Agit Disco 16 by Sarah Falloon

Agit Disco 16 by Sarah Falloon
Track 1 –  starts with the staccato rhythms of lambeg drums –  long associated with war –  but in more recent times associated with Protestant Unionism in Ulster, however there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that such a sectarian usage was not always the case for during the post WW2 period before The Troubles began,  when communities chose to coexist, the big lambeg in particular was shared between Catholics and Protestants for their respective parades. I like the juxtaposition of the warlike Ulster lambeg with Ronnie Drew’s rendition of a comical Republican song about the IRA commandeering an English motorcar.


Track 2 – Patriot Game by Dominic Behan – the younger brother of Brendan – is about the young bucks being sucked into the fake heroics of nationalism and whether you happened to be on the side of the colonialist crown or the revolutionary freedom fighter the dangers of such romantic sentimentalism applied. In other words – it’s the same old story and it just goes round and round in circles – never changing from one generation to the next. 


Track 3 – Irish Ways – written by John Gibb who scribbled it on a scrap of paper and handed it to Christie Moore at a concert who in turn sang it and later recorded it. But this version is sung by John Close from Belfast. The song sums up the long history of oppression in Ireland from the Vikings to the present. 


Track 4 – No More Auction Block – Paul Robeson’s version of this song typifies – once again – the struggle against oppression and for freedom and dignity.


Track 5 – Wasteland – by Iris DeMent – chosen because it’s a recognition of the pretence we inhabit in a Western world where ideas of freedom and high moral values abound – whereas the actual truth speaks of an impoverishment materially and spiritually felt and experienced by the greater majority of society. 


Track 6 – Sink ‘em Low – a prison worksong sung here by Bessie Jones from an album entitled Southern Journey.

       Please the boss and he’ll maybe spare you…or maybe not…


Track 7 – Nothing But The Same Old Story – Written and performed by Paul Brady from Strabane in Northern Ireland. A song about his personal experience of going to work in London as a young fella – perpetuating the timeworn imposed culture of diaspora. In London the Irish were all tarred and scarred by The Troubles in Ulster.  They were often tolerated, even sought after, for their music and good craic  – a bit like pub-performing monkeys – but treated with huge mistrust by the majority of Londoners, especially the authorities, landladies, and politicians.


Track 8 – Farewell My Own Dear Native Land – sung here by Ireland’s Queen of the Gypsies, Margaret Barry whose coarse and unrefined vocal style lends an extra edge to the sentiment of enforced emigration.


Track 9 – King’s Shilling – sung by Frank Harte, an architect and collector of folksongs who was based in Dublin – is a traditional song from the Napoleonic Wars, which relates a woman’s story of loss and the wastage of her husband and young father – once again the fatalistic and romantic lure of heroism, the stark reality of which is that he, like so many, becomes an anonymous scrap of cannon fodder.  


Track 10 – Deportees – written by Woody Guthrie – tells the tragic story of a plane crash in Los Gatos, California, in which 28 nameless migratory Mexican workers were killed. Guthrie identified with these poor working class Mexicans who were forced to endure harsh working conditions with no health and safety provision, nor insurance cover in the United States – and 62 years later conditions for foreign workers and refugees is little improved. There is then a resonation of the experiences of Irish labourers in England and America.


Track 11 – Damn the Day – written by Ashley Hutchings – sung by Pete Morton. A modern-day tale of the inequalities in our society – the young boyo caught up in illegal and antisocial acts which lend a folkloric heroism to him but he is then dumped in the anonymous trash bin by peers and police – another type of cannon fodder.


Track 12 – Gallis Pole – pay the hangman and escape the gallows – life’s only worth a bribe to the hangman! Fred Gerlach’s jaunty almost gleeful guitar playing and singing belie the reality of the situation.


Track 13  – Little Boxes written by Malvina Reynolds in the 1950’s – is a great sideways skelp at the upwardly mobile pretensions of the middle classes in the utopian ‘land of opportunity’. 


Track 14 – Do Me Justice – sung by Len Graham from Coleraine in Ulster, a folksong collector and singer.  This is a rendition of the Irishman as the butt of English prejudice which is disguised as humour while he makes a clear and dignified request for fair treatment.


Track 15 – Auld Triangle – originally credited to Brendan Behan – an Irish blues – sung here by Ronnie Drew – sounds as though it has been around for as long as Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin – first opened in 1796.  The thick stonewalls of Kilmainham Gaol contained the execution by firing squad of those Irish freedom fighters who instigated the 1916 Easter Uprising – and held about 6000 criminals who were transported from Ireland to the penal colonies in Australia between the1790s and 1840s. From 1846 the average intake of between 700 to 800 prisoners per annum escalated to over 9000 in 1851 as starving victims of The Great Hunger (potato famine) broke any law they could in order to get a portion of prisonfare.  Now the Gaol, a symbol of Britain’s oppressive colonial policy, is a museum and venue for art installations.

Sarah Falloon

December 2008
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