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Pussy Riot aim at US police in first English song

20 february 2015, 12:31
0
Pussy Riot. ©AFP
Pussy Riot. ©AFP

 Pussy Riot, the Russian band jailed after mocking the Kremlin, has released a first English-language song that takes aim not at Vladimir Putin but at US police brutality, AFP reports.

The feminist punk group, which enjoyed considerable support in the United States when on trial in Russia, dedicated the song to Eric Garner -- whose death at the hands of New York police triggered major protests.

The song is entitled "I Can't Breathe" -- a reference to Garner's final words as an officer put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

"It's getting dark in New York City... I need to catch my breath," runs the song's refrain. The guitar builds into an aggressive swirl as US punk icon Richard Hell recites Garner's final words, ending with his repeated phrase, "I Can't Breathe."

Pussy Riot said it saw a connection between the death of Garner -- one of a number of unarmed African Americans whose recent killings by police have triggered outrage -- and the strong-armed impulses of Putin.

"This song is for Eric and for all those from Russia to America and around the globe who suffer from state terror -- killed, choked, perished because of war and state-sponsored violence of all kinds," Pussy Riot wrote in a dedication message.

The song is "for political prisoners and those on the streets fighting for change. We stand in solidarity."

   Still aiming at Russia, too 

 The accompanying video does not shy away from Russian politics. Pussy Riot -- now a duo of the formerly imprisoned Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- are seen in Russian police uniforms as they are buried alive.

The start of the video shows a pack of "Russian Spring" cigarettes on the ground -- a reference to what Pussy Riot described as the movement to support "Russia's aggressive militant actions in Ukraine."

An alternative video features scenes of rallies in support of Garner filmed late last year in New York, where Pussy Riot recorded its new song.

The song is noticeably more advanced than the blaring guitar tunes that brought Pussy Riot to notoriety. The duo recorded the song with Andrew Wyatt, a producer and vocalist for Miike Snow, as well as Nick Zinner, guitarist for leading New York indie rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Pussy Riot members were arrested in early 2012 for performing a "punk prayer" against Putin in Moscow's Orthodox cathedral. The band has criticized the church's ties with Putin as well as its opposition to gay rights.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were jailed for hooliganism and released in late 2013. They have since been estranged from less prominent members of the group.

Since release from jail, the members of Pussy Riot have been les in the news but have sought to use their celebrity to push forward their cause.

The band was the topic of a documentary film and recently joined other musicians in a show of support for demonstrators in Hong Kong who have been rallying for more autonomy from Beijing.

Hell, who retired from music decades ago, said that he agreed to recite Garner's words after an appeal from Pussy Riot.

"It felt weird to speak the words of a black man killed by the police, when I'm this privileged white guy," Hell told the music site Pitchfork.

"At the same time, I believe in Pussy Riot," he said.


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