A prominent critic once called the Clash “the only band that mattered,” a comment that went beyond appreciation of the band’s punk sound and acknowledged its radical political outlook.
Today’s solipsistic punk couldn’t be farther from that ideal if it were being sung by Pat Boone, but in Europe the legacy of 70s British punk lives on in the aggressively political songs of the Basque singer Fermin Muguruza and the Spanish polymath Manu Chao.
In Europe, punk is still edgy, and the best places to see it are “social centers,” abandoned buildings that, thanks to Europe’s relatively lax property laws, have been appropriated by radical community groups for the purposes of populist entertainment and political activism. It is in these nonprofit, anticapitalist venues that the antiglobalization movement has developed since the late ’70s, and where Banda Bassotti, Italy’s most popular rock collective, made its reputation. Named after a football team and containing as many members on a given night, BB was formed on the outskirts of Rome back in 1981 as an organization that raised money to help the socially disenfranchised. Only later did it become a music group.
Last summer, when they closed out the Fuji Rock Festival, Banda Bassotti demonstrated why it typically attracts audiences in the thousands back home. Combining martial rock ‘n ska with a traditional Mediterranean folk sensibility, BB’s songs are custom-made for both pogoing and mass singalongs.
Their latest CD, “Asi es me vida (This is My Life),” is an album of covers with a difference. Adapting its punkish musical agenda to classic leftist poetry and featuring songs of repression from every corner of the world (Nicaragua, Ireland, Palestine) and every 20th-century crisis (the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil War, the Pinochet terror), BB has produced an overview of the worldwide struggle for human dignity, set to a joyful, triumphant beat.
See them live. You have nothing to lose but your solipsism.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.