Postmodern Marching Music and M.I.A.

By coincidence, this weekend I happened to be in Toronto after a conference which coincided with the G20 meeting up here. A lot of Canadians seem to be pissed about the $1B price tag (a large percentage of which is for security) and the general inconvenience of having the global royalty in town for the weekend. In short its a big, expensive pain in the ass (and that’s if you are already pretty happy with the current arrangement of the global order). There is also a lot of pretty transparent fear mongering and state heavy handedness going on. For example, the US State Department issued warnings for citizens to stay away from downtown Toronto this weekend. Meanwhile, the Ontario legislature handed over even more control without much discussion.

Meanwhile, my little dorm/hostel/hotel room is a few blocks south of the “official protest” site (which is actually across the street from the conference location). Earlier this evening, I was headed to meet some folks for a farewell fete and stumbled into the front line of current conflicts about the impacts of globalization, resource distribution and social justice. The “dreaded” G20 Protests!

Among other things, the two teams clearly had their own special kind of marching music. On the one hand, you had pickup trucks blasting remixes of “Milkshake” (is that tune old enough to be cool again?) beautifully battling the beats of the hippie human drum corps. On the other, security forces in riot gear keeping time with batons, thigh plates and boots on asphalt. I haven’t tapped it out, but I think the tempos are even similar at times. Often around 115bpm is seems. Interesting.

Despite endless layers of cultural (and sometimes rhythmic) complexity, it was really scary to see the levels of force compared to the size of the marchers. It seemed a small (1,000 person?), clearly peaceful and actually pretty damn funky protest march. It was surrounded by an overwhelming number of continually shifting phalanxes of postmodern Pinkertons on foot, horse and (in a very Canadian fashion) bike.

I hope the second day remains peaceful. Today, everyone was out making their own kinds of marching music which was simultaneously scary and funky. (Post industrial Praetorian in the first case and people-centric in the second.) As usual, I prefer to dance with the people. Anyway, at first, when I watched the recent M.I.A. video about the persecution of gingers, it felt over the top to me. Not misguided. Just a little heavy handed an hyper violent for my taste (faint of heart, beware the link below). Today, it sounded and looked a lot like the intro to that video up here in Toronto.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

Don’t forget to work for peace every day. In whatever way. The alternative is unacceptable.