Saul Williams and the Music of "Not in Our Name"

by Michael Slate

Revolutionary Worker #1169, October 6, 2002, posted at

The world is covered by dark clouds. And an anti-war movement is beginning to grow. It is a time to resist, a time to say Not In Our Name. And a time for poets.

In the midst of all this, Saul Williams--poet, actor and musician--has written two important songs, "September 12th" and "Bloodletting," for a soon-to-be-released CD entitled Not In Our Name . The CD also includes Saul reading the Pledge of Resistance at the ArtSpeaks concert against the war in May of this year at the Hollywood Palace in Los Angeles.

Saul's songs couldn't be more on time. The "September 12th" cut starts out with beats that conjure up danger and dread. Into that mix steps Saul with words of resistance riding on an urgent cadence.

"propaganda makes me fight but what am I fighting for?

my way of life: beans and rice, give or take less or more
see through the eyes of the poor. plus, i'm black to the core.
ignorance is on tour booking stadiums and more.

the days of hitler painted pictures patriotic with gore.
you raise a flag on a land snatched from bald eagle's claw and stamp the
symbol on your currency to finance your war i'm saying

No, not in my name, not in my life, not by my hands, that ain't my fight, not in my name
You fight a war against terrorists and violence and try to wave your guns to fear us all into
You built your empire with natives and slaves like the truth won'tresurrect waging war from its grave.

we got brothers on the sidelines ready for the frontline.
tell me when it's my time
we got women on the sidelines ready for the frontline.
tell me when it's my time.
You won't put it in your headlines. people are we that blind?
do we need a headline? do we really?
if we only see what they want us to see we'll only be what they want us to
be: fighting in their army!
we pledge resistance

Horrified by America's war on the people of the world, Saul Williams is among a growing force of artists and musicians who are expressing their anti-war sentiments in their art. As he said in a press release, "I am releasing these songs because music is perhaps our greatest means of political amassment, because the airwaves are imbalanced and have conditioned us either into a state of apathy or to a state of condoning unjust violence and militarism carried out in our name."

There are plans to release the CD as an EP this fall and to get it in stores across the country. But with early release for radio play, the artists hope to reach every college radio station and speak out to a million youth and students across the country in the days leading into the October 6 Not In Our Name protests. In addition, Saul has helped to create a people can hear the whole CD now. Saul told the RW that he also wants to have a situation where other artists and their work can be added on to in the future.

The release of the CD now is a testament to the growing anti-war sentiment among artists, music producers and promoters. When record labels were first approached around putting the CD out, even the ones who expressed support for the movement and interest in the project warned that actually releasing a CD like this would take three or four months minimum to do. But determined to get the CD out for national radio play before October 6, the artists persevered.

While Saul wrote the songs and Musa Bailey helped create the music, a whole army of people got involved in the project in order to get it out on time. T-Ray, a producer, assisted in mixing and mastering the CD. Mearone did the artwork for the cover. Music promoters got involved and publicists stepped up to help get the word out. A web designer joined in to build a beautiful website. People at record labels offered advice on how to make this happen and sometimes offered up concrete assistance. The record label Epitaph helped to create radio demos to get out immediately. Mari Matsuoka from the Artists' Network of Refuse & Resist!--which assisted Saul in getting the CD out--explained how all this happened, "Mainly what it took was going to people with the CD, playing the songs for them, and it connected with them. It's really a beautiful CD and it really concentrates what so many people are feeling about these times. People were really taken by the Not In Our Name movement and saw both the urgency and the possibility of doing something."

"you want to put me on your blacklist
you can use my blood for ink
your communion to drink
in remembrance of a nation that forgot
how to think
hypnotized by your lies without even a blink."

September 12

On October 6 Saul Williams will join thousands of people in New York City's Central Park to take the Pledge of Resistance and raise their voices against this war. These voices will be joined by thousands more across the country. But even before this day, Saul Williams--and all of the other people who assisted him on this CD--have made a tremendous contribution to the people of the world and the struggle against America's war. And all of us need to stand solidly with Saul and these other artists to make it clear that we, the people, have their backs. There can be no better way to begin than by making sure that our voices are among those pledging resistance on that day.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)