An all-female collective going under the name of Pussy Riot, the group, which currently numbers about 25 people, has been grabbing headlines for its bold political protests targeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, protests which have landed some of the members in police custody.
Donning multi-colored balaclavas, the women decided to band together in order to protest Putin, his intention to run for reelection and what they feel are government policies against women f(including government legislation that placed restrictions on legal abortions), and have been staging miniature protests and shooting them throughout Moscow, ranging from flash performances on the metro to a rooftop concert next to where protest leader and blogger Alexei Navalny was being held in police custody.
But it was their bold unsanctioned performance in Moscow's Red Square on January 20, and the resulting video that made its way to YouTube, that got the group the most attention. After powering their way through a minute of music, eight members ended up in police custody, with four members later charged with non-criminal public order offences and disobeying police, which could could carry a maximum punishment of 15 days behind bars
And while this site delves heavily into the politics of punk rock, it's also a music site. And that's why I need to point out that this budding politically charged punk scene surrounds a band that, on top of it's critically anti-government message, seriously shreds.
Pussy Riot plays abrasive, fast punk rock, delivered in one- to two-minute bursts, with Russian lyrics so heavily dripping with vitriol that there's no need to speak the language - it's angry and it works. It's like Riot Grrrl reborn, once again with a politically charged, motivated group of activist women behind it. It's necessary, and it's about time.
The band has a handful of MP3s available for free download, and I'll post the links below, but don't ask me to read the titles:
Really, the punk scene, especially the political punk scene, whether it's being vilified or elevated by its critics or advocates, is founded on music that serves to draw the like minded together. In order to create a politically active movement, you first need members to hear the message. And music serves as a way to draw those members together.
Last December's story about the arrest of more than 60 punks at a concert in the conservative Sharia-ruled province of Aceh in Indonesia and their subsequent detention in "reeducation camps" grabbed headlines that more or less quickly died out, but the persecution of punks there continues. In the wake of the official crackdown on authorities, some Muslim scholars are even adopting the stance that an official holy law be created to legally ban punk rock in any form. But it will drive it underground, so long as the scene finds ways to keep itself together, and it's doing that through music.
Record Label Aborted Society launched the Mixtapes for Aceh program, where punks in the states are being asked to donate tapes or CDRs for clandestine distribution in Aceh (More details on the program are here).
And the organization Punk Aid has put together a compilation called Aceh Calling, a compilation of more than 80 bands from all over the world, including Krum Bums, SS Kaliert, AnitSeen and Scattergun. Upon its release, it will be available for download for $5, with all of the proceeds going to place CD versions of this comp in the hands of the punks in Aceh (More details are listed here).
This is all well and good, but someone really also needs to put some money into getting recordings of the bands in Aceh right now. There, many of the punks live the life of the gutterpunk and sleeping in parks, and the instrumental makeup of Aceh's punk bands are markedly different from what we know elsewhere. Chaotic Pavement, a band described in this Global Post article, consists of a single, beat-up ukelele with five guys playing the roles of vocalists. Musically, they're compared to Woodie Guthrie, borrowing lyrical themes from bands like Nausea or Doom. It actually sounds pretty amazing.
In a world where punk scenes provide a voice for political activism, Pussy Riot is grabbing headlines, while at the same time, bands like Chaotic Pavement are facing persecution. It's up to us as members of a worldwide scene to embrace punk in all it's forms, and to join in where we can to keep it alive.