TOKION SONG BOOK #4:”Wildfires” by Sault resonates with the BLM movement and strongly promotes a fair world

You can get most of the information you want by searching with one hand on your smartphone. In such an internet society, controlling information and being a mysterious person will be beneficial to the artist who sends the message. Gilles Peterson played their song on his own radio show in the name of Marvin Gaye. What’s the message they have? Ryoichi Niimoto, a writer living in New York, analyzing the lyrics and show us the relevance to the BLM movement.

It’s just less than a year. Large-scale events and incidents that seemed to swallow not only here in the United States but all over the world occurred in quick succession. Needless to say, corona infection is one of them. Furthermore, the fluctuation of democracy due to political distrust, which is symbolized by the attack on the United States Capitol in the capital Washington earlier this year, can be seen everywhere not only in the United States but also in the international community. And the main theme of this article,Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The murder of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis, a city in the western part of the United States in May 2020, was shocked to the world as soon as the images taken by people in the vicinity were broadcast on the Internet.This “Killing of George Floyd” named after the victims, drew attention to other racist victims and led to protests throughout the country calling for a radical reform of the police force.

The BLM movement, which had been recognized in American society before that, accelerated its momentum when the state of the protest movement was reported through the mass media and SNS. What I was interested in was the widespread support for the BLM movement in Japan on social media and other media.No matter how much the police are in the position of a non-resisting person, it is not an act that should be allowed to use violence to the point of death. The idea certainly feels convincing.

The idea that non-resisting humans should not be allowed to use deadly violence, no matter how much the police, is certainly convincing. However, there are not many black people living in Japan compared to the big cities in the United States where black communities are formed like New York.

Why did the Japanese feel more like me in a situation where I don’t have many opportunities to interact with black people on a daily basis? It’s not only Japanese. Did the vast majority of people outside the United States think of the black Americans without knowing that it was just a fire on the opposite shore.I was personally interested in this phenomenon.

Raising a doubt over racism in our society

In 2020, which can be said to be such a turbulent year, a band called Sault from England suddenly appeared like a gale with the album “UNTITLED (Black Is)”.

I never heard of the band name before,The band and their works highly acclaimed with many music media, including the personally trusted US radio station NPR, which was selected as the top of the best album of the year.

When I tried to find out about this band on the internet, such as membership and career, I couldn’t get much information, and the only thing I found was that it was a black soul group. However, it can be said that their anonymous approach, which does not reveal their identity, conversely enhances their interest in music.

Unlike the pop star performances and songs that everyone knows on spectacular stages and huge arenas, mixed-gender, sometimes whispering, and sometimes screaming voices have an affinity as if they were right there. Each song on the album has a message, and it still appeals for justice that denies racial discrimination in our society. Among them, their popular song “Wildfires” has plain lyrics, but it also has an appealing power that moves the listener’s heart.

Thief in the night
Tell the truth
White lives
Spreading lies
You should be ashamed
The bloodshed on your hands
Another man
Take off your badge
We all know it was murder
Murder, murder
We are dying, it’s the reason we are crying
We are crying
But we will never show fear
Even in my eyes
I will always rise
In wildfires
I ain’t never been scared
Even through my tears
I will always care
In wildfires
(Lyric from Wildfires by Sault)

The first phrase “Thief in the night” is a quote from the Bible and it is secret language said to mean “unpredictable”. It touches on the absurd daily life and social system of being treated unfairly by the color of the skin, that is, by nature, one does not know when a disaster will strike oneself.Then, what is the disaster is the police power that follows.As mentioned earlier, when George Floyd was detained in Minneapolis, a white policeman suffocated him with his knees on his neck, lying on the ground and immobile.Another case in Louisville, Kentucky, is Breonna Taylor, a black woman who died after being shot by several innocent police officers. There are too many similar incidents have occurred in recent years.

“Take off your badge” this shows police who use violence for excessive investigation and detention just because they are black.

Is such a person eligible to call himself the police who should keep the community safe? In the legal arena where fair judgment should be made, the current situation in which such false police power is not guilty and is still left unchecked is summarized in the word “Spreading lies” in the lyrics.

Bravely confront a stereotypical perspective

However, no matter how unfairly treated or discriminated against, they do not despair and try to reach society and the world.

That attitude unfolds in the second half of the song. It makes me feel the courage to confront the stereotypical view of race, ethnicity, religion and so on.This is the response to the present era, and should have gained support from home and abroad. It could also be defined as “soul resistance”.

On the other hand,Coronavirus has caused many casualties in various parts of the world, and the days of agony continue to today.

When politicians and the mass media take up this, they often use numbers. Systems that can be incorporated into a group of deceased people and tailored to one of them will be found elsewhere in modern society, where information data is important.

A society in which the existence of individuals is poorly treated, buried, and erased, such as prejudice against race and grouping by numbers.Resolutely resist this situation. It gives power to this song and shakes the hearts of listeners who long for a society where individuals are respected.

Text Niimoto Ryoichi
Illustration Masatoo Hirano
Edit & Translation Sumire Taya

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Ryoichi Niimoto

Born in Kobe in 1959. Writer. He moved to New York in 1984 and lived for 22 years. After returning to Japan, after working as a full-time faculty member at Kyoto University of Art and Design, moved to New York at the end of 2016. “Reading “New Yorker”” is being serialized in the Japanese edition of “WIRED”. The main author is “Looking for that sky” (Bungei Shunju).Currently Lives in Brooklyn.