Ed. note: As long as humans have been making music, it’s been used as a form of protest. As part of KQED Arts’ 100 Days project, documenting artists’ responses to our new administration in its earliest days, I’ve asked Bay Area musicians to get in touch with songs they’ve written or recorded that serve as reactions to our current political climate. Over the next couple months, I’ll be highlighting the most compelling entries I receive, along with a few words from the artist about their inspirations and intentions.
In the tense, color-coded-alert-level months following 9/11, the refrain "freedom isn't free" carried with it a jumbled grab-bag of pride and propaganda: The belief that Americans should naturally surrender some privacy and civil liberties in order to be better protected by our government. The idea that going to war in far-off countries is a necessary measure to preserve stability at home.
A decade and a half later, the word "freedom" is no less loaded, as the United States grapples with a shifting geopolitical position and the promise of increased defense spending under an isolationist president who wants only to "make America great again."
For L.A. four-piece Chicano Batman, it seems, it was time to take the word back. "Because of the ascendance of capitalism as a dominant form of cultural exchange, freedom -- however you choose to define it -- has been commodified like any other product," wrote singer Bardo Martinez in a statement that accompanied the release of "Freedom Is Free," the lead single on a new LP by the same name.