The Revolutionary Playlist

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 13: Design Beku

By Design Beku

25 July 2021

Running a collective is a bit like conducting an orchestra: you need to be there to make sure everyone’s in tune and on time; but without them, there is only silence. Creating this playlist was in and of itself both joyous and frustrating (also hallmarks of my experience with this little world)  – and with the collective spanning three generations, and around ten languages, we all ended up learning a little more about each other and our own personal journeys of what we hold dear. The final list came into being after some little compromises, and some little acts of consensus, the push and pull that is inherent to working together, being committed to community and making sure everyone’s voice is heard. And that work, that labour, that effort and that care, is where our revolution begins: a song we can all sing, and hope others will want to join us in full voice.

Padmini Ray Murray is the founder of Design Beku, a feminist collective that endeavors to place an ethics of care at the heart of digital and design practice.


The Playlist

  1. Mona Haydar, Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab)
  2. P!nk, Just Like Fire
  3. Ami Shunechi Sedin Tumi, Swapno Dekhbo Bole
  4. Swadesi ft. Prakash Bhoir, The Warli Revolt
  5. Zeb & Haniya and Javed Bashir, Rona Chor Diya
  6. Kovan, Excellent song about BJP
  7. Bombay our City, Ye Kaisa Raaj Hai Bhai
  8. Parcham, Halla Bol
  9. The Casteless Collective, Vaiyulla Pulla

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 12: Grégory Pierrot

By Grégory Pierrot

18 July 2021

We’ve seen another Bastille Day, and once more the French government celebrated the toppling of kings with a military parade. That’s one way to empty a popular uprising of all meaning and turn it into a monument to oppression. Lately, questioning neat and tidy representations of history in France and elsewhere has been portrayed as the greatest threat to white civilization. Overblown perhaps, but insightful. Yet while governments are busy cracking down on universities, let’s not forget that musicians are among our best historians and educators. This machine kills fascists and when it doesn’t, it shines a light on them. Some of the following songs have been attacked by politicians merely for evoking France’s long and continuing record of imperialist and colonial atrocities and oppression; one was banned, for the great crime of being sung in Arabic. Sometimes, all it takes is a wedding song to shake the foundations. Allons enfants!

Grégory Pierrot is a professor at the University of Connecticut at Stamford. He is the author of The Black Avenger in Atlantic Culture, co-editor of the forthcoming An Anthology of Haitian Revolutionary Fictions, and co-host of the Decolonize That! webcast series. He tweets at @wwJJDdo.


The Playlist

  1. Bérurier Noir, Porcherie
  2. Kery James, Lettre à la République
  3. Loulou Boilaville, Gran Mé Gran
  4. Médine, 17 Octobre
  5. Ginko Biloka, Bumidom
  6. Guy Conquette, Gwadloup Malad
  7. Mano Negra, Sidi H’Bibi
  8. Casey, Chez moi
  9. Rachid Taha, Voila voila
  10. La Rumeur, Qui ca étonne encore

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 11: Asim Rafiqui

By Asim Rafiqui

11 July 2021

I stood outside Raheem’s house for quite a long time.

It had been another evening of discussions, debates, and questions. The night felt cold, though it was the middle of the summer in West Jackson in Mississippi. In my hand was my notebook which now contained two lists. The first was a list of readings I used as I prepared for my research fieldwork; the second, a list of “readings” I have just been “schooled in” by activists over a round of beers and a joint. My list had works by academics, post-structuralists, Marxists, ethnographers, and sociologists. Their list had radical feminists, Black liberation fighters, anarchists, post-colonial intellectuals, Black militants, and one by a convicted serial killer. Our pedagogies could not be more different, and at that instance, I could not help but feel distant from my subjects.

Earlier, as we had huddled around a table in the kitchen, I asked them about the books and writers who influenced their way of seeing the world. Sam, who had been nursing a glass of water all evening–he was attending AA meetings in the area and had been sober for well over six months–furrowed his brow and thought for a moment. “Not books,” he said, “but music.” “Jazz? Blues?” I asked. “No,” he answered with a smile. “More like bands like Crass, Dead Prez, Bad Brains, and Rage Against The Machine–These were my first books!” He stepped out of the room and returned with some LPs (vinyl). We sifted through a few Crass records; their album covers strikingly graphic and beautiful. He handed me a copy of Bad Brain’s first recorded album–its cover showed a bolt of lightning striking the Capitol building in Washington D. C. “What about you, Sam?” I asked as he stood in the doorway. “Have you heard the Rage Against The Machine album Evil Empire?” He answered after staring out into space for a moment. I had not. He nodded and looked at Raheem as if sharing a secret. “People don’t remember, but inside the liner notes was a bibliography of books.” I made a note. “That’s where I discovered W. E. B. Du Bois, Frantz Fanon, Marcuse, Eldridge Cleaver, and others!” Soon the group became more animated, and names of books were hurled around like weapons. I hurriedly jotted down titles, checked the spelling of author names. Then someone put on the Bad Brains record. The music drowned out our discussions, consumed the air, and we surrendered to its hard, raw beats.

Later, I stood outside Raheem’s house for quite a long time and stared at the lists in my notebook.

(Asim Rafiqui, excerpt from MA in Social Anthropology dissertation, 2018)

Asim Rafiqui is an independent photojournalist and researcher whose work, by focusing on the plight of most marginalised communities, highlights the structural roots of the pervasive injustice that afflicts their lives and the failure of the current legal apparatus to resolve them. He is a founding member of The Polis Project.


The Playlist

  1. Sun Ra, Imagination
  2. Afrika Bambaatta & The Soul Sonic Force, Planet Rock
  3. Arrested Development, Tennessee
  4. X-Clan, Xodus
  5. Crass, Do They Owe Us A Living
  6. Rage Against The Machine, Bulls on Parade
  7. Digible Planets, Where I’m From
  8. A Tribe Called Quest, Whateva Will Be
  9. Dead Prez, Turn Off The Radio
  10. Bad Brains, Big Take Over

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 10: Watch the State

By Watch the State 

4 July 2021

Dissent. Hope. Love. Memory. Power. Revolution.

To dissent is to question,
And to love something so deeply,
That you hope for change.
To dissent is to hold on to memories,
As the past and present are erased,
To dissent is to speak truth to power,
And set the stage for a revolution.

Set up by The Polis Project, Watch the State (WTS) documents, analyzes and aims to understand state violence. Read their manifesto here and follow them on Twitter at @watchthestate.

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The Playlist

  1. The Roots, It Ain’t Fair
  2. Noname, Rainforest
  3. Aamir Aziz , Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega
  4. Thom Yorke, Burial, Four Tet, Her Revolution
  5. Imagine Dragons, Dream
  6. Mashrou’ Leila, Lil Watan
  7. Anderson .Paak, Lockdown
  8. P!nk, Dear Mr. President
  9. Paolo Nutini, Iron sky 
  10. Coldplay, Atlas 
  11. SZA, The Weeknd, Travis Scott, Power Is Power 

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 9: Zahra Malkani

By Zahra Malkani

27 June 2021

Oceanic Feelings is a mix created by Karachi-based artist Zahra Malkani for art collective mother tongues’ audio series titled Waves and Rituals. The mix can be heard here, on mother tongues’ Soundcloud.

Mystical music from the Indus River to the Indian Ocean. This mix moves through multiple languages, dialects and musical/mystical traditions from Sindh and Balochistan – the southern region of Pakistan. From an intoxicating Leva afternoon in Lyari to the legendary Faiz Muhammad Baloch’s ecstatic folk, from Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s ancient/eternal Sur Samoondi to an excerpt from Khalida Hussain’s short story Samandar, where an out of towner tries desperately to hold on to a dissipating sense of self upon encountering the Karachi ocean. Here, the river and the ocean are sites of expansion and annihilation, dislocation and disintegration, undone borders and unsettled being, infinite connection and divine unity, sublime beauty and great terror. Traversing a vast, interconnected aquatic geography – marked today by state brutality, environmental devastation and extractivism – this mix is in celebration of our ecstatic entanglements. This mix is for all those who struggle for the rivers, the oceans, the seas.

Zahra Malkani is a multidisciplinary artist based in Karachi. Her research-based art practice spans multiple media including text, video and web, and explores the politics of development, infrastructure and militarism in Pakistan. She is a co-founder with Shahana Rajani of Karachi LaJamia, an experimental pedagogical project seeking to politicise art education and explore new radical pedagogies and art practices. She tweets at @zmlkn.

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The Playlist

  1. Baluchi Zone, Learn Balochi Language: Sea and Fish Vocabulary
  2. Younis Jani, Leva Leva
  3. Fozia Soomro, Alay Munhja Marwara 
  4. Noor Jahan, Shahbaz Kare Parwaz 
  5. Jhoolay Laal Leva Group, Benjo
  6. Jhoolay Laal Leva Group, Dhamal 
  7. Qurban Faqeer and Faqeers of Bhit Shah, Sur Samoondi 
  8. Khalida Hussain, Excerpt from Samandar (Read it in English here.)
  9. Faiz Mohammad Baloch, Mein Dil Aara Geer 

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 8: Francesca Recchia

By Francesca Recchia

20 June 2021

For World Refugee Day, here is a musical reflection on origins, yearning, the challenges of an inner journey and the courage to leave things behind and travel ahead.

Francesca Recchia is a founding member and the creative director at The Polis Project. She tweets at @kiccovich.

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The Playlist

  1. Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
  2. Asian Dub Foundation, Fortress Europe
  3. Almamegretta, Figli di Annibale
  4. Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Caliban (read by Teju Cole)
  5. Iggy Pop, The Passenger
  6. MC Kash & Alif, Like a Sufi
  7. Tinariwen (+IO:I), Nànnuflày
  8. Mohsen Namjoo, Shirin Shirinam
  9. M.I.A., Borders

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 7: Aimun Faisal

By Aimun Faisal

13 June 2021

Rage is a remarkable emotion. Often misunderstood to be a destructive force, when honed and tempered with love, rage really manifests itself in truly beautiful ways. Perhaps, that is what binds this playlist together. Rage: as poetry in defiance of a dictator, as memory of a revolutionary tradition, as hope for the future, as an expression of self-love.

That really is the end-goal; to keep the fire burning.

Aimun Faisal is the Communications Associate at The Polis Project and a freelance journalist based in Karachi. She tweets at @bluemagicboxes.

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The Playlist

  1. Iqbal Bano, Hum Dekhein Ge
  2. Nkechi at TEDX, Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman 
  3. Junoon, Sayonee
  4. Sami Amiri, Umeed-e-Karawan
  5. NWA, Fuk Da Police
  6. MC Kash, Freedom Fighter
  7. Aurat March, Aur Woh Rapist Ho Tum
  8. Lyari Underground Rapperz, Kasani
  9. Asrar, Lajpaal Ali

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 6: Ahmer Naqvi

By Ahmer Naqvi

6 June 2021

I wanted to make a playlist that captures resistance as not just anger, but also as joy, as satire, as lament and as moving on.
Resistance, like music, can be infectious.

Ahmer Naqvi is a freelance writer on popular culture.

He tweets at @karachikhatmal

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The Playlist
  1. Dead Prez, Hip Hop
  2. Jawab De, Faris Shafi
  3. Tinariwen, Chet Boghassa
  4. Pashto Anthem, Da Sanga Azaadi Da
  5. Black Lives Matter Protest/Pop Smoke, Dior
  6. Pop Smoke, Dior
  7. Lyari Underground and Dynoman, Players of Lyari
  8. Bashir Ahmed, Hum Chaley Chhor Ker Teri Mehfil Sanam

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 5: By Suchitra Vijayan

By Suchitra Vijayan

30 May 2021

What you will hear first on this playlist is not quite a song but poetry. Nina Simone,  loud and proud, proclaiming that freedom is a feeling. She says, “No fear, that being free to me.” 

Every few years, I return to her 1970’s interview, each viewing brings new insights, new joys, and a renewed sense of purpose. On some days I can’t even fathom that someone like her existed. 

So this list — made of Tamils, Kashmiris, Pashtuns and more tells us that struggle for love and dignity are always entwined. It’s also a reminder to not stop fighting against fear, to live passionately, to fall in love fiercely, and always stand in solidarity with those fighting for their freedom and dignity. From Kashmir to Palestine until their freedom comes.

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The Playlist

  1. Nina Simone, Freedom
  2. Nina Simone, Ain’t Got No, I Got Life
  3. Yasir and Jawad, Reidi Gul
  4. M.I.A, Matahdatah Scroll 01 “Broader Than A Border
  5. Arivu x ofRo with Therukural,  The Casteless Collective and Pa Ranjith, Kallamouni 
  6. Tamer Nafar, Ya Reit (If Only)
  7. Tracy Chapman, Talkin’ About a Revolution
  8. MC Kash, Listen, My Brother
  9. Kappaloddiya Thamizan (Movie), Entru Thaniyum Intha

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 4: By Michael Busch

By Michael Busch

23 May 2021

This week marked the 96th birthday of Malcolm X. I’ve been thinking of him more than usual these days, especially since the latest gruesome siege on Gaza got underway and American liberals, who’ve rightly embraced the movement for Black lives, adopt the exact opposite logic in regard to Palestinians.

But I have also been curious about the renewed interest in Malcolm (and radical Black politics in popular culture more generally), the modes of mainstreaming implicit in the process, and what all of this might suggest about the possibilities for liberation movements in the post-pandemic era.

Yet Malcolm has always been a cultural touchstone, especially within the traditions of jazz, and later rap. This isn’t surprising. The spirit of jazz lives in its rhythms of revolution and resistance, offering refuge during moments of crisis, spiritual salve in the aftermath, and the moorings of hope, love, and courage in the ongoing struggle for justice and humanity.

The playlist I’ve arranged draws from this rich catalogue, and jumps off with “Soul Brother,” Hannibal Marvin Smith’s celebration of Malcom’s life and legacy. From there, the songs compiled here reckon with the abominations of slavery, the triumphs of militant struggle, and the righteousness of the civil rights movement. It concludes with Pharoah Sanders’ “Harvest Time,” a meditation on labor and sacrifice which, to me at least, speaks to the promise of transcontinental solidarity in defense of the oppressed. 

Michael Busch teaches in the Graduate Program in Human Rights at John Jay College, CUNY, and is the Director of Public Programs at The Polis Project.

He tweets at @michaelkbusch

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The Playlist

  1. Hannibal Marvin Peterson, Soul Brother
  2. David Axelrod, Freedom
  3. Roy Brooks, The Free Slave
  4. Ramsey Lewis, Them Changes
  5. Shamek Farrah, Umoja Suita
  6. Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra ft. Josephine Oniyama, Badder Weather
  7. Atlantis Jazz Ensemble, Yemaya
  8. Pharoah Sanders, Harvest Time

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 3: By Manan Ahmed

By Manan Ahmed

16 May 2021

Since the lockdown was lifted, I have been walking incessantly, daily, as a ritual. I don’t ‘go’ anywhere. The routes were exhausted in the first month or so. Just over and over the same concrete pathways around my abode. I have felt walking ‘in place’ because the din of worry envelops me through every step. Still, as I have walked, I have often tried to listen to voices of defiance against military dictators, patriarchs, caste oppressors, occupiers of Kashmir, destroyers of Gaza, destroyers of Kabul; against those who under the guise of legislation tried to make Muslims foreign to India, and those who are attempting to take land and soil away from farmers. These songs do share a sonic vocabulary of protest that emerged in Bronx and Brooklyn and Queens went global. Rap has always provided a register for those who seek liberation, who protest and who bring fear into the hearts of the oppressors.

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The Playlist

  1. MC Gaza, We Didn’t Fear the Sniper Shots
  2. Afghan Rap ft. Sarwar Ali, Roll 40 “Etobar”
  3. Rap Kid Arfat ft. Baabarr Mudacer, Tofan
  4. Somewhat Super ft. Abid Brohi, The Sibbi Song
  5. Naveen Koomar, Bol
  6. Sumeet Samos, Desia Pila
  7. Kanwar Grewal & Harf Cheema, Pecha
  8. Raees Ch. ft. RB Rapstar, Punjab Da Kissan
  9. Begairat Brigade, Aalu Anday
  10. Garam Anday, Maa Behn Ka Danda

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 2: By Ethel Baraona Pohl

By Ethel Baraona Pohl

9 May 2021

June Jordan wrote in 1972 a beautiful poem —‘For my brother’— asking him to teach her how to sing in moments of despair. With this short playlist I just want to share some of the songs that make me sing (when in doubt), because each of them make me think that, by learning to sing all together, we can make out of our voices a common ground donde los idiomas no importan, porque podemos sentir la música recorrer nuestras venas y ser parte de un latido común, calling for freedom, equality, inclusiveness; singing for a world that can be better; a world that is out there waiting for us to raise our voices para caminar erguidos, sin temor —respirar y sacar la voz.

So here is an assemblage —a sort of musical cadavre exquis— with some inspiring voices, encouraging us to sing together. As Serrat says —stealing the words from Machado— “se hace camino al andar” and I guess that perhaps, también al cantar.

Because, ”this too shall pass so raise your glass to change and chance, and freedom is the only law shall we dance; so if you feeling low, stuck in some bardo, I even I know the solution: love, music, wine and revolution.” —Perdóname amor, por tanto hablar, es que quiero ayudar al mundo cambiar, ¡qué loca!

Ethel Baraona Pohl is a writer, critic and curator, whose work focuses on architecture and political theory. She is co-founder of independent research practice and tweets @ethel_baraona.

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The Playlist

  1. Magnetic Fields, World Love
  2. María José Llergo, Canción de Soldados
  3. Choir! Choir! Choir! & Patti Smith, People have the Power
  4. Sacar La Voz ft. Jorge Drexler, Ana Tijoux
  5. Silvio Rodriguez, El Necio
  6. Sara Curruchich ft. Amparo Sánchez, Ixoqi’ 
  7. Joan Manuel Serrat, Cantares
  8. Gil Scott-Heron, Revolution Will Not Be Televised
  9. Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free)
  10. Mercedes Sosa, El tiempo es veloz

Revolutionary Playlist Episode 1: By Francesca Recchia

By Francesca Recchia

25 April 2021

With others – for me

A celebration, a collective blessing – and the quest for self that finds its meaning in political passion.

Personal redemption and collective solidarity, the confirmation of who I am materializes through the commitment to a united fight for kindness and justice.

The revolutionary playlist is a collective, continuous musical reflection on the transformative power of change and revolution.

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The Playlist

  1. Khumaiyaan, Tamasha
  2. Mercedes Sosa, Gracias a la vida
  3. Vinicio Capossela, Ovunque proteggi
  4. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, What I am
  5. Bob Marley and The Wailers, Redemption songs
  6. Modena City Ramblers, Contessa
  7. Giovanna Marini, Combattete lavoratori
  8. CCCP – Fedeli alla linea, Spara Jurij
  9. Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fite them back
  10. Inti Illimani, El pueblo unido

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