The Haunting “I Cannot Recall (Ballad of Manus Island)”

by Kevin Jon Heller

Not surprisingly given where I perch on the political spectrum, I love protest songs. One of my favourite jogging playlists is a disparate collection of classics — Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” Country Joe and the Fish’s “I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag,” Paul Revere and the Raiders’ “Indian Reservation,” Phil Och’s “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” (the greatest anti-war song ever), and a bunch of others.

I’ve now added a new song to my playlist: Peter Joseph Head’s “I Cannot Recall (Ballad of Manus Island),” a very unusual jazz/spoken-word hybrid about Australia’s horrific detention centre in Papua New Guinea. Manus Island has been much in the news lately, because the refugees detained there have gone on a hunger strike — and tried to kill themselves by swallowing razor blades and laundry detergent — to protest their confinement and living conditions. Here is the YouTube video; the spoken words seem to be based on the transcript of a lawsuit involving the detention centre:

You can read about the Melbourne-based Head here, and you can find a higher-quality recording of the song here. I’ve embedded the YouTube video so readers can see images of Manus Island.

Listen. Read. Learn.

Protest.

H/T: Bianca Dillon.

http://opiniojuris.org/2015/01/22/haunting-cannot-recall-ballad-manus-island/

2 Responses

  1. Thank you.

    One of my former teachers, Richard (‘Dick’) Flacks, who was among the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and is now professor emeritus (sociology), is an authority on protest music (especially its folk variant). Flacks co-authored, with Rob Rosenthal, Playing for Change: Music and Musicians in the Service of Social Movements (Paradigm Publishers, 2012), should anyone be interested.

  2. Thank you.

    Richard (Dick) Flacks, one of my former teachers, among the founders of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), lifelong Left activist, and now professor emeritus (sociology), has co-authored, with Rob Rosenthal (one of Dick’s former students and also a professor of sociology, at Wesleyan University), a book that may interest some of you: Playing for Change: Music and Musicians in the Service of Social Movements (Paradigm Publishers, 2012). Dick, by my lights (and ears!), is an authority on protest music (especially of the folk kind). Coincidentally, the latest issue of the venerable (for some of us at least) Socialist Review is dedicated to the life and music of Pete Seeger: January 2015 (Volume 66, Number 8). See here: http://monthlyreview.org/

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