Socialist Worker

Ms Dynamite: 'Music has a role in fighting racism and the system'

Mercury music prize winning artist Ms Dynamite spoke to Love Music Hate Racism

Issue No. 1961

Why did you get involved with Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) in campaigning against the fascist British National Party (BNP)?

I just can’t believe that in the year 2005 that they’re able to exist. There are people looking for someone to believe in and I think it’s really sad that people like the BNP are there to fill the gap in someone’s life.

Hate breeds hate. As a black woman I feel insulted that they’re allowed to exist.

Do you agree then that we should campaign for the BNP to not be allowed to have a platform for their views. Are you in favour of a ban on BNP broadcasts?

Yes, 100 percent. I would love to see them banned. I believe to an extent in freedom of speech, especially as a music artist. People might not agree with what I’m saying. The difference is I’m not saying I dislike someone because of the colour of their skin or their sexual preference.

It’s very dangerous for them to be able to speak out in the way they do. Kids might grow up thinking, “That’s alright, I’ve seen it on the TV.”

You’ve suggested that racism is a systemic problem. Do you think that to tackle racism you also have to tackle wider problems in society?

If someone asked me to make a plan of how to tackle racism, the first thing I’d insist on is that at every level of the education system, from nursery onwards, that kids are learning about different cultures.

Racism is about greed, money and fear. If you were to make everyone aware of other people’s culture and stamp out these stereotypes, you stamp out the fear.

It’s about going through every aspect of the system and changing it. I don’t think it’s that’s difficult to do, but it’s a case of whether the people in the right places want to do that. They obviously don’t or something would have been done about it.

There’s a bigger picture. People make money out of racism. People keep other people down through racism. People can brainwash and trick predominantly poor people into fighting against each other.

The problem is the system that’s got us thinking this way in the first place.

Racism now seems to be focused on two groups in our society - asylum seekers and immigrants, and Muslims.

The subject of immigration is something that really touches me. Let’s be real. This whole country is built on what was stolen from the rest of the world. People are tricked into believing people are coming and “stealing our jobs”.

First of all, the government has money that’s supposed to be spent on helping asylum seekers, and I bet that money doesn’t even get spent.

Number two, these people are coming from war torn countries. They don’t have a home, they don’t have family and they’re coming from poverty.

They’re coming here for the hope of a better life. As a human being, no matter what country you end up living in, surely you’re entitled to that?

But we’re tricked into believing that asylum seekers are the ones causing all our problems. They’re not. If we’ve got money to spend on a war that’s got nothing to do with us, then we’ve got the money to feed and give shelter to people who need our help.

Half of them will have probably come from a war that we’ve been a part of. Don’t we owe them a job, a house?

As regards Muslims I can’t believe people are sucked in by that either. It’s obvious that everything is linked to the war and oil, and yet we’re supposed to hate Muslims. We’ve just had a war with a country that’s predominantly Muslim that was blatantly not for the reasons we were told it was for.

I know what it feels like to be used as a scapegoat in this society. It’s clear what’s going on and my heart really does go out to Muslims. As black African or Caribbean people we’ve been there, and are there still, but we’re just not top of the list now.

As part of the “war on terror” our government wants to further restrict civil liberties - like bringing in ID cards. They want to scapegoat young people with Asbos, bans on wearing hoodies and other things.

ID cards are about too much control, in the wrong people’s hands. What’s it got to do with them where I am, who I am, what I’m doing? If I’m not hurting people what’s the problem? It’s all about controlling people.

I’d love to see them try to make a law that you can’t wear a hoodie. You can’t tell people how to dress. To me, that’s blatantly a cultural thing. It’s gone beyond that now but it came from a hip-hop thing, which was a predominantly a black thing.

You’re known as an artist with a social conscience. Do you see yourself as part of a tradition, and who do you see as the pioneers of conscious music?

There are lots of artists who’ve inspired me by taking a stand - legends like Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye. I feel that the music of their era had many artists who were saying something, without them being seen as “conscious” as such.

Music seemed to mean something different through that whole era of soul music. People were going through the civil rights movement and that was expressed in the music.

They’re talking about racism.

I don’t feel like things have changed much for black people in the West Indies. Things have probably got worse and a few reggae artists reflect that today.

Music has become something different today. It’s much more about just making money.

Too many people are buying crap music - music that’s not positive or expressive. There’s so many ways you can express what you’ve been through, yet the main music right now is pop music. It’s just based on sex and money, stuff we should be talking about, but in a completely different way.

There are so many conscious artists in this country who should be getting heard. I went to an underground hip-hop show last night and I was nearly crying because they were so good. There were these amazing MCs talking about Bush and Blair and Palestine, but in such a clever way.

There are more established artists who will speak out in an interview or support certain campaigns, but you won’t hear that stuff in their music. If you feel so passionately about things why don’t you say that in your songs? For me, it’s part of life, it’s how I feel.

How does music relate to politics?

Music is one of the most powerful creative tools that people have in life. One song can do so much. It can take you through different emotions and it can leave you happy for the rest of the day. Music does have a huge role to play in highlighting things that are wrong in society.

At LMHR gigs we’ve tried to mix different kinds of music, to make sure we have black and white artists performing together. Do you think this is a good thing for the campaign to do?

Having different artists from different backgrounds doing different genres of music together is really important. It’s all about unity, and what better way to symbolise what the campaign’s all about? It’s all about getting a wider understanding of where we’re all coming from.

I feel like LMHR stands for us being united as human beings, and more than anything I feel that young people grow up in a very multicultural world now. Young people are a lot more united than people give us credit for.

Ms Dynamite’s new album Judgement Days will be released on 3 October. For more details about LMHR go to www.lmhr.org.uk


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Sat 30 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1961
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