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Local musicians rock against Stephen Harper

By Jason Herring, October 13 2015 —

As the Canadian federal election draws to a close, a group of Calgary musicians are protesting Stephen Harper and his Conservative party through the Rock Against Harper compilation album. They’ll bring their love of music and disdain for the prime minister together on Oct. 16 with a release party at Broken City.

Co-organizer Kenna Burima says the event was inspired by growing political engagement in Calgary’s underground music scene.

“I was approached by a fellow musician, Seth Leon, and we got together to brainstorm ways that we, as musicians in our community and our scene, could potentially become more politically engaged as we got closer to the federal election,” Burima says. “We approached a bunch of bands, seven in total, and we asked them to write songs against Harper. The bands we asked were as excited to do this as I was.”

Tracks composed for the event range from traditional folk protest songs to charged-up punk-rock anthems. Burima’s band, the Pygmies, wrote a song called “Degenerate” with lyrics like “you’ve fucked up the environment and I find your hair unfortunate.” And feminist punk band The Shiverettes recorded a track entitled “Stephen Harper, Suck My Dick.”

Despite the comical nature of many of the songs, Burima says there’s still a serious aspect to the event.

“We wanted to take some humorous shots at Harper, but we’re also becoming aware of where our country is and in what direction it’s going under our current leadership. We’re just really happy with how engaged people in all parts of our community seem to be,” she says.

Other bands releasing songs on the compilation are HexRay, Sons of Bears, Geek Beet, The CJs and Minimum Engagement.

Lyric sheets will be handed out to everyone who attends. Burima hopes this will help engage audiences by emulating the atmosphere of classic protest songs.

“When I started getting the song lyrics and mixes, I realized these were songs people were going to want to sing along to,” Burima says. “That’s part of the fun of the protest song. And even though that was strong for a few decades in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think it’s on the comeback.”

Rock Against Bush, a compilation from American punk bands protesting the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, was an inspiration for the compilation. The Calgary event follows similar songs and concerts by bands like Yukon Blonde, Dan Mangan and The Barr Brothers protesting Harper.

Burima thinks there’s a reason so many artists are coming together under the same political banner.

“There’s a lot of variables that factor into why there’s a predilection for artists to be more left-leaning. Part of being an artist is that you inevitably live a little on the fringes. If you’re an artist, you’re doing your work because you love it. You’re not necessarily doing it for the almighty dollar,” she says. “I think that because of the way we live our life, we have more inclination to want to support social programs that we like. We use public transit so we want to have public transit that’s readily accessible.”

For now, Burima says she and her friends in the music community are optimistic about the election.

“There’s a huge excitement knowing the direction that our country has been going could potentially change with this swell of young voters, of indigenous voters,” she says. “People who haven’t necessarily been excited with politics or engaged with politics that are seeing that their vote can actually change and affect the outcome of a federal election.”

The Rock Against Harper release party is taking place at Broken City on Oct. 16 at 9:00 p.m. Cover charge is $9. The album is also available to purchase online at rockagainstharper.bandcamp.com.

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