This blog is part of a four-part series from the Renaturing Cities:…
Below you will find 10 songs that make my transition playlist. It’s about the music, the lyrics, the memories they bring, the different voices and stories. There were so many others that kept coming to mind but well, sometimes you just need to make a choice (and also some would be way too embarrassing to share publicly). It’s very personal at times and of course forever in progress, hope you will enjoy it and please keep those lists coming!
OK, so here it goes, in no particular order.
Big part of the transition story is the courage to get out of your comfort zone and when it comes to stretching boundaries, David Bowie is an expert. His androgynous looks, his ever changing personas and his eclectic style are all part of his transgressive charm. Why this song? As Emma Goldman famously said, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”.
Next, a fairly new discovery as it was only a few weeks ago that I’ve seen her live in Syrena, a central Warsaw squat.
An Argentinean rap singer whose lyrics tell the stories of social movements, anti-capitalist struggles and being part of the community, this woman is dynamite. Listening to her powerful voice now takes me back to Warsaw that like many other cities across the world is being shaped by money as opposed to people, with places like Syrena few and far between.
But it also reminds me that we should look beyond Europe when searching for allies and inspiration, especially when it comes to linking social, economic and environmental issues, something that South and Central American grassroots movements have long been fighting for. Here’s more from Sara.
Still in Warsaw, this next song is a satire on our society’s obsession with consumption, a long list of things you really, really, really need to buy. I’m guilty of retail therapy myself and this song reminds me how pointless it is to always want more, to buy stuff you don’t need just because it’s there. Growing up in a socialist country I still vaguely remember empty store shelves, long queues to get basics like toilet paper and consumer choices limited to yes or no.
But I also remember the admiration with which we looked at every new shopping mall opening in the city starting in the late 1990s, the excitement of ordering my very first McDonald fries, the ease with which the advertisement slogans filtered into our everyday language.
Call me a recovering addict, still slipping occasionally.
I don’t think I have ever made a playlist in my life that did not include a Jarvis Cocker song. This one is bitter but rings true, especially after we all witnessed the depressing spectacle of EU-Greece negotiations. Seeing how our democratic institutions are increasingly being taken over by corporate interests makes me feel angry and helpless at the same time, like banging my head against the wall. As Jarvis puts it:
Your free market is perfectly natural,
Or do you think that I’m some kind of dummy,
It’s the ideal way to order the world,
Fuck the morals, does it make any money?
Once described as “medieval Clash meets the Sex Pistols”, R.U.T.A. is a Polish music project bringing to life peasant songs from the Galicia region, formerly part of Habsburg Empire (now southeast Poland and western Ukraine).
The songs, some of them hundreds of years old, speak of revolt against the exploitative feudal system but in R.U.T.A.’s interpretation sound surprisingly modern, bringing to mind parallels between peasant struggles and anti-globalist movements of today. This song is called “Whip the masters”…
If you are serious about socio-ecological change first thing you need to deal with is uncertainty. We are preparing ourselves for the future (hell, some people would say we are making sure there is a future!) but in fact we are just walking into the unknown. This is exciting, exciting and scary.
When fear trumps over the excitement, this song is a perfect antidote. Just repeat after me: I’m not afraid of the road ahead.
Also, how can you not love the video that is the world seen through the train window?
I was tempted to put “Anti Anti” here but this one is even better, reflecting our obsession with knowledge and showing how many different types of knowledge there are.
Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate knowledge (I do mostly work with researchers after all!) but sometimes it feels good to just not think too much. To make change happen we need to go all in, with our brains, hands and hearts.
I don’t know how about you but I often get in the “if only” mood.
If only I had more time or more money, if only I was braver or more determined, if only I could speak better German or learn how to code (or this or that…), then everything would turn out just brilliant. However, in the meantime, I can just sit back and complain a bit more. Sounds familiar?
And make no mistake, local governments get infected with the “if only” virus as well. I can’t remember how many times I heard “if only we had more money”, “if only our political leaders were interested in sustainability”, “if only our citizens cared enough”. Well, isn’t that just a perfect excuse to do nothing?
I’ve been living in Germany since 2008 but my German still sucks. Luckily, many German punk or electro bands are all for simple messages… I think the first time I have heard this song was at a party in a shared house that used to be home to many of my Freiburg friends.
It was a crazy place, an old house with a big garden, half falling apart, surrounded with posh villas. The party was in a basement, everyone was dancing (which, as I was soon to learn, is a rare occurrence at German parties) and I didn’t feel so much like a stranger anymore.
Today the house has been demolished and replaced with expensive apartment blocks, many people that used to live there are no longer in Freiburg but something of a spirit of that place survived.
Tada, the grand finale! If you attended the 4th Informed Cities Forum in Rotterdam this spring, I’m sure this video will give you goose bumps.
They played a mind-blowing concert as part of Het Tussenuur evening event and I can’t imagine a transition-themed playlist without them. While previous songs made it on this list largely because of their lyrics, Convoi Exceptional is more about the whole experience. Out in the street, playful and wild, focused and spontaneous, individual charisma and melting into the music: can you tell I’m in love?
You can find the whole playlist here. Enjoy the summer and hope we’ll have a chance to dance together one day!