Election Day global hit

The World

“Rock the Vote” started 18 years ago. The group’s aim was to get first-time voters excited about going to the polls. But even before that, musicians had been urging listeners to get politically active. Not surprisingly, today’s election got us thinking about “rock the vote” songs around the world. The World’s Marco Werman was just at a music conference in Spain. While there, he polled some artists about songs that got people to the polls in THEIR countries.

In Kenya, the best known rock-the-vote tune came in 2002. Then corrupt head-of-state Daniel Arap Moi was reluctantly stepping down. The song is called “Unbwogable” which means unshakeable. Kenyan singer Suzanna Owiyo says the tune was a success for a pair of hot rappers from her country.

�Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, it’s a hip hop group and this was quite a hit. Because it came in at a point where the Kenyan people were saying “enough is enough, we are tired, we don’t want former president Moi,” nobody wanted him. So, this song came up, and everybody was singing to this song Unbwogable.�

I asked South African rapper Tumi Molekane, of the South African band Tumi and the Volume what song would inspire him to get out and vote.

The song “Mandela” there by Hugh Masekela. Now, spin back pre-Rock-the-Vote era, and there are all sorts of get-politically-active pop songs. There’s John Lennon’s “Power to the People.” There’s “Mercy Mercy Me (the Ecology)” by Marvin Gaye. And in Germany, the same year Marvin Gaye’s tune came out — 1971 — there was this…

That’s German rock quartet Ton Steine Scherben and their angry ode titled “Macht kaputt was euch kaputt macht.” German global rockers Dissidenten interpreted the song for me.

It’s certainly started in Colombia. Especially among the young who are hearing songs that are about changing the system. Here’s Colombian percussionist Juan David Fernandez on the tune “Bam,” the current hot single by the Bogota-based Doctor Krapula.

It talks a lot about all the people with the bam gets everybody away, and…

MW: The bam is the gun?

JDF: Yeah, it represents that. Why don’t they go? SO there are many bands that touch that issue.

Bam is not just a symbol of a gun. It’s a symbol of any power. The song’s a call to action, letting people know they have the power to change things peacefully if they want.

In other words, the trigger to pull is a voting lever.

For The World, I’m Marco Werman.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.