In this final episode of The Liberation Day Tapes we take on Jihad Seeds, the second song on RICANSTRUCTION‘s album Liberation Day. Although Liberation Day was a concept album centered on the Puerto Rican liberation struggle, Jihad Seeds didn’t directly or overtly relate to the Puerto Rican liberation struggle. A few of the songs on the album didn’t directly associate to the struggle for Puerto Rican liberation (both on the island and in the diaspora) but they all held a kind of indirect association to that struggle. Jihad Seeds was no different.
The word Jihad in Arabic or Muslim circles is a much more complex and nuanced word than it’s narrow western definition of simply meaning “Holy War”. The word Jihad in Arabic and among Muslim’s means “to struggle” or “to strive” or “to exert” or “to fight”. In the Holy Quran the Prophet Mohammad describes the military struggle to defend Islam as “jihad” but he goes on to explain that this physical struggle, this “holy war” is “the little jihad”. The Prophet Mohammed in the Quran also makes the distinction that the internal spiritual struggle with oneself to remain righteous was the greater struggle – “the great jihad”.
i think that RICANSTRUCTION’s Jihad Seeds is using both “the little jihad” of the “holy war” and “the great jihad” of the spiritual struggle and exploring how the two can be interrelated. The nature of that interrelation between “the little jihad” of fighting for the independence of Puerto Rico juxtaposed against “the great jihad” of the internal struggle to decolonize ones mind, body and spirit was something that fit perfectly into the themes i was struggling to express in MACHETERO.
In this episode of The Liberation Day Tapes, Los Bros. Rodriguez, Arturo and Joseph the bass player and drummer of NYC based Hardcore Punk band RICANSTRUCTION and two-thirds of the writing team of the band talk about how the song Shithouse Serenades came about. Shithouse Serenades is a song that takes all the negativity of being one fo the oppressed and inverts it into a righteous revenge. The song was featured on the debut album Liberation Day originally released in 1998 by CBGB Records. i used RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day album as a source of inspiration when writing the script of MACHETERO and the songs found their way into the film. The songs act as a kind of Modern Day Greek Chorus adding another layer of narration to the film. Shithouse Serenades was one of the songs from Liberation Day that was incorporated into MACHETERO. The scene that follows the interview with the Los Bros. Rodriguez is from MACHETERO.
MACHETERO opens in New York City for a one week limited theatrical run.
WED. JUNE 12TH – TUES JUNE 19TH CLEMENTE SOTO VELEZ KABAYITO’S THEATER (2ND FLOOR) 107 SUFFOLK STREET NY NY 10002 (BTWN RIVINGTON & DELANCEY)
TICKETS $10 http://machetero.bpt.me SCREENING TIMES • 1PM • 3PM • 5PM • 7PM • 9PM F Train to Delancey Street or J , M , or Z Trains to Essex Street. Walk to Suffolk Street, make a left.
MACHETERO features several songs from the album Liberation Day by RICANSTRUCTION. The Liberation Day album was a concept album centered on the liberation struggle of Puerto Rico. While writing the script I listened to Liberation Day and found the songs influencing the narrative and the way in which the film could be structured.
Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez are the song writers (along with singer Not4Prophet), drummer and bass player for RICANSTRUCTION. When we were doing the final mix for MACHETERO Arturo and Joseph came by to talk about the how the songs for Liberation Day came together. In this segment they talk about the song DREAM IN PORTO RICAN…
Dream In Porto Rican is the prelude to MACHETERO. It opens the film. Dream in Porto Rican, is a list of demands and desires for a better future. It’s a declaration for freedom from the ills of a colonial mentality and immediately set the tone for the film. The images of the films prelude opens with the Young Rebel cutting his own hair to Dream In Porto Rican. The cutting of hair is symbolic of re-birth while the song is a declaration of independence.
The genome of my film MACHETERO can be mapped right back to the NYC hardcore Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION and their first album Liberation Day. When i write i often build a soundtrack to use as an emotional roadmap to guide me through the construction of the script. i often see songs as short stories or reinterpret them as short stories and i take those short stories and try to include them in my writing process.
MACHETERO is a film about terrorism and terrorists and how those terms are defined and by whom. The script was written a year after the terrorist events of September 11, 2001. i was waiting for a more nuanced analysis of those events to take place on a larger scale but they never did and so i wrote the script for MACHETERO and decided to explore those issues in a film. The terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 were polarizing and so referencing them in the script seemed counterproductive so i decided to use the struggle for Puerto Rico’s independence and the use of violence in that struggle as a means of liberation to talk about terrorism and terrorists.
RICANSTRUCTION’s Liberation Day was a concept album based around the Puerto Rican independence struggle. So when i was looking for music to inspire my scriptwriting for MACHETERO i was immediately drawn to Liberation Day. The songs from Liberation Day started to insinuate themselves into the script and they eventually became a part of the structure of the film.
At the end of the final mix for MACHETERO my friend and fellow filmmaker Omar came by and brought his camera to interview Arturo and Joseph Rodriguez about how Liberation Day came into being. Artie and Joey talk about how RICANSTRUCTION came about and how the concept for Liberation Day took shape. In this segment they talk specifically about the song Liberation Day which is a probably the first Hardcore Punk Merengue ever created and recorded. After the interview there is the scene from MACHETERO that used the song Liberation Day.
On April 4th 1980, Elizam Escobar, Ricardo Jiminez, Dylcia Noemi Pagan, Carmen Valentin, Adolfo Matos, Alfredo Mendez, Alicia Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Maria Hayde Torres, Carlos Alberto Torres, and Ida Luz Rodriguez were arrested in Evanston Illinois. They were all members of the clandestine Puerto Rican organization Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional or the Armed Forces of National Liberation. The FALN were an armed underground organization that were dedicated to ending US colonialism in Puerto Rico by any means necessary.
The FALN considered itself to be at war with the US government and didn’t recognize the US government as having any legitimate power over Puerto Rico. When they were arrested they took a ‘prisoner of war’ status as per the Geneva Convention and refused to participate in their trials outside of an opening statement declaring that they were captured combatants in an anti-colonial war and according to UN regulations were within their rights to achieve liberation in whatever means they chose. Only Alfredo Mendez eventually cooperated with the US government for a reduced sentence and induction into a witness protection program. The other members of the FALN did twenty years in prison except for Carlos Alberto Torres who did thirty years. They were all freed after an international campaign led by Puerto Ricans pressured the US government to commute their sentences.
There is still one member of the FALN who is languishing in prison and his name is Oscar Lopez Rivera. He’s been in prison since May 29th of 1981. Oscar is 70 years old, and there’s an ongoing campaign to free him. To learn more about Oscar check out his new book put out by PM Press, Between Torture And Resistance.
There are more than a few links between what happened on April 4th with those captured FALN combatants and my film MACHETERO. Dylcia Pagan, who was among those who were captured on April 4th, is one of the lead characters in the film. The film’s other lead character Pedro Taino is an amalgamation of two currently held US political prisoners Oscar Lopez Rivera and Black Unity Council member and Black Liberation Army soldier Russell Maroon Shoatz. (Check out the 11 part documentary web series ‘An Ongoing Cost To Be Free’ on Maoon that i recently did.) i chose to use this day, April 4th, to launch a new weekly web series on the songs that were used in MACHETERO that came from the NYC based Puerto Rican punk band RICANSTRUCTION. The web series kicks off this week with Breakfast In Amerika because it’s April 4th and that song is relevant to this day…
While writing the script for my film MACHETERO, i played RICANSTRUCTION’s 1st album Liberation Day for inspiration. As I went through the writing process the songs started to spill over into the script and seep into the very structure of the film. In a way it made sense that this would happen, Liberation Day was a concept album about Puerto Rico’s violent struggle for independence. MACHETERO was turning out to be the same thing shaped in part by the songs from the album.
MACHETERO’s narrative was literally shaped by Liberation Day. The songs are like a modern day Greek chorus that add another level of narration to the film. A level of narration that brings a macro perspective to the film. Breakfast in Amerika was the 8th track on Liberation Day. The first half of the song talks about the how US political dissidents quickly become US held political prisoners. The history of US political dissidents to US political prisoners is more common than you’d care to think. The Black Panther Party, the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, the American Indian Movement, the FALN and many others can attest to this dynamic. Breakfast In Amerika captured this dynamic…
Soldiers sectioned off the street while I was sleeping
something ‘bout the company that I was keeping
crashing throughout the bedroom door one early morning
mashing me onto the floor without a warning
sons of bitches wanted I to give ‘em an answer
meddlers were to my surprise government gangsters
didn’t they know that I was sleeping?
Barrio in barricades without a reason
rounded up in midnight raids and shot for treason
mothers, daughters, fathers, sons placed in detention
bullets beating torture guns to cruel to mention
Sons of bitches wanted I
to tell them my mission
jury declared that I should die
for sedition didn’t they know that I was just sleeping
The second part of the song is a call and response for Latin American nations to awaken. The call and response comes from Africa and it’s been incorporated into Puerto Rican music. Breakfast In Amerika is essentially a Salsa with distorted guitars. Joseph Rodriguez and Arturo Rodriguez talk about the ideas they were trying to incorporate in Breakfast In Amerika in the video below. Following the interview i did with them is the scene from MACHETERO that incorporated Breakfast In Amerika. The scene is of one of the lead characters Pedro Taino (played by Not4Prophet lead singer of RICANSTRUCTION and author of the lyrics to Breakfast In Amerika) getting arrested in the small hours of the morning. The song was a kind of ode on a certain level to political prisoners and the scene in MACHETERO is a reflection of that… Check it out…
“People say they don’t care about politics, they’re not involved or don’t get involved, but they are. Their involvement just masquerades as indifference or inattention. It is the silent acquiescence of the millions that supports the system. When you don’t oppose a system, you silence becomes your approval, for it does nothing to interrupt the system. People use all sorts of excuses for their indifference. They even appeal to God as shorthand route for supporting the status quo. They talk about law and order. But look at the system, look at the present social “order” of society. Do you see God? Do you see law and order? There is nothing but disorder, and instead of law there is the illusion of security. It is an illusion because it is built on a long history of injustices: racism, criminality, and the enslavement and genocide of millions. Many people say it is insane to resist the system, but actually it is insane not to.” – Mumia Abu Jamal
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award winning journalist who spent 29 years of his life on death row for the murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. It’s a crime Mumia didn’t commit. Mumia was a journalist who used his journalism as a voice for the downtrodden and the oppressed, for those without a voice. And the real reason that Mumia was framed for the murder of Daniel Faulkner is because those in power, those who do the oppressing needed to find a way to silence him. It’s been difficult silencing Mumia. People all over the world speak on his behalf. People like Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Danny Glover, TalibKwali, Mos Def, Dead Prez, Chuck D Angela Davis, Ward Churchill, the European Parliament, Amnesty International, the NAACP, the Black Caucus of the US Congress, and millions of other people who have fought and continue to fight for Mumia. Those who want Mumia silent have even found it difficult to silence Mumia himself. He has continued to be a journalist from prison, writing articles and recording commentaries on current events.
In December the movement to free Mumia garnered a victory over the state of Pennsylvania which chose not to seek the death penalty but wants Mumia in prison for the rest of his life. Although Mumia’s life no longer hangs in the balance his freedom is something that we still need to work towards. To join in that campaign and to see what you can do visit www.freemumia.com.
Today is Mumia’s birthday. He is 58 years old. In 1995 the NYC based Puerto Rican Hardcore Punk, Reggae, Be-bop, Salsa, Hip-hop band RICANSTRUCTION wrote a protest song for Mumia. It’s called Abu Jamal… the song was released as a single from their first album Liberation Day. Abu Jamal also features three other tracks only available on the Abu Jamal single EP – Slavery Daze, Asesino (Assassin) and a blistering rendition of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit… Do you see a connection between these songs? Abu Jamal, Asesino (Assassin), Slavery Daze and Strange Fruit? If you don’t you aren’t looking…
freedom’s bound in the underground in his martyr’s rags and thorny crown
in the stinking hell of a death row cell
where the loudest voice never makes a sound
and he waking indecision in a pennsylvania prison
and he wailing through the silence
where corruption speaks throughout the tongue of violence
Mumia Abu Jamal come to you alive from death row
freedom sits on the precipice as injustice chews and dishonor spits
in the rotting shell of the liberty bell
where the law consumes and his honor shits
still the voiceless scream stop it
never kill another prophet
pick your choice of constitution
you can die this way or begin revolution
i’m working on a new short film called PAWNSHOP DREAM. It’s a short comedy about where colonialism and capitalism meet. In the film a young girl wants to buy a box of sand in a pawnshop. The pawnshop owner won’t tell her price but asks her how much money she has. The girl gives him the mine and the pawnshop owner puts the box of sand on layaway. The girl keeps coming back for years paying the layaway for the box of sand but the pawnshop owner won’t tell her how far she has to go. The young girl grows to be a woman and is still paying the layaway. She grows into an older woman who finally has had enough of the abuse and decides to do something about it.
What i needed was a heavy funky track for the exteriors as the young girl, the woman and the older woman walk through their neighborhood to the pawnshop, so i asked Arturo Rodriguez and Joseph Rodriguez of RICANSTRUCTION to work something out for me. They came up with this track. It was recorded in one take with DJ Johnny Juice of Public Enemy at Terrordome Studios where Public Enemy records.
Earlier when Arturo and Joseph were warming up i was joking that the stuff sounded like Lunchroom Beats… Lunchroom Beats were funky beats that people pounded out on lunchroom tables while someone rhymed over them… The track Artruo and Joseph recorded was just so hard, heavy and funky that i had to christen the track Lunchroom Beats Vol. 1 and it was so funky Juice just had to bust a move… as he reminisced.
And my pit bull Mya is of course the studio manager who made sure everyone stayed in line while we had a good time…