Finding solace in Rage
Music has always been an integral part of my life. As a kid, I’d bonded with my dad over his Western tunes and <i>luk thung</i> numbers — something that lovingly sticks with me until today.
I can catalogue musical genres to almost every period of my being. Some were hectic and eclectic while some were dominated by certain bands. There are moments that I can break down into songs or albums. When memories flash, I usually have soundtracks to accompany them.
Ever since Thursday evening, I’ve been listening to Rage Against the Machine non-stop.
For anyone who cares enough about music, Rage Against the Machine’s four albums, Rage Against The Machine (1992), Evil Empire (1996), The Battle Of Los Angeles (1999) and Renegades (2000) must somehow have tumultuous places on their downloading shelves.
So for a few days now, I’ve been pouring myself over how great Zack de la Rocha, Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk are. Know Your Enemy is being blasted as I type. Musically speaking, these men are among the greats whose musical adventures translate across time and generations. Harvard graduate Morello is a guitar luminary who combines funk, metal and hip hop sounds together, creating his own sonic world that guitarists after him still look up to. RATM’s music never feels dated, and probably won’t in many years to come.
That was how I first discovered RATM as a weird teenager. It was the music that first captured my rampant imagination, that had me in tears when my mother refused to take me to their concert. Later I thought RATM was just being angry in general, and it was fun to be all angsty while screaming the lyrics out loud. It took a bit more maturity to understand de la Rocha’s pent-up lyrical anger towards shady political manoeuvres, social injustice, court systems, racism, police brutality, capitalism, wars and other poignant issues that every nation faces at one point or another.
Surely, RATM is not the only politically charged band in the world, but there’s something universally relatable about them even when most of their undertakings are extremely American.
I haven’t paid much heed to the political side of their music until the past few years when it has become more and more relevant to my life. Still, I just enjoy chanting “F*** you, I won’t do what you tell me” just for the fun of it.
But the last few days, RATM has become a way out of these political doldrums and social confusion. These days Rage Against The Machine and Evil Empire are constantly playing whether at home, driving or in the office. RATM always has clear culprits that they direct their disapproval towards, but the current murky situation leaves me dumbfounded.
So through RATM at this moment in time, I feel enraged, depressed and, most of all, saddened. But I also feel encouraged.
I’ve just remembered RATM’s spectacular show in front of 80,000 people in 2010. It all began with a small effort by an English couple who wanted to take the No.1 spot on UK chart from the X Factor gang during Christmas in 2009 by pushing RATM’s iconic track Killing In The Name to the top spot by asking people to keep buying the track. And they did, with the band getting behind the campaign. Killing In The Name beat out whatever boring X Factor winner’s track was that year. So RATM decided to throw a free thank-you concert, which accumulated into one of the most memorable live performances of recent years.
So through RATM, I feel a glimpse of hope. If the power of a band, a song and a moment in time can write a new chapter in a hard, cold history, bringing people together and encouraging us to stand against what we don’t believe in, there must be a light, as dimly lit as it is now, at the end of the tunnel.
As RATM says: “How long? Not long, because what you reap is what you sow.” So I am here standing my ground, not losing heart. Ever.
Onsiri Pravattiyagul writes about music and contemporary culture for Life.