lessons from America

Getting Lyrical for Obama

All three inaugural balls I went to showcased different creative talents harnessed in support of Obama and getting him elected. At the Netroots Nation party it was the innovative use of online technology. At the We the People gala, it was the fruits of people’s own handiwork: button design, quilt-making (out of campaign t-shirts) and cake decoration.

At the African Inaugural ball it was the music that was the stand out feature of the night. And especially the Obama-themed performances. Not only did they capture the joy and hope that people at the event were feeling, but some were also great get-down-onto-the-dance-floor numbers too.

The highlight was emma ik agu, with his ‘Obama is the wind of change’ song. You can get a little flavour from the clip I took:

If you want to hear the full version of the song, listen to it below:

Another hit was this woman (a special guest performer whose name I never found out), with her ‘Obama train’ hip-hop.

Nelima of MinneAfrica blog has a round up of some of the other performers and people there.

Incidentally, the song of choice for the TV networks for much of their Inauguration coverage was’s ‘It’s a New Day’. This was his follow up to the iconic ‘Yes We Can’ song, which put Obama’s New Hampshire primary speech to music. ‘It’s a new day’ was released the day after Obama’s election victory, but somehow didn’t seem quite right then and never really took off. To me it wasn’t euphoric and upbeat enough for that moment back in November, but on inauguration day its tone and message seemed a much better fit. I heard it many times last week, so I’m guessing other people thought so too.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Young Turks

What do you do if you are a bunch of high-spirited youths in DC at midnight, on the eve of the inauguration? The answer seems to be lead Obama chants, if the guys I met on the metro were anything to go by. They were working the small(ish) crowd waiting for the metro at Clarendon station.

Then they moved on to the train and continued in a similar vein for a while.

It did get me thinking how lyrical and good for chanting Barack Obama’s name is. A satisfying number of syllables and mouth shapes. Somehow “Gordon … Brown” doesn’t have the same melody to it. If you were being cruel, you might say that the flat solid sound is quite appropriate. Hey it almost reminds me of a clunking fist! I think David Cameron fares a little better, as there is more to intone there. Then perhaps it doesn’t matter for either man, as the chances of any but their most faithful supporters coping US traditions and chanting their name in a positive way is fairly slim.

On a more serious note, one of the guys on the metro was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “The Young Turks”


I asked him what it meant and he said it was promoting (as the blurb on their website goes) “the first nationwide liberal talk show and first live, daily internet TV news show”. Intriguingly, the wikipedia entry about The Young Turks says “The Young Turks is sometimes credited with bringing media attention and support to upstart politicians, especially in Congress. Notable examples include Congressmen Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, Eric Massa of New York, Larry Kissell of North Carolina, and Tom Periello of Virginia.” I have no first-hand knowledge of the site or show, so can’t verify that claim. But that is the kind of role that blogs and online communities play so much more in the States than they do here. I would be keen to see similar initiatives in the UK; with people championing less well known progressive candidates and helping to boost their profile and credibility through personal recommendations, online ‘air time’ and other ways of supporting their efforts.

January 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment