Return of the Radical Rhythms
By Tim McSorley
Old activists die hard, and old musicians die harder. So it may have only been a matter of time before rock ‘n’ roll cabaret and rebel orchestra Rhythm Activism got back together. Started in the mid-1980s by Norman Nawrocki and Sylvain Côté, the band returned for a two night engagement at this year’s Suoni Per Il Popolo music festival.
Known for both their radical politics and their frenetic and creative showmanship, they began producing community cabarets that eventually became a 50 person musical circus exploring the roots of poverty.
With albums like Jesus Was Gay, Blood & Mud, Louis Riel in China and Perogies, Pasta and Liberty, Rhythm Activism was no slouch in the studio either, producing over 40 releases in their ten year existence.
Never to be pigeon-holed in a style, they alternated from folk-punk to European swing and Latin-tinged rock. The goal was always to surprise, but also to remain engaging. "One of the beauties of the band was that we could perform for a crowd of punks [...] but at the same time we could play at a poetry festival or a theatre festival because the music was theatrical," says Norman Nawrocki. "If you just do the same tired old thing walking in circles with a picket sign in your hand outside somebody’s office, screaming in a megaphone, you don’t accomplish much."
Visit Rhythm Activism's site to hear clips from their albums.
-with files from Brendan K. Edwards