On the 17th of November 2018, and following a previous September gig in Govanhill, we teamed up with hip hop crews and MCs from Scotland, England, Greece and Germany to hold the first volume of the ‘Breaking the Borders’ anti-fascist hip hop gigs.
We had several aims in organising such an ambitious night. Our main goal was to connect hip hop and anti-fascism, to loudly proclaim, as members of both the hip hop and the anti-fascist ‘communities’, that these two aspects of our lives can and should be united. As Twinsanity say in the beginning of the documentary, we firmly believe that ‘Hip Hop is a motherfucking weapon’. As participants of this culture, we have a responsibility to use it. Hip hop cannot stay silent when inequality and the far-right are on the rise all across the world. Despite the almost complete takeover of hip hop by big businesses, this culture remains firmly attached to its history of resistance. Our aim was to organise a festival of resistance.
Culture and political action don’t have to necessarily be disconnected from each other. Political action does not only have to be the stereotypical, bureaucratic, disciplined domain of long-term, semi-professional ‘activists’. It doesn’t have to be inaccessible. Political action is what we make it; therefore, one of our aims was to expand the reach of anti-fascism to the wider community through good music.
A connected aim was to showcase that, not only is it possible to have hip hop that is not sexist, homophobic, or transphobic, but also that people are able to do it without sacrificing anything in terms of lyricism or skill. In that sense, we aimed to address problematic facets of the culture we love and have been active in for years. All of the acts we brought together have a long history of speaking up in solidarity with oppressed groups, while at the same time making strong and unique music.
Another aim was to re-ignite the conversation against the commercialisation of music, while slowly working towards the creation of an autonomous, DIY ethic. Nobody who performed in Breaking the Borders was paid for their appearance. All of the money for their travel from Greece, Germany, and London was paid from our own pockets. This was greatly aided by the rappers in our previous, September gig, who also played for free to help us amass the required money to pay for plane tickets for Breaking the Borders. This event was even supported by people who weren’t even included in the original line-up, like Johnny Cypher and DJ Shelltoe Mel. In organising this, we weren’t trying to reduce the wages of professional musicians or trying to empower promoters who exploit their acts. We aren’t promoters. In the case that we succeeded making a surplus (which was always unlikely), it was clear from the beginning that it would go towards the movement, not in any individual’s pockets. We contacted people who are themselves in various ways connected to this movement, and they played for free because they believed in what they were doing. And we believe that this is an important outlook not only for music, but for life in general. Profit doesn’t have to come into everything that we do.
This event was therefore only possible thanks to the combined efforts of more than 20 people. If we include those that came to the gigs to support, the number rises significantly. Nothing was done for profit; everything was done to support our ideas and each other. We didn’t have any financial help from charities, NGOs, or other well-wishers. We demonstrated that, with solidarity and cooperation, we can create spaces of laughter, expression and freedom, even if at this stage they only last for a few hours.
Organising this was difficult for a variety of reasons. As a collective, we had never done something like this. None of us make a lot of money from our jobs, and it was therefore especially hard paying for people’s travel. We wanted to hold an anti-fascist hip hop festival that could make some money for the movement; we ended up by barely breaking even (we finished £13 short). This was despite holding two separate events, each of which had a £5 entry fee.
Finally, at some point during the show some lyrics were heard which were perceived to be sexist. People came to us and complained about them and we promptly had a conversation with the individual concerned, who immediately apologised, informed us that he meant no harm, and accepted that it was a mistake. This individual has a long history of commitment to women’s equality and the specific phrase was used without thought. We thank the individual for taking this issue seriously. For those impacted, we apologise and accept our responsibility. We remain committed to organising radical events that are welcoming for everyone. Despite this incident, we hope that people enjoyed their time in our event, and we look forward to seeing you all again.
We want to thank everyone who came, connected with us, and showed us their support. Enjoy the documentary, and see you in Breaking the Borders Volume 2 on the 19th of October 2019 in McChuills!!!! Stay tuned for more!