Who Bombed Judi Bari? and Mumia Abu-Jamal: Spoken Word with Music by Man Is The Bastard
Judi Bari, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Man Is The Bastard
Reviewed by Megan Shaw
Thursday, July 30 1998, 2:21 PM
Who Bombed Judi Bari? and Mumia Abu-Jamal: Spoken Word with music by Man Is the Bastard are two benefit records that are being sold to publicize and financially support the legal battles of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal and the late Earth First! activist Judi Bari. Abu-Jamal and Bari share with Alternative Tentacles label owner Jello Biafra a history of political persecution by the state and federal police; though what Biafra endured during his free speech trial was negligible compared to the death-row sentence being lived out by Abu-Jamal and the crippling bombing suffered by the late Bari. But this commonality grants these records the status of being part of a collection of spoken word albums by radicals discussing their political persecution. It's nice to see Alternative Tentacles expanding their spoken word catalogue beyond Biafra's work.
Mumia Abu-Jamal: Spoken Word with music by Man Is the Bastard is a release of the spoken word pieces that journalist Abu-Jamal originally recorded for National Public Radio that was censored by Congress. These talks present Abu-Jamal's essays on social injustice both in reference to his own case (in which he was sentenced to death for the killing of a police officer, in a mockery of a trial) and to society in general. The record project was brought to Alternative Tentacles by the southern California punk band Man Is the Bastard, who had the idea of releasing these hypnotically gripping recordings together with some of their own music. MITB have a prolific history of independently releasing an eclectic range of politically oriented music. This record is a prime case of the political sentiments inherent in the punk rock community being made explicit. The talks by Abu-Jamal are deeply cutting and will be educational for people who may not have heard about his case, or may not know a lot about the greater context of racial conflict in Philadelphia, including the bombing of the MOVE home in 1985.
Who Bombed Judi Bari? is particularly well suited to an audience who is unfamiliar with her work as an Earth First! activist. This folky record is quite entertaining, as Judi Bari has the major virtue of using humor and whimsy to communicate about complicated political issues. Her description of weaving yarn webs through forests as a nonviolent alternative to tree-spiking hilariously points out how the gender opposition between EarthFirst! leaders and timber companies were effectively played. The yarn webs could only be gotten rid of with scissors, and the timber interests were reluctant to have photos run in newspapers of loggers performing such an un-macho activity as snipping through the forest with scissors. Therefore, unlike tree spiking, yarn webbing was coped with privately. This record intersperses folk singing with spoken word pieces, of which "The FBI Stole My Fiddle" is a highlight for folk music fans. For those who have been informed about Earth First!'s nonviolent campaign to save the old growth timber of northern California, and her car bombing, or have read her book Timber Wars, there is not a lot of new information on this record. But even for that audience this record is rewardingly listenable, due in part to her critique of scientific rationality. In one brilliant monologue she ruthlessly dissects current timber-management science and its origin within the philosophy of Francis Bacon.
Alternative Tentacles, 1997