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Shira Tarrant Headshot

Oh Bondage! Up Yours!

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It's no secret that foreclosure rates are high, unemployment is soaring, the gap between rich and poor is beyond absurd, and political unrest is disrupting the lives of so many around the world. That's what the global Occupy movement is all about. People have taken to the streets in more than 70 cities and 600 communities to speak out against the abuse and misuse of power. This is a rallying cry for political and economic liberation. As Poly Styrene screamed in 1977, Oh, Bondage! Up Yours!

Poly Styrene's punk band, X-Ray Spex, joins a long list of musicians who blend their artistic vision with politics to put good into the world. Music fuels our anger and buoys our spirit. Lyrics break down the political problems we face. Songs offer solutions and give us hope. That is the foundation for the emerging soundtrack of our era.

The Dixie Chicks famously took flack for opposing U.S. war in Iraq. There's Reggae, Riot Grrrl, activist rappers, and Rafael Casal. Protest music gives us something to sing about long after we've put down our signs and returned home.

Fifty years ago folk singer Pete Seeger inspired a generation with his songs promoting international peace. On October 21, 2011 Seeger inspired countless more by marching with Occupy Wall Street through New York City's affluent Upper West Side. The emotion was palpable even watching from Los Angeles through live stream. As Michael Moore reported via Twitter, "Holy S***! Now Arlo Guthrie is here! 92-yr old Pete Seeger just marched 36 blocks w/2 canes 2 b here. Crowd growing--NYPD is like, 'WTF?'"

The composed dignity on Seeger's face brought tears as the crowd began singing "This Land Is Your Land" and "We Shall Overcome," the slave spiritual that Seeger popularized as a protest anthem during the 1960s civil rights movement.

That is the power of the people to come together by the millions -- and it is the power of political music to move those millions. Michael Franti and Spearhead know this when they sing "Power to the Peaceful" or "Give the Corporations Some Complications." But it doesn't matter whether artists are as famous-as-Woodstock or up-and-coming talent. Today, technology makes it easier to document street action and blend it with a beat. With passion, vision, and a YouTube account, Do-It-Yourself activism has wider reach than ever before. Take Ubyk, a Los Angeles-based indy band, who explain in their music video "Speak (Nothing to Lose)":

I've been a pawn and I've been a rook
I've sat silent as the medicine took
I've been excused I've been overlooked...

Now we've got something to prove
And we haven't got a thing to lose
We've got something to show you
And we haven't got a thing to lose

Their compelling video of the global Occupy movement attests to the power of the people to confront the status quo:

Music sustains our everyday resistance to politics large and small. The personal is political, and music can speak to our worries about putting food on the table while also confronting large-scale issues such as corporate manipulation. From the overt messages of Kathleen Hanna and The Coup, to the sly politics of bands like Radiohead, so many musicians have so much to say. There's Henry Rollins' righteous anger, the socially conscious rap of Immortal Technique, Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," and Sarah Jones sharp remix, "Your Revolution Will Not Happen Between These Thighs."

The misuse of power and public trust is antithetical to democracy. Author Rinku Sen points out, there's much work yet to be done to connect our political movements and throw off social and economic control. In that spirit of optimism and anger, people are coming together worldwide, doing their best to fight the abuse of power and create a better future.

So the question is: What music moves you to fight unjust power and create a vision for a better world? What are you singing and what do you have to say? Help create our collective mixtape, the soundtrack to our era. Share with us here and let the world know what moves you.

(Full disclosure: The author participated in creating Ubyk's "Speak" video.)