News Bites

What does protest music look like in 2017? 

When we think of protest music, images of the radical American 1960s come to mind, with the sexual revolution and anti-war rhetoric that was sweeping the continent. But it's been more than five decades since that period and while the words of Woody Guthrie, Buffy Saint Marie, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix will always remain powerful calls, they were written about a time and place that is not what the world is today.

Protest music is inherently contextual, meaning it is rooted in the time, place and communities in which it was created. Protest music is a response to what is going on in the moment. And right now, with the rise of populism and fascism, the ever-widening gap between the rich 1% and the other 99%, and the continued degradation to our natural environment, the need for music of resistance is just as strong as ever.

But what does it look like today? Protest songs have their roots in folk and blues music, but we're lucky to live in a time with such a wide array of genres within which protest music lives. Hip-hop and rap were born from resistance music and artists like MissingLinx continue that tradition; electronica, such as with DJ Shub, is challenging the status quo through absolutely brilliant blending of sounds and tradition, and spoken word, which has exploded in the past decade with artists such as Yes and Denise Frohman, takes the visceral passion of protest and puts it to a poetic beat.

We also have the classic folk/blues/country genres being represented, with breakthrough artists like Leonard Sumner and NEFE creating a new vibe and generation, whilst standing proud against those who helped shape the genre, like Sarah Harmer and Billy Bragg.

So what does protest music look like in 2017? It looks like the absolute best blend of tradition and change, of classic and fresh. It is disruptive and subversive. It is the celebration of voices from all walks of life and from all types of people.

It looks like the voice of change. It looks like the future.


Leonard Sumner is an Anishnaabe singer who was on the forefront of #IdleNoMore and who confronts traditional heirarchies through his music.


Billy Bragg is one of the legends of protest music. Joe Henry joins him for an exploration of communities across geography and the ties that bind and divide. 


One of the strongest voices of her generation, Sarah Harmer infuses social justice into all of her music, from her environmental passion to human rights. 


The Jerry Cans hail from Nunavut and strive to bring the power of the North wherever they go, infusing traditional Inuit music and themes with a contemporary feel. 


One of the founding members of A Tribe Called Red, DJ Shub is brilliant in his solo work. He actively challenges the white Eurocentrism of the Canadian identity and tirelessly works for the Indigenous community.


Up-and-comer NEFE challenges the harmful socializations surrounding gender, sexuality, and race for today's internet generation.


William Prince is an award-winning performer from the Peguis First Nation. He will forever change your appreciation of music. He has the kind of voice that only comes around once in a generation and it will move you to tears.


Lindy Vopnfjörd uses his gifts as a storyteller to share true stories of resistance from around the world, such as escaping political dissidents in Korea and imprisoned activists in India. 


Denice Frohman is an award-winning poet who has performed across the world, including for President Obama. She uses her platform to challenge race, gender, and sexuality. 


This hiphop crew, MissingLinX has roots all over the world and they use energetic beats to explores topics of freedom, justice, redemption and love.


Yes is a queer feminist and migrant based in Toronto. She believes in the destruction of the heteropatriarchy, borders, and the police state, which can be seen throughout her work.


The children of Mexican immigrants, Las Cafeteras  optimistically challenge ideas of nationalism, race, and borders in today's globalized world

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