|Soundtracks for revolution ©|
I like what is usually called “world music,” especially leftist political music, but it can take some searching to find and websites are often too short-lived, so this article points out some place to find leftist, mainly communist, songs and marches online. It takes a broad view of who was in the socialist bloc and communist movements. If you know of useful websites or stores I missed, and there are probably many, please let me know or comment.
Sinn Fein's online store ( www.sinnfeinbookshop.com/ ) has a number of CDs and other items, more nationalist than socialist, but there is a lot of praise for Irish socialist James Connolly and condemnation of the UK's imperialism, an enemy of labor globally and many countries. Surprisingly, Irish nationalist music with more class consciousness is sold by Smithsonian Folkways ( www.folkways.si.edu/index.aspx ), such as This Is Free Belfast! and England's Vietnam. Their releases include liner notes providing historical content, encoded on the discs and available online, and tracks can be sampled online.
British singer Billy Bragg ( www.billybragg.co.uk/ ) recorded old leftist songs, such as The Internationale, The Red Flag, Blake's Jerusalem, Joe Hill, This Land is Your Land, and A Change is Gonna Come, as well as songs like There is Power in a Union, Never Cross a Picket Line, and Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto. These songs are on the album The Internationale, available on Amazon. He also sang about the 1649 Digger movement in Britain, but not on that CD.
Another version of The Red Flag, popular with the British Labor Party when it had some socialist content, was available online; I think I found it through a link on the UE (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union) website, but I lost track of it. It might be this website: webpages.dcu.ie/~sheehanh/connell.htm A version set to a different tune is online at: protestsongs.ca/volume-1/the-red-flag/
The lyrics and midi files of The Red Flag and many other leftist songs are available at: drapeaurouge.free.fr/
Songs in English, Spanish, and German from the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War are available in two albums from Smithsonian Folkways, with a new one-volume version released in 2014. The singers include Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
Smithsonian Folkways also sells Avanti Popolo! Forward, People! a CD of Italian leftist music from the postwar years to the 70's, including Bandiera Rossa, Bella Ciao and The American Bases.
I have some other communist songs in European languages, received second-hand, so I don't know where they came from originally, but it shows how much music is out there.
Many albums of German communist music have been released. Brandenburg Historica ( stores.militaryhistoryshop.com/ ) specializes in German military music and sells some imported albums of marches, leftist songs, and classical music recorded in the German Democratic Republic, as well as some Soviet music. Some of the albums from B.T.M. GmbH ( www.bt-music.de/ ) include Soldaten Singen: Kampflieder der NVA und Volkspolizei and Historisches Militärkonzert mit dem Grossen Zapfenstreich der NVA. Imports from BarbaRossa Musikverlag include Singende Fanfaren: Zentrales Musikkorps der FDJ und der Pionierorganisation Ernst Thälmann and Mit klingendem Spiel: Zentrales Orchester des Ministeriums Innern. They used to have Barbarossa's Dem Morgenrot Entgegen. Hymnen, which has several anthems and well-known songs. They also used to have Die Partei Hat Immer Recht: Eine Dokumentation in Liedern from Hansa Musik Produktion GmbH. It might still be available on Amazon or eBay and there is a sequel, Die Schalmei Hat Immer Recht. I just found a German site that seems to be about East German dance music: www.ddr-tanzmusik.de/index.php/Hauptseite
A number of songs from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Yugoslav versions of the International, We Are the Smiths, and Over Hills and Dales used to be available at www.titoville.com , a website about leader Josip Broz Tito, and they could still be floating around on the Internet somewhere (an image of the website can still be seen at: archive.is/www.titoville.com ).
Many songs from the People's Socialist Republic of Albania are online at: www.enver-hoxha.net/content/content_english/home-eng.htm Some YouTube videos are linked at: www.enverhoxha.info/english/musics.php
Soviet songs are pretty easy to find online. A huge number of songs and some speeches in Russian, as well as some in other languages, including many versions of the International, are posted online at: www.sovmusic.ru/english/index.php Many Soviet songs were released on CD by Melodiya in Russia, such as Let Songs Narrate What People We Have Been. I think Youth Construction Brigade Songs was also produced by Melodiya. Northstar Compass sold some music from the USSR and other countries, but contact them to see if they still sell items. Smithsonian Folkways has a few CDs of music from the USSR, including History of the Soviet Union in Ballad and Song (it is called volume 1, but there doesn't seem to be a volume 2) with early songs, such as the Russian versions of The Red Flag and The Internationale (an early Soviet national anthem), as well as Varshavianka, We Are the Blacksmiths, The Engine, and We Renounce the World. Folkways has other albums of music from the USSR, but they might be mainly folk music. As said above, Brandenburg Historica sells some Soviet music. In the past they sold Barba Rossa's Mütterchen Russland: Originalaufnahmen 1930-1955 and Silva Classics' The Best of the Red Army Choir. I once saw an album containing all the anthems of the Soviet republics, I think sold by the import company Sovietski, but they no longer exist. Amazon and possibly eBay is a good place to look for these relatively rare CDs. I found a CD through Amazon that seems to be just songs relating to Stalin. Paul Robeson sang an English version of the Soviet anthem sometime around WWII (it is posted many times on YouTube, such as at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pO6q_mFjEUg ) and the anthem of the People's Republic of China (one posting is at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtrRAjeihxo )
The Middle East and Africa
Smithsonian Folkways has some CDs of music from Middle Eastern and African countries, such as songs of the PLO and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola.
There was a website, probably set up in Germany, called the Iraq News Network (probably different from the current website called INN), that had songs related to the Iraqi resistance and some Soviet music, such as the WWII song Holy War. Trump and the Democratic leadership may soon give us the 'opportunity' to hear songs of anti-US resistance in Syria (or maybe in East Asia), though there must already be music against “Western” imperialisms throughout the Arab world.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)'s website had a lot of Nepalese revolutionary songs during the civil war, but the party split and the website is gone now. There must be music from India's Maoists (Naxalites) and others in the region, but I haven't come across any. Pakistan's Laal group (meaning Red), associated with the Communist Workers and Peasants Party (CMKP), has many music videos on YouTube, such as this version of the International: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PnIGbtqS5w Their YouTube channel is Laal Pakistan. I highlighted their music on The Peoples Channel in Orange and Durham counties a few years ago, with permission from the group.
A huge amount of music is collected in The Internet Chinese Music Archive (www.ibiblio.org/chinese-music/ ), which also includes ceremonial music, operas, childrens' songs, Chinese pop music, Taiwanese songs, and some Soviet music, as well as historic Chinese speeches. There seem to be varying translations for some of the titles, but the songs include My Motherland, No CCP, No China, Chinese Volunteers Battle Song, Socialism Good, Women Detachment Anthem, Red Sun Ode, and Song of Oil Workers, and many other songs, such as Ode to Plum, that could be folk rather than outright political music. There are albums sold on Amazon, and people can go to the source at www.yesasia.com , a company apparently started in the US and now based in Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. There is a 10-CD collection of Chinese folk music that includes many Maoist songs, a few probably the same recordings in the Internet Chinese Music Archive. Some of these songs are also on the CD My Motherland, from HUGO Productions, and Hundred Years Phonograph. Another CD mixing political and folk music is Rounder Records' China: Music from the People's Republic of China, which includes a Sinified instrumental version of The International. There is a collection of 20 marches from the different branches of the People's Liberation Army, and it includes versions of some Maoist songs. Revolutionary songs used for nationalist purposes are kind of common online as China grows in power. One album I found on Amazon is Ode to the Communist Party: 1921-2001. Amazon also has versions of the classical Yellow River Concerto (instrumental) and Yellow River Cantanta (with vocals), written in 1939.
YesAsia has some music from the DPRK, such as a 3-CD collection of different versions of the folk song Arirang ( www.yesasia.com/us/north-korean-arirang-collection/1004171809-0-0-0-en/info.html ), and it probably has music from the ROK promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK sells music and other things directly online at: www.korea-dpr.com/ , but the store is not always available and is currently down. Websites with free Korean music that I found years ago no longer exist for the most part, but the anthem and other music might be posted on YouTube. I don't remember finding this store, but there is also: www.north-korea-books.com
Smithsonian Folkways sells Vietnam Will Win! and Vietnam: Songs of Liberation, music from the National Liberation Front during the Vietnam War, originally released in 1971. Many of Smithsonian Folkways' revolutionary albums were first released by Paredon Records in the 70's.
They also have Paredon's 1976 album Bangon! Arise! , featuring revolutionary music from the Philippines. The tracks include a Tagalog version of the International, Wave the Red Flag, Down with US Imperialism, and Anthem of the New People's Army, apparently the same communist guerrilla army fighting today.
Folkways released an album of anti-Pinochet music from Chile and there are CDs of leftist songs from Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, Uruguay, etc. The Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru put out a tape, Panorama Ayacuchano: Music from Peru, from the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr Abimael Guzmán, the captured founder of Shining Path in Peru. The CSRP doesn't seem to exist now, but it might be possible to find the music somewhere online.
In the US leftist music is mainly labor and folk songs, which are somewhat common in the media, though given how popular groups like the Socialist Party USA and then the Communist Party USA once were, and their cultural productions, there is probably a lot of left musical history buried in the US. The local NPR station includes some of these classic songs and new songs, like Andy Irvine's Never Tire of the Road, in its Back Porch Music program ( wunc.org/back-porch-music ), especially over Labor Day weekend. Back Porch Music is on for a few hours every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. The Raging Grannies often sing familiar protest tunes with new lyrics at local demonstrations and events, such as the Hiroshima bombing commemoration last August in downtown Chapel Hill. Songs from the US Civil War sounds like contemporary world leftist music but the content is more relevant to war and issues of the time than to class politics today. There is some newer commercially released music, but it sounds more like the modern pop music genre than what I think of as leftist music, and it usually doesn't use hard left vocabulary, though it is on the left. In a way, music from some English-language musicals could be considered close to music from the actual revolutionary movements whose style they emulate.
The NC and Ohio-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee's online shop sells labor songs by its president, Baldemar Velasquez, and the Aquila Negra Band (see www.floc.com/wordpress/floc-shop/ ).