“Materiale Resistente 1945-1995” and “Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018”. It’s time for a new Resistance
The times are back. The times are the same. Two records. These are records for these times.
In April 1995, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Italy from fascism, the Consorzio Produttori Indipendenti, one of the best realities ever expressed by Italian independent music, published this record: “Materiale Resistente 1945-1995”, a collection of songs of various Italian artists. The album contains a series of partisan songs reinterpreted by various contemporary groups, alongside new songs, always inspired by the theme of the Italian Resistance. The collection is part of a project conceived starting from a request by the Municipality of Correggio to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Liberation Day with the intention of ideally uniting two generations, the rock generation and the partisans, who would hardly have met in a day of ritual celebrations. In addition to the music CD, a book and a documentary were produced and published and on 25 April 1995 a concert was organized in the countryside around Correggio, near the places where the partisan groups had fought.
This record is basically a collection of covers of songs of the Resistance. Partisan music, songs of heroic gestures, of peasants who became warriors then, almost by chance, heroes, “martyrs”, songs that punctuated the rhythms of survival in the icy nights of the Apennines or in the barns of fugitive houses. Material that in 1995 challenged the corrosion of half a century and above all the enemy number one of nostalgic memories, of banal rhetoric, of the cyclical celebration, of fifty-year emphasis. Material that was useful to me, I was 26 years old, both to get closer to the partisan story and to the liberation struggle fought in my country at the end of the Second World War, and to get an overview of Italian independent rock.
Even the historical moment was special, with the right wing reviving under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi and the left wing floundering in search of an identity after the end of the Berlin wall and the end of Soviet certainties.
Then let’s jump 23 years. On September 14, 2018, the great guitarist Marc Ribot publishes via ANTI-Records, his new album “Songs Of Resistance 1942-2018”, a record with political themes containing 11 tracks, including covers and original songs, and which boasts the collaborations of – among others – Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Fay Victor and Tift Merritt. It’s good to remember that Ribot is one of the most versatile guitarists ever seen. His skills allow him to move from John Zorn’s klezmer music, to the most difficult avant-garde’s forms, to Tom Waits’s sideral blues, all while maintaining his identity, his style and his sound.
In 2018 this work arrives, dedicated to political songs that takes up the theme of the Resistance. From the “Materiale Resistente” we switched to the “Songs of Resistance”. 23 years have passed and the times have changed but the situations are not that much, in fact if possible they have worsened. If the collection of “Materiale Resistente” still had a commemorative purpose and represented a sort of historical tribute revisited in the form of a new rock, the “Songs of Resistance” by Newark’s guitarist have characteristics much more contextualized to the current reality. Plus we have a target here: Mr. Trump.
The US President certainly doesn’t fit into Ribot’s sympathies and almost the whole project seems to be contextualized around his arrogant figure. Ribot’s record is more political, in the direct sense of the word. Even the version of “Bella Ciao” sung by Tom Waits goes in this direction. Waits’ cavernous and gloomy voice transforms it into a slowly drawn blues, far from the collective version, from the community outpouring to which we are accustomed. It becomes a reflection, an intimate lamentation. A bitter consideration of the difficult times we live. Times that require Resistance again.
The era of pushed communication has not only given each of us our “deserved” 15 minutes of fame, but has also projected every single detail of our lives on a political level characterized by an invisible and often devious complexity. Between these two records there are 23 years. And in these 23 years everything has happened. The merits of Marc Ribot, in addition to the artistic ones, are those of having brought attention to the music linked to every form of political resistance in an era in which the songs, the sound and their emotional extensions seem to have been watered down as well and trivial entertainment for distracted smartphone owners. With “Songs of Resistance” the music returns to have an explicit political meaning.