Protest Songs and Chants


One thing that I have heard being asked several times is about chants or songs to use during ceremony or at protests. There have been several songs shared around facebook that have been written specially about fracking, but they’ve never caught on with the majority of people who are actively engaged with fighting this filthy industry.
It seems to me that songs about fracking aren’t going to make that shift into public consciousness, it will be songs that link into an emotion, or capture a moment, that make that shift. Writing something specially for it kind of disqualifies it. I think in one sense its not the original song that gets adopted, its hearing it being sung by people on the ground that catches on.

So where are our songs? This was picked up on this article Where Have all the Protest Songs Gone? which gives a potted history of protest songs.

During the Barton Moss period, this song was chosen and played during one of the Solidarity Sundays and became adopted for the protest there, however I have not heard it sung elsewhere, maybe it was just too closely linked into that particular protest at that time, which became equally about struggling against Greater Manchester Police trying to stop the protest

During the eviction of Borras Community Protection Camp near Wrexham in North Wales, there was one song that took off when the bailiffs went in, it had all the elements – simple enough to be sung by everyday folk, and one that most people knew at least some of the words to, and one that conveyed the sense of the bigger picture rather than being about fracking. This was sung from the roadside to the people locked on inside the camp while the bailiffs were here, this gave strength and support to them.

There is one song – actually just part of a song, that is making the transition. I’ve heard it sung at Barton Moss, Ellesmere Port, Upton Community Protection Camp and at Preston New Road. I’m guessing that most people singing it aren’t singing it from a memory of a recording, they are singing it from hearing other people singing it. And the section used works both as a chant and a protest song… So for this one there is no link to a youtube  lyric video, just a video of it being used live and raw…

Chants for ritual use are something else. Sometimes a chant will be given to me in a journey or a meditation for a ritual I am intending to do.
I personally feel that our native british tradition hasn’t developed enough yet to encompass specific chants, but that is something that we can work on…. We arent going to suddenly trip over a chanting practice right out of the blue.

Firstly we have to make chanting part of our practice. Chant anything, even if its crap, so long as it feels right at the time.

Use that chant. The idea is that we first have to make chanting part of our practice, then the chants will come. This makes sense, we arent going to develop native british chants if we dont have a practice to fit them into.

This is something I’ve started to do, in a small way. When I got my new drum this summer, I decided that I would sing to the drum each time I used it. Just randomly I had my MP3 player on in my car and a song came on that had a chorus that fitted the bill -a simple tune, not so many words (lots of la-la-la), the chorus felt powerful and it was generally about what I wanted to achieve with my chanting. I felt that I didnt want to use too many actual words because they are learned and tied into an exact meaning with not much room for evolution – if you sing it  wrong you’ll end up correcting yourself back to the original. So this has been going on for a few months now, and it was only this last week that I once again heard that song, and realised that my version has changed significantly over use without me realising. It is now starting to become its own thing, about my relationship with the drum as a magickal tool.

Of course, this is personal to me, so theres no video, and I’m not revealing the song, but I am encouraging you to try using a chant or a few lines of a song and use it repeatedly and see where that ends up. Our traditions have developed over time and are now at a stage where they can take on their own paths, we can reclaim our traditions, re-learn them instead of simply copying from another culture. it will take time, but we have to start somewhere. The pagan involvement in environmental campaigns gives us a big melting pot – our cauldron – to take what is relevant here and now and turn it into something specific to our practices as they develop.

2 thoughts on “Protest Songs and Chants

  1. When we were at Preston new Road and other fracking events we have been singing Damh the Bard’s song Sons and Daughters. This is a good sing-a-long which reminds us that we in Britain are all the ‘sons and daughters’ of Robin Hood and can each make a difference if we just stand up and take a stance. It’s particularly poignant now we see Sherwood under threat, so I’m hoping this post will bring it to wider attention. I’ll try and find a link later.

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