficulties people face when trying to enter the USA are detailed in Mexican-based journalist Stephen Woodman’s article for the magazine. 

Elton John, Breaking Down Barriers

Elton John tries to break down barriers – cultural, sexual – in this 1981 single. His lyrics have many connotations, with some alluding to his identity as a homosexual man and having to build a wall around his heart “to keep the pain away”. Unfortunately this is still the case for many LGBT people, who are having to hide their sexuality when crossing borders, something Mark Frary highlights in magazine piece “Hiding your true self”.

The Doors, Break On Through (To the Other Side)

This signature song from The Doors illuminates the beauty of breaking on through to the other side. What that other side is has never been clarified, although given the drug references throughout the song it is probably safe to assume this is about psychedelic experiences. Drug references aside, the song’s lines about a country with “arms that chained us” and “eyes that lied” have universal implications that reverberate throughout the current issue.

The Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter 

A track that captures the tensions of 1969, when the war in Vietnam was intensifying and the threat of nuclear devastation from the Soviet Union painted a bleak future for the world. The desire to seek shelter is no less relevant today than it was when the Stones wrote this song. And it’s still inspiring art, as Irene Caselli shows in her article on artists trying to tell the stories of migrants in the Mediterranean. 

System of a Down, Fuck the System

It’s exactly what you think the song is about: a big two-fingered salute to the system. The politically charged lyrics express how the government gets to decide what is acceptable and what is not, just like some governments do today within a country and at its borders. Turkish contributing editor Kaya Genç reports on how travellers to Turkey are being restricted in what they can take into the country and what they can read. Wikipedia? Forget about it. 

Snow Patrol, Set Fire to the Third Bar

In this haunting track from Snow Patrol, lead vocalist Gary Lightbody and featured artist Martha Wainwright sing about being miles from their loved one and the pain that comes with such separation. It’s a feeling that is all too familiar for those in South Korea who have had their relationships and families torn apart by the North and South border, and who can face prison if they try to get in touch with them, as Steven Borowiec reports.

Wazimbo, Nwahulwana 

This choice is less about the song than the singer. Mozambique-musician Wazimbo is one of many artists who have had their UK visas denied this year. He was forced to pull out of an appearance at Peter Gabriel’s Womad Festival back in July as a result. Charlotte Bailey discusses Wazimbo in the magazine as she looks at how UK border policy is forcing artists to stop visiting the country, and how the UK’s cultural scene is losing out as a result. 

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Playlist: How governments use power to undermine justice and freedom

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The summer 2019 Index on Censorship magazine looks at the narrowing gap between a nation’s leader and its judges and lawyers. What happens when the independence of the justice system is gone and lawyers are no longer willing to stand up with journalists and activists to fight for freedom of expression? Free expression is vital to inform — and criticise — the actions of the authorities who have the power to take it away. Music has long been a form of popular rebellion, especially in the 21st century where it is easier than ever for artists to distribute and share their songs. This playlist compiles a selection of songs written about, and around, the threats to free expression touched on in this issue. The songs give insight into everything from the nationalism in Viktor Orban’s Hungary to the role of government-controlled social media in China to poverty in Venezuela. 


Punch Brothers, Jumbo

The Punch Brothers is a folk-bluegrass band headed by virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile. Jumbo is a song from their most recent, Grammy-winning album All Ashore. It is a satirical song mocking an ineffectual American leader that comes from immense privilege, meant to criticize the presidency of Donald Trump. Throughout the song, the titular character is portrayed living a lavish life while the institutions around him flounder. Jan Fox’s article in the most recent magazine covers Trump’s effect on American institutions, much of what the Punch Brothers song aims to mock.

Franz Liszt, Ad nos, ad salutarem undam 

Liszt spent a large portion of his career in the Weimar region of Germany — the subject of Regula Venske’s recent piece on the intellectual history of the area. Liszt capitalized on the rich musical history of the region in composing Ad nos, ad salutarem undam, which was based on Act I of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera Le prophète. Weimar, in addition to being known for the classical writers Venske discusses, was also famous for long, dramatic organ pieces, going back to J. S. Bach. Liszt employed that history when writing Ad nos, ad salutarem undam.

Bobi Wine, Afande

Bobi Wine, a Ugandan songwriter and politician, was interviewed by Lewis Jennings for Index Magazine. Incorporating elements of reggae, dancehall, and afrobeat, his music often communicates political statements about freedom in Uganda. Wine wrote Afande in April 2019 while under house arrest for two days. He has served in the Ugandan parliament since April 2017, and was arrested by political rivals. The word “afande” means military policeman, and the song protests the police violence that Wine has experienced in Uganda. 

Gilberto Gil, Domingo no parque

Gilberto Gil began his career as a bossa nova musician, a genre that fuses traditional Brazilian music with samba, jazz, and French classical melodies. Gil was instrumental in the Tropicalia movement, which took inspiration from bossa nova and American rock, though it was far more political. Domingo no parque was the song that propelled him to solo fame, from his second self-titled album. Gil later went on to have phenomenal musical success and a political career: he served as minister of culture in the early 2000s under the popular Lula de Silva, who was eliminated from the most recent Brazilian election following corruption charges. Jair Bolsonaro, the subject of Conor Foley’s article on 26, ended up winning the election. 

FFC Acrush, Action

FFC Acrush, now known as FanxyRed after the departure of three out of its original seven members, is one of many Chinese Pop (or c-pop) bands that has built its following on the government-controlled Chinese social media site Weibo. Weibo is monitored by the government as referenced in Karoline Kan’s and Xinran’s pieces on pages 23 and 74. FFC Acrush has received increased attention due to the androgynous style of its members — homosexuality, though decriminalized, is still taboo in Chinese society, and the band in many ways represents recent generations’ evolving attitudes in the face of strict cultural norms. 

The Police, Invisible Sun

The Police’s frontman, Sting, wrote Invisible Sun while living in Ireland during the Belfast hunger strikes during the troubles. Sting’s first wife was Irish which led him to move to Galway in the 1980s. Ten Irish nationalist inmates in Northern Irish prisons died as a result of the hunger strikes, which the song commemorates. As Ryan McChrystal writes, Northern Irish institutions still lack public trust, because of the lack of transparency in their dealings. The aftereffects of the Troubles are still felt in Ireland and Northern Ireland today. 

Ali Primera, Techos de Carton

Ali Primera was a Venezuelan activist and musician in the 1960s and 1970s. His music came to define a generation of Venezuelans, particularly the working classes. Techos de Carton, or cardboard roofs, tells the story of the poverty faced by many Venezuelans, a story that is all too familiar today. Melanio Escobar and Stefano Pozzebon discuss how conditions have worsened in Venezuela following a long period of economic and political unrest, conditions that may be again reflected in the music of Ali Primera. 

Erkel Ferenc, Hazám, hazám

Hazám, hazám (My homeland, my homeland) is an aria from the opera Bánk Bán, by Erkel Ferenc. Viktoria Serdult discusses the changes in Hungary’s institutions following the rise of Viktor Orban. In addition to the increased pressure on the judiciary, press, parliament, and electoral system, Orban (in typical nationalist fashion) has increased funding to the arts to glorify Hungary’s history. Bánk Bán is considered the national opera of Hungary, one of several put on in the most recent season of the Hungarian State Opera House following an increase in funding. 

Radiohead, Electioneering

Radiohead’s Electioneering, from their seminal album OK Computer, was written in the wake of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s election in 1997. Radiohead members, who were sceptical at the time of the new direction in which Blair pledged to take the Labour Party, wrote the song Electioneering about corrupt politics and the tactics employed by the power hungry to remain in power. Many of the pieces in the Index magazine talk about the corruption of politics, including several that touch on the ways in which corrupt officials manipulate elections to remain in power. 

La Voz del Desierto, Sin Tu Calor

La Voz del Desierto is a band from Madrid, Spain. Three of its members are ordained Catholic priests, and their music brings Spanish Catholicism into the 21st century. In her piece Silvia Nortes examines why the Catholic church has maintained prominence and power in Spain, even while its influence is diminishing elsewhere in Europe. Modern rock bands like La Voz del Desierto, which go on US tours and are popular within Spain and Portugal, connect the public with the church through music.

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Playlist: Trouble in Paradise

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What does paradise mean to you? A pina colada on a white-sand beach? A beautiful sunset over Mayan ruins? The summer 2018 issue of Index on Censorship magazine looks at some of the world’s most popular “paradise” destinations and asks whether their reality quite lives up to their reputation (hint, it doesn’t, especially when it comes to free expression). But criticise these places all you like, the concept of paradise at least, whether lost or found, has been quite the inspiration for a lot of iconic music. Here we pick our top tracks in tribute to the theme. We hope you enjoy listening, sort of. 

Holiday by Madonna

Ah Holiday by Madonna, that quintessential going away hit, especially when it first came out in the 80s. This song is pretty syrupy, we’re not going to lie. Madonna calls for everybody to “put [their] trouble down” for a day and celebrate. There’s not really a hint that holiday doesn’t always equal everything being great. But what if you’re a tourist in Baja Mexico Sur, where you might very well see bodies of those involved in the drug trade dangling from bridges, as Stephen Woodman explores in the magazine? Not such a holiday then is it Madge?

Holidays in the Sun by the Sex Pistols 

The Sex Pistols actually have experienced a holiday gone wrong, when they went to the island of Jersey and were kicked out. So they switched the sunshine for several weeks in Berlin instead. And this inspired their song Holidays in the Sun, in which they want you to “see some history” and visit “the new Belsen”. It’s basically a really catchy way of arguing for visiting grittier places. 

Paradise by Coldplay

Coldplay’s song Paradise is about dreams dashed, in this case that of a girl who grows up in a world that is far from paradise and can only access it through her dreams.  It reminds us of the superb short story by contributing editor Kaya Genç, who writes about an elderly man in Turkey who looks back on his life, his expectations for paradise and what became of them.

Cruel Summer by Bananarama

Admittedly this is less about a destination gone bad and more about not being able to go to said destination. There are lines like “My friends are away and I’m on my own.” Summer is cruel because summer is about staying put. But maybe that’s for the best? What’s so great about going to a destination that is tumbling down a free speech index? Just some food for thought Bananarama.

Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival

At the song’s centre is the moon. The moon! Who hasn’t stared at the starry sky when abroad as a holiday highlight? And yet… it’s a bad moon. The lyrics are nothing short of foreboding; “I see trouble on the way” for example. Despite the downbeat lyrics, the melody remains pretty upbeat. Sort of like being a tourist in Sri Lanka, where you’re surrounded by beautiful sites but also the legacy of war.

Holiday by Dizzee Rascal

Talk about making an offer you can’t refuse – Dizzee Rascal invites the object of his affections away on what sounds like the ideal vacation (or two or three – take your pick from the South of France, Ibiza or Milan). There’ll be champagne and a sun tan. Perfect! But why no mention of Malta or the Maldives or those other beautiful hotspots? Maybe Dizzee ran out of line space or maybe Dizzee circa 2009 foresaw the issues that would affect these areas by 2018.

Buffalo Soldier by Bob Marley

Go to a beach bar in the Caribbean, that ultimate holiday destination, and you’d be hard pressed not to hear Bob Marley. For many a visitor he is the soundtrack of the region. And yet as much as his songs are soothing, they are also very political. Marley was a man who would not gloss over the darker sides of paradise. For this reason, we like to think if he was alive today he would have contributed to our issue. Buffalo Soldier, a reminder of the history of slavery in the USA and the Caribbean, is case in point. Easy to enjoy, until you actually listen to the lyrics.

Holiday by Green Day

Our third and final offering with holiday in the title and yet the only one of the three songs that isn’t in total praise of a vacation. Green Day’s tribute to your time off talks less about nice things and instead looks at US political conservatism under George W. Bush and the Iraq war. The chorus’ line – “This is our lives on holiday” – attacks US apathy. Released in 2005 but certainly still relevant to different areas of the world today.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row content_placement=”top”][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Trouble in Paradise” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”|||”][vc_column_text]The summer 2018 issue of Index on Censorship magazine takes you on holiday, just a different kind of holiday. From Malta to the Maldives, we explore how freedom of expression is under attack in dream destinations around the world.

With: Martin Rowson, Jon Savage, Jonathan Tel [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”100842″ img_size=”medium” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″ css=”.vc_custom_1481888488328{padding-bottom: 50px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”Subscribe” font_container=”tag:p|font_size:24|text_align:left” link=”|||”][vc_column_text]In print, online. In your mailbox, on your iPad.

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