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'Spiritually aligned with The Ex & vintage Gang of Four, Jesus Was Gay is both maddeningly eclectic and exhilaratingly challenging' - Eye, Toronto
'Mordantly funny, wickedly smart & musically fascinating' **** - The Winnipeg Sun
'With its poetry, it's crazy violin & other surprises, this is an album to revive your spirits......RA is a group that inspires rebellious thoughts & leaves people smiling wherever they go' - ICI, Montreal
'Jesus Was Gay is bound to shake up the Catholic League' - Lesbian & Gay New York
A very rare, Rhythm Activism / The Ex double bill at Montreal's Salla Rosa recently. More photos by Konstantin Sergeyev at:
RHYTHM ACTIVISM (RA) is an internationally acclaimed, Montréal-based, 'rock 'n roll cabaret' ensemble of Luc Bonin (aka Urbain Dubois- bass), Sylvain Côté (guitars), Norman Nawrocki (words/violin) and Holland's Wilf Plum (drums). RA was also an ever-changing cast of other musicians, actors and performers, depending on the show. Their last public performance was during their Jesus Was Gay tour of 1998. Their first public appearance in 10 years will be in Montreal at the Sala Rossa, June 21+22, 2007, on stage with long-time friends, Holland's The Ex.
RA at Café Commune, 1986
Since 1985, when Norman and Sylvain co-founded RA as a simple poetry/music duo, the performance unit evolved into a surprise-packed 'rebel news orchestra,' and 'giant musical cartoon.' They charted on radio worldwide, performed highly memorable theatrical musical shows, and toured their issue-oriented 'resistance cabarets' across Canada, the USA, England, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to rave reviews. They would perform a riotous brand of independent, theatrical, music and song in English, French, Italian and Polish, winning over fans everywhere. They appeared on stage as a duo, a four to seven piece band, or with a supporting cast of 50 dancers, jugglers, musicians, acrobats, clowns and actors in a madcap, Felliniesque, anti-poverty "community circus cabaret."
RA has played in theatres, punk clubs, poetry festivals, international jazz and folk festivals, on the barricades at demonstrations, or at traditional Ukrainian weddings. Their music is a cutting-edge, hybrid of folk punk, country and eastern, gypsy grunge, urban rat jazz, lounge core and infectious, East European dance tunes. They've also staged theatre musicals, 'a gothic urban legend,' and created shows with ex-psychiatric patients.
Always ahead of the news, RA has been known as a topical and provocative band whose shows made the news, national and international. Satirical and hard-hitting, they've taken on issues of the day using costumes, masks and vaudeville to turn serious politics into subversive but hilarious living theatre. Their targets have ranged from world fairs to Coors Beer, NAFTA to date rape, war, offshore banking and homophobia .
Rhythm Activism, 1986
Critics have hailed their work as " powerful", "stunning", "astonishing" and " brilliant", and compared them alternately to Chumbawumba, Tom Waits (with a butcher knife), The EX, Fugazi, and even 'the Brecht/Weill combo for the 20th century.'
The band's trademark versatility has meant they can entertain audiences of children and grandfolk, punks and nuns and can move people from laughter and tears to the dance floor or a giant sing-a long. Their informative and rib-tickling political "community cabarets" - produced jointly with hundreds of tenants and welfare rights groups across Québec - have entertained the poorest of the poor by the thousands, who packed church basements and soup kitchens for family RA shows.
During the 78 day armed standoff at OKA ,Québec, the Mohawk Warriors blasted the military with songs from an RA native solidarity album. Striking, Montréal post secondary students requested a picket-line song from RA and were handed a finished album four days later. RA released an anti-war album within days of the 1991 Gulf War. One of their CD's ' Blood & Mud' , about the roots of the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico, was considered by OPTION magazine as 'mandatory listening for members of Congress,' and reached #7 on American college radio charts. It even earned RA a personal thank you letter from the Zapatista Subcommandante Marcos, deep in the jungles. RA's work has been praised by the beat poet
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, impressed with their humour, and by welfare rights recipients thankful that someone is drawing attention to their precarious existence.
Their repertoire of 'news poems,' instrumentals and songs from their theatre musicals numbers over 1000 original pieces. RA's discography numbers 36 releases, including 25 compilations worldwide. In Europe, they appear on Holland's Konkurrel label ; in Canada on Winnipeg's G-7 Welcoming Committee Records. RA also has two documentary videos & films, and appear on the soundtracks of numerous films.
HURTS EVERYONE -
7" ,1986, Sudden Death Records, Vancouver
VOICE OF AMERICANISM - cass, 1988,
Bad Newz, New York
CIA TAPES - cass, 1988, Blurg Records,
THEFT OF PARADISE - cass, 1988,
Technawabe Sounds, Ottawa
SUR LA GUERRE DES SEXES (ABOUT SEX WAR) - LP, 1990, P.A.I. Paris
LES MYSTERES DES VOIX VULGAIRES -
CD, LP, cass, 1990, Divergo, Milano
JUST LISTEN - cass, 1991, All Genre,
MA BRAIN BATTERY - cass, 1991, Broken Tapes, Limesay, France
NIGHTMARE ON ALBION STREET - LP,
1992, 1 in 12 Records, Bradford, UK
ZWOLNA TAPES VOL 1 - cass, 1992,
Zwolna T & R, Metz, France
BITTERSWEET CANADA - CD, cass, 1992,
Word of Mouth Records, Toronto
POGO AVEC LES LOUPS - CD, 1992,
On a Faim!, Paris
MAIS OU EST PASSE L'ANE ARCHIE? - cass, 1994, Broken Tapes, Limesay,
CRISES - CD, 1994, Broken Tapes, Limesay, France
UNIRACIAL SUBVERSION - CD, 1995,
Blackbird, Hong Kong
ZOOCOMPILATION - CD, cass, 1996, Trottel Records, Hungary
KING KONK 2 - CD, 1996, Konkurrel, Netherlands
UP TO D.A.T. - CD, 1997, MadÕs Collectif,
KESKIDEEZ - EP, 1997, Broken Ear, California
LES MYSTERES DES VOIX VULGAIRES #2-
CD, 1997, Art as Hammer Records, Milano
LES MYSTERES DES VOIX VULGAIRES #3 - cass, 1997, Art as Hammer Rec,
FOLKOPHOBIA - CD, 1998, Tranzophobia,
PASAZEER - CD, 1999, Pasazer Records, Warsaw, Poland
RETURN OF THE READ MENACE - CD,
1999, G-7 Welcoming Ctt. Rec., Winnipeg ).
RHYTHM ACTIVISM - cass, 1986, Les Pages Noires, Mtl.
ACTIVISM "LIVE" - cass,1987,
MUCH - OBEY LITTLE - cass, 1987, LPN, Mtl.
RIEL IN CHINA - cass, 1988, LPN, Mtl.
UN LOGEMENT POUR UNE CHANSON - cass, 1990,
THE HIKE! - cass, 1990, LPN, Mtl.
PASTA AND LIBERTY - cass, 1990, LPN, Mtl.
OKA - cass, 1990, LPN, Mtl.
IS THE HEALTH OF THE STATE - cass, 1991,
II - cass, 1992, LPN, Mtl.
TUMBLEWEED - cass, 1993, LPN, Mtl.
BLOOD & MUD - CD, 1994, LPN, Mtl / Konkurrel,
Amsterdam, cass, 1997, Nikt Nic Nie Wie, Poland
KICK! - CD, 1995, LPN, Mtl / Konkurrel,
BURGERS & BEER -
cass, 1995, LPN, Mtl.
JESUS WAS GAY -
CD, 1998, G-7 Welcoming Committee Records, Winnipeg
ALIVE & KICKING - 1995, LPN, Mtl
THAT'S THE WAY WE TIE OUR SHOES - 1996, Unbend Films, Amsterdam
OVERDALE RAG - cass, 1987, Jelly Bean, Mtl.
DON'T UNDERSTAND WOMEN! - cass, 1993, LPN,
ROCK MORE TALK - CD, 1997, AK Press, San Francisco
|>> Le Cirque
en Ca$h (1997- 1998)
Femmes, Une Tcheque (1991-1992)
>> RA's CABARET
P.A.L. (March 1991)
>> Un Logement
pour une chanson (1990-1991)
The Guy Over There (1989
LE CIRQUE EN CA$H (1997)
BACKGROUND TO THE 1997 CIRCUS CABARET 'LE
CIRQUE EN CA$H: la ou rien n'est cache!' PROJECT SUMMARY
"Le Cirque en Ca$h" (The
Money Circus) is an 80 minute long
community circus cabaret comedy, in French, about the roots of poverty and how people can fight back.
It's written, produced and presented by RHYTHM
ACTIVISM (RA) - a Montréal-based,
internationally recognized performance ensemble - in collaboration
with local member groups of FRAPRU - a province-wide umbrella organization of some 60 welfare and tenants's
RA consists of the composer/musician Sylvain
Coté, and the writer/actor Norman Nawrocki.
They are directing and performing in the multi-disciplinary show
with a cast of 50 other local actors, musicians, dancers and jugglers,
technicians and artists. It will be a big show- RA's most ambitious
to date- full of non-stop action, laughs, music and entertainment,
and very high energy. "Le
Cirque en Ca$h" will blend
old and new traditions of both the circus and cabaret. A handful
of representatives from the sponsoring community groups in the first
three target neighbourhoods also have stage roles.
The show was conceived over a period of several months with the
help of the participating community groups. RA formed a consultative
committee of interested group members - people basically unemployed
and on welfare - and determined the issues people wanted addressed,
the kind of first person stories to relate, and the range of solutions
and alternatives people wanted presented on stage. The result: a
circus based on real life experiences, the day-to-day economics
and politics of being poor.
RA has pulled together an eight piece band, "L'ORCHESTRE
DES ELEPHANTS"to perform an
original score of circus music for the show.
A local choreographer has created several modern dance numbers with
the six dancers. RA is also working with other actors and community representatives
all playing different characters. A local troupe of jugglers, and
various technicians (sound and light) and backstage personnel (costumes,
make-up artists, etc.) rounds out the cast.
Despite a zero budget, this will be a free show targetting the poorest
audiences imaginable - people who normally couldn't afford
to attend any kind of live performance that required money. It will
also be a family show suitable for children and parents alike>
As with most RA productions, the show is intended to help inform,
inspire and ultimately encourage audiences to become active in local
community action groups, to get organized, stand up and fight for
their rights, for dignity and social justice. Using song, dance,
sketches, slapstick, slides, video and audience participation games,
the show hopes to empower people through informed, critical perspectives
on the state of the economy and the need to take control of our
lives. "Le Cirque en Ca$h"
will demystify "the deficit",
the "debt", and government rationalizations of cutbacks. It will examine the disparity between
rich and poor, political promises and official doubletalk, government
and corporate propaganda, and the reality of a growing number of
impoverished, suffering, frustrated and angry citizens struggling
to survive in the shadow of record bank and corporate profits.
The show will be hardhitting, but funny, analytical, but lyrical,
satirical and provocative, suggesting it's time for mass, grassroots,
radical community actions to correct long-overdue injustices. It
will detail examples of this kind of popular action. At the same
time, in the tradition of RA it will be entertaining and stimulating,
fun for almost everyone. RA has a history of similar "community cabarets,"
sponsored by dozens of community groups. Thousands of Quebec's poorest
citizens have already seen and heard RA's 1990 tenants' rights show,
"Un logement pour une Chanson."
Thousands more saw the 1992 cabaret "Deux
Femmes, un Tcheque" that helped
inform welfare recipients of their rights in the face of the harsh
welfare reforms of Bill 37. The "circus
cabaret" project takes RA's
work to another logical level, considering the despair and suffering
of the past decade. In meeting after meeting, during the research
of this show, the refrain was the same: people are starving, going
homeless and without medications, desperate for work, desperate
for solutions, and prepared to do whatever is necessary to overcome
the despair and change the reality of poverty. They are also tired
RA has responded with what we believe is a timely and socially relevant
cultural project that will serve as a mobilizing
tool. The community groups are demonstrating
their faith in the usefulness of this cultural approach to pressing
social problems by sponsoring the show.
Hopefully, it's contents and spirit will help them and other local
citizens take the steps to revitalize poverty-stricken
communities and begin to rebuild
them on a basis of hope, dignity and social justice.
- Rhythm Activism,
CIRQUE EN CA$H: la ou rien n'est caché!"
RHYTHM ACTIVISM (R.A.), c'est "l'orchestre
rebelle" montréalais composé
de Sylvain Côté et Norman Nawrocki.
Depuis maintenant 11 ans, les membres de R.A. collaborent
ensemble pour élaborer des oeuvres qui sont destinées
autant pour la scène que pour le studio d'enregistrement, tout
en gardant un lien actif avec la communauté en présentant
des "cabaret communautaires"
réalisés grâce à l'implication directe
En 1990, R.A. présentait "Un logement pour une Chanson",
un spectacle pour le droit au logement social co-présenté
par le FRAPRU,
tandis qu'en 1992 le public avait droit à "Deux Femmes,
Un Tchèque" un cabaret de sensibilisation sur la loi 37,
la réforme de l'aide sociale. Les deux productions sont
présentées partout au Québec.
R.A. présent maintenant d'un autre cabaret communautaire, celui-ci
inspiré de la grande tradition du cirque: "LE CIRQUE EN
CA$H: LA OU RIEN N'EST CACHE!"
Ce cirque populaire et gratuit serait un instrument de sensibilisation
sur les grandes lignes de l'appauvrissement et qui démystifierait
les questions comme : pourquoi on a pas d'argent ; pourquoi on pas
de job ; pourquoi il y a des immeubles vacants ; pourquoi les coupures
des services sociaux ; c'est quoi le déficit et pourquoi que
dans cette situation économique dite "difficile"
il y a des entreprises qui font des profits records.
Ce sera un cirque qui parlera de la réalité, des conséquences
de toute ces coupures et comment on pourrait arriver à
une prise en charge pour lutter contre l'appauvrissement.
On retrouvera dans le cirque des musiciens, des comédiens,
des animaux (humains), des danseurs, des clowns - un total de
50 artistes en piste. Le cirque sera interactif grâce
à l'utilisation d'un mélange vidéo/diapositives.
Ce sera un évènement hilarant conçu pour toute
la famille. Nous voulons que notre spectacle puisse servir d'outil
de mobilisation pour les groupes populaires. Nous aimerions
l'entrevoir comme un vrai "happening" avec une foule d'activités
périphériques comme un bazar, de l'animation pour les
enfants, des tables de littérature, des kiosques de nourriture,
"The audience screams with joy.....is
on its feet again, gasping at the abilities of Les Grands Balais
Canadiens, a tightly choreographed group of cleaning ladies who
dance ballet while wielding brooms. It claps along with the funky
'No Cash Polka,' cheers 'The Throw Ups.' a burlesque acrobatic troupe,
and dances along as giant Kraft Dinner boxes sing 'Do the Macaroni'
to the tune of Macarena."
- The Globe and Mail
("With the show, RA underlines the natural need of people not
to let themselves get ground under....the show is a call to start
thinking and get involved.")
"The hall erupted in hoots and cheers when... a clown
described his experiences working at a fast-food restaurant."
- The Gazette
"The circus, as entertaining as it is, is primarily an organizing
tool, a way of reaching out to those who don't belong to organized
groups. The local community hall bursting at the seams...features
a disproportionate number of single moms and scads of children."
- the Globe and Mail
"Subversive joy & defiance...biting satire....with local
kids squealing with glee in the aisles, their parents nodding in
agreement with the lyrics."
- HOUR, Montréal
" A grand parody of life"
- Le Devoir, Montréal
"A circus with a conscience....combines clowning, singing &
acrobatics with hardhitting questions"
- Global TV News, Montréal
Comments from some of the community groups who co-sponsered the
* "Pour nous, le Cirque en Ca$h est un événement
de sensibilisation et d'éducation populaire, qui va sans
doute laisser des traces."
- Nathalie Ménard, d'alerte Centre-Sud,
une coalition d'organismes communautaires qui ont participé
à la naissance du projet.
* "The aim of the live musical show is to educate poor
people about the ramifications of a global economy.... Every
neighbourhood has it's own hopes and dreams. It's what this show
is all about."
- Louise LaRue, Comité du
Logement Centre-Sud, one of sponsoring community groups.
"An unbeatable success...raised the roof"
- Le Monde, Montréal
"An astonishing political cabaret....blends agreeable rock
music, songs & sketches with pointed political demands"
- L'Humanité Hebdo, Paris
Deux Femmes, Une Tcheque (1991-1992
WELFARE RIGHTS CABARET EXPOSES QUEBEC
'Deux femmes; un tcheque'( Two Women &
In 1991, while City and Provincial officials turned their backs
on Quebec's poor and unemployed, the agit-pop trio, Rhythm
Activism, hit the road to rock the public laugh meter and
draw attention to the problem.
During a two month tour of the province, RA - in drag - performed
their free welfare rights cabaret, 'Deux
femmes, un tcheque' (Two women & a cheque) dozens of
times from Montreal to the furthest outreaches of Quebec.
The 60 minute, all-French show traced the mad-cap, but true life
adventures of two man-sized heroines - Dolly
Ouelette & Cecile Dion - who took on the Church, Welfare Police, a giant workplace clock and a stripped
down premier of the province (the late Robert
Bourassa), and Prime Minister of
Canada (the despised Brian Mulroney),
as they tried to survive public opinion and the new welfare reforms
of the time. Using popular Quebecois music from the 1950's, 60's
and 70's (rearranged lyrically), and over a dozen costume changes,
the RA trio of Sylvain Coté (guitar,
accordion & vocals), Norman Nawrocki (violin, kazoo & vocals) and the mysterious Monsieur LeTcheque
(Elaine Stef, on organ & percussion)
sang and go go danced their way through 16 funny and tear jerking
songs and sketches.
The result was a stinging but sensitive musical romp through Quebec's
revamped welfare system - a veritable Alice in Wonderland Chamber
of Horrors for over 600,000 of the province's poor. Since it's inception
three years earlier, the reform was denounced by civil liberties
critics and human rights activists as 'draconion, inhuman and intolerable.'
RA's cabaret exposed the contradictions and hypocracy of the law
and argued why it should have been scrapped.
The show, "DFUT" was co-sponsored
by 'La table nationale contre la loi 37'
- a coalition of over 40 Quebec trade unions, women's groups, welfare
rights and community organizations.
RA spent an entire summer researching the show with members of local
welfare rights groups, predominantly women. Several thousand people
saw DFUT from Shawinigan to Joliette, Maniwaki to Témiscamingue, in church basements, town halls, elementary
school gyms, and in soup kitchens.
In 1992, RA toured a bilingual version of the show.
BACKGROUND NOTES TO THE SHOW:
* It was an all-French production, the collective effort of two
anglophones and a Quebecois working with a provincial francophone
coalition. Unlike previous RA shows where Norman handles most if
not all the vocals, in DFUT, Sylvain
performed about 85% of the dialogue and songs;
* As a 'cabaret rock band,' RA straddles theatre and musical boundaries. DFUT was RA's fifth piece of 'musical
theatre,' their third in a series of 'community cabarets':
- March 1989 - 'EDDY, the guy over there,' was
a romantic, dreamlike musical about the life of a very ordinary
- Spring/Winter 1990: 'Un logement pour une chanson,' was a french
housing rights cabaret that toured Quebec twice;
- March 1990: 'Cabaret P.A.L.' was a bilingual cabaret about welfare
rights for ex-psychiatric patients in Verdun, produced with their
- October 1990: 'The Legend of the Rat King' was an urban gothic
rock musical in English;
* This cabaret played venues off the beaten path for 'underground'
Childcare was sometimes provided
at shows; community suppers or tea and
cookie sessions followed performances; there were open exchanges
with RA members and organizers answering questions in post-show
public discussions; RA's dressing rooms were sometimes in a church
* The show was 'family friendly,'
attracting children, adolescents, silver haired men and women, ex-cabinet
ministers, nuns in full garb, priests and others;
* The show was part of an educational campaign launched by provincial
community groups that included the gathering of 37,000
signed post cards demanding that the new law be rescinded.
RA's Cabaret Project in Alternative Living (March 1991)
The 'Project in
Alternative Living' (PAL) is a 400 member-strong self-help
organization of ex-psychiatric patients in the south-west neighbourhood of Verdun, near Montreal. RA spent several months hanging out with the members, getting to know
them and their concerns,
in order to produce a cabaret with them -'CABARET
PAL,' about their rights on welfare.
As one of the member groups of the larger
coalition fighting the new welfare reforms, PAL had special concerns
about how to best inform their membership about changes in the welfare
laws. RA worked directly with them to mount a lively comedy cabaret/poetry
show that translated the complicated new laws into language the
members of PAL could understand. The show covered subjects like: how to keep the welfare police out of your home; how to claim legitimate
benefits owed; how to support each other in the welfare office;
how to fight for the right to have one's medications covered under
the law; etc.
The cabaret also played for the community
at large, outside the doors of PAL, to explain the special needs
and concerns of PAL members. There was often a lot of ignorance
and distrust of PAL's work by local residents who didn't know much
about the organization, but who were uncomfortable with the concentration
of ex-psychiatric patients in their neighbourhood. Because of re-organized
government programs, the streets were filling with ex-psychiatric
patients discharged from a local institution. Through the RA cabaret,
local residents, PAL members and performers had an opportunity to
come together to share a good time, and some understanding.
Once again, RA used its winning combo of
guitar, accordion, violin, song, humour and funny costumes to get
the messages across. During their research for the show, they conducted
creative workshops with PAL members to help interest them in participating
in the cabaret. The result: several PAL members formed part of the
cast of the final show. One of the songs, 'Cabaret Pal,' written
by a PAL member, appeared on an RA release, 'Perogies, Pasta &
Un Logement pour une chanson (1990-1991)
('A House for a Song')
A housing rights cabaret by Rhythm Activism
'See live vampires attack! Hear giant cockroaches
Bring your landlord! And get a rent reduction1'
RA's hilarious 1990 two-man housing rights cabaret, 'Un logement pour
une chanson' was meant to reach unreachable tenants across the province
of Quebec and help them get organized. It was a joint production -
the first - between RA and a Quebec-wide coalition of over 40 community
groups called FRAPRU ('People's Rights Over Urban Development').
The 'vampires' were 'Condo Vampires' who
sucked the lifeblood out of once affordable neighbourhoods - until
the residents kicked them out. The giant cockroaches - the favorites
of kids in the audiences - told stories about how cockroaches survive:
they meet behind the kitchen stove, the fridge, in cupboards, as a
co-operative federation, with self defence groups and co-op housing.
A pair of clown 'housing experts' explained
the ABC's of real estate and how people can resist evictions. Syvlain
and Norman used a guitar, an accordion, a violin and a trunk full
of costumes to sing about housing rights and get audiences to join
in. The show, 'about the reality of being a tenant in Quebec
today,' toured the poorest neighbourhoods across the province to rave
reviews, from the media and the public.
As well as being entertaining and humorous,
the 'resistance cabarets' educated the public and got audience members
to sign up at the end with local housing action groups. It also helped
bridge the gap between what the band called'marginal culture and marginal
community groups.' And the show gave tenants an unusual forum for
discussing housing issues in their own communities.
'EDDY: THE GUY OVER THERE' (March, 1989)
This was RA's first, full-length, two-man,
original musical. It was also RA's first foray into the world
of real theatre. Written, directed and performed by vocalist/violinist
Norman Nawrocki, and avant-subversive guitarist/percussionist Dem
Stink (aka, Sylvain Coté), 'EDDY' represented a new theatrical
direction for the duo. The band wanted to produce something other
than the usual RA combo of 'news poems' and untuned guitar. 'EDDY:
THE GUY OVER THERE' was, unlike all previous RA work, more
introspective and dreamy. A one-act musical, in French and English,
'EDDY' was the story of a very ordinary dead man (played by Norman)
who didn't want to attend his own funeral. He argued this out with
his mirror image, his 'soul' (played by Sylvain), and in the process,
re-lived his entire life: his loves, his
jobs, his fantasies, his defeats, his victories.
The music was like turning the pages of an old photo album: melodic,
nostalgic, with dream-time waltzes and prairie tangos. It was the
kind of show anyone could bring their mother to, and people did, and
their mothers left smiling.
'EDDY' took the audience back in time, across the country, from the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike to the 1950s
industrial Montreal, to a major anti-gentrification
battle of Overdale in Montreal in 1988. It covered attacks
on working people throughout history, the Free
Trade discussions of the late 1980's, the new era of 'downsizing' and 'privatization' schemes, and the
tarnished dreams of the poor, still alive in the streets and alleys,
still cherished in the pockets and memories of friends and neighbours.
The 80 minute production that played Montreal's
Centre Culturel Calixa Lavallee, in Parc LaFontaine, received
a thumbs up from CBC Radio who called RA, 'the Brecht/Weill combo for
the 21st century.'
<<back to top
1. In the Darkest Hour *listen
2. Jesus was gay *listen
3. Barn Again
4. Helen Armstrong
5. Jack Daw
7. Sam the Yarder
9. Ronald Fucking McDonald
12. Mike Swystun
aligned with The Ex & vintage Gang of Four, Jesus Was Gay is both
maddeningly eclectic and exhilaratingly challenging'
funny, wickedly smart & musically fascinating' ****
The Winnipeg Sun
its poetry, it's crazy violin & other suprises, this is an album to revive
your spirits......RA is a group that inspires rebellious thoughts & leaves
people smiling wherever they go'
Was Gay is bound to shake up the Catholic League'
Lesbian & Gay New York
and provocative, RA's 16th and newest release is a smorgasbord of bizarre
tales including an aniti-corporate junk food circus story, a rib-tickling
country/gospel song and a haunting, soul-stirring lullaby.
biblical scholars have suggested that Jesus could have been androgynous,
or even gay. Of course, this is nothing new to the gay/lesbian community.
Lesbians already know God was a woman. And God herself has often said
'Some of my best servants (on Earth) are gay.'
On the 'JESUS WAS GAY' album, the band, Rhythm Activism attacks homophobia
in the catchy title song. The refrain: 'Jesus was Gay/& moved to Alberta/Opened
up a bar/for all his friends/Bought a pickup/Got a tattoo saying/'Love
your brother, Amen/ Love your brother Amen.'
album shot to #9 on the Canadian alternative radio charts.
WAS GAY' is the provocative 16th
release from Montreal's veteran 'rebel news orchestra/rock 'n roll cabaret', RHYTHM ACTIVISM (RA) .
The 48 minute CD shows how these ever topical, irreverent,
anarcho-musical chameleons - active since 1986 - can whip up a
smorgasbord of bizarre tales, truth and 'rhythm magnetism ' to capture the
imagination of fans worldwide. Critics often compared RA to CHUMBAWAMBA, THE
EX, DOG FACED HERMANS, FUGAZI and 'Tom Waits with a butcher knife.'
The 12 tracks
include a stirring new version of RA's classic, pro-feminist ballad, 'Helen
Armstrong,' about an unknown heroine
of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike ( Bob Wiseman said this song "should be the new Canadian
national anthem"); the
rib-tickling, anti-homophobic, jazz/ country/gospel sing-a-long 'Jesus
was Gay;' ' a true-life, Prairie love
song about a Canadian legend, 'Mike Swystun, once billed 'the world's strongest man;' an anti-corporate junk food circus tale, 'Ronald
Fucking McDonald;' a farmer vs the
banks, macabre, revenge-fantasy folk tale, 'Jack Daw,' a vodka drenched, rocking, traditional Ukrainian
dance, 'Hopak;' and the haunting, soul stirring, adult lullaby, 'In the
'JESUS WAS GAY' features RA co-founders Sylvain Côté (guitars/accordion) and
Norman Nawrocki (vocals/violin) with Wilf Plum (drums), Luc Bonin (bass),
Claude Dion (sax) and Minda Bernstein (violin). It's been released
by Winnipeg's G-7 Welcoming Committee Records.
Buy this now!
Burgers & Beer
retrospective cassette compliation of 13 of Rhythm Activism's most popular
earlier hits from previously long-unavailable releases. Includes "The
Black Flag;" "7-11 heaven;" "America;" "Polski
Fiat" and more.
400 people, from 6 to 76, packed into a steaming soup kitchen in Montreal's
impoverished East End (80% unemployment), laughing, stomping their feet
and clapping their hands for a "community cabaret" about welfare rights,
while on-stage, members of a band in drag, alternately go-go dance, change
costumes, and roll our '60s Quebec hit rock songs, all rewritten to get
the audience smiling and psyched up to fight for their rights. This is
Buy this now!
a 10 year retrospective
2. Polski Fiat
3. Winnable War
4. 7-11 Heaven
6. 500 Years of Waiting
7. The Black Flag
8. Louis Riel
9. Krakow Noire
10. Pacific Ocean Blues
11. Tatra Tumble
12. Quando L'anarchia Verra
13. Leo Lachance
Live in Europe
2. Broom Dance *listen
3. Coal for Mike
4. Tommy Two
5. Venimos a la guerra
6. On Grandpapa's knee
7. Roll Call
8. Bandura Waltz
9. Kolomeyka (from Oakburn)
10. Leo Lachance *
11. Soldiers for Jesus: Get lost
12. Bella Ciao
13. Louis Riel
KICK! RA's 14th release. Recorded live on tour in Europe. Full of high
energy from actual shows. 12 songs, old & new, half instrumentals.
Includes Ukrainian wedding music.
KICK!" they cried as the convoys of caravans crashed through the borders,
passport-free. "MORE KICK!" cried the homeless and the refugees as they
marched into the empty buildings and claimed them for their own. "MORE
KICK! and out of our way!" yelled every man, woman and child as they danced
in time, singing and laughing down cobblestone streets heading for a gathering
beyond anyone's control.
All roads met where bigotry, intolerance, fear and indifference were only
passwords of the past. Where food and drink were plenty and free and the
drums roared with abandon. Where the warmth of friendship and solidarity
burned brightly in the shadow of an anarchist moon. Where "MORE KICK!"
brought voices and heels together in the air defying anyone to stop them.
Where the idea took root, and grew.
1. Venimos a la guerra *listen
2. In the Free Zone *listen
3. They fucked us
4. Blood & Mud
5. Les corneilles
6. Dancing 'round the grave
7. NAFTA love song
8. Margarita Ortega
9. On Grandpa's knee
10. Roll Call
11. After the rain
12. The Magon Brothers
13. We are the prologue
14. Despues la fiesta
Blood & Mud
fast-paced &moving Mexican theme CD by RA about the Zapatistas uprising
in Chiapas, Mexican anarchists, NAFTA, and "Day of the Dead"
celebrations. Reads like an aural history or travelogue, tracking the
roots of Mexican rebellion through stories & musical landscapes.
1994, in one of Mexico's poorest states, Chiapas, starving, indigenous
people grabbed guns & masks & staged a spectacular armed rebellion for
justice, dignity & freedom. They called themselves Zapatistas, & their
brave & daring revolt captured media headlines around the world. This
was the first popular, mass armed resistance against the injustices of
globalization. It inspired millions internationally to raise their voices
in protest & solidarity.
Rhythm Activism's CD, 'BLOOD & MUD' traces the history of this rebellion
& its anarchist roots. The band was thanked personally by Zapatista subcommandante
Marcos for supporting the fight of indigenous people in Chiapas Mexico.
The CD reached #7 on American alternative radio charts.
the Zapatistas are holed up in the jungle, in their 'Free Zones,' trying
to fend off the encroaching Mexican military. They still need our support.
--Click here for lyrics & more--
1. Leo Lachance
2. Milton Born with a Tooth
3. Leonard Peltier
5. 500 Years of Waiting
A five song musical
documentary about North American natives (Leonard Peltier, Mohawks, Leo
Lachance), neo-nazis & wild west justices. This release marked a departure
from RA's electric style by using mostly acoustic instruments & lush
We're dedicating this
cassette to our friends at CKHQ 101.7FM, a nonprofit, community Mohawk
radio station outside Montreal at Kanehsatake.
Thanks to the dedicated and hardworking staff at CKHQ, who kept the entire
outside world informed of the "Canadian crisis at Oka" during the tense
78 day armed standoff in the summer of 1990. CKHQ continues to serve its
community and others, broadcasting music and news unavailable elsewhere.
the way we tie our shoes:
film by Isabelle Vigier & Andy Moor
Video, colour, 48 minutes
English & French
Produced by Unbend Films, Netherlands
the way we tie our shoes
& produced by Isabelle Vigier and Andy Moor from Holland's THE EX.
From UNBEND FILMS, Amsterdam
This is a film about perogies, Ronald Fucking McDonald, Zapatistas, vodka,
Polish drinking songs, cabaret, wild Ukrainian folk tunes, ridiculous
wigs, contemporary electronic troubadours, serious political commentary
and nose picking guitar solos.
It is also an adventurous, many-sided portrait of Montreal's premiere
'cabaret rock 'n roll' orchestra, Rhythm Activism. It includes a detailed
recipe and cooking demonstration on how to make a
'Perogie'( a Polish/Ukrainian equivalent of ravioli, but tastier), involving
Norman Nawrocki, vocalist & violinist, dressed in his 'Baba' outfit,
giving full instructions on potato mashing, vegetable & cheese grating.
It's full of vodka swilling, loud singing, & wild, wild Ukrainian
folk music played by all members of RA: Luc Bonin on bass, Sylvain Coté
on guitars, Wilf Plum (ex-Dog Faced Hermans) on drums, and Guy Boulanger
on sound and potato peeling.
The film's predominant subject, though, is live footage of
several of the best performances by the band during their Spring 1995
European tour, filmed in Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Budapest and Tabor,
with in depth interviews & some ludicrous, 'on the road' clowning.
It is a warm, open but critical portrait which succeeds in a direct manner
to give a personal definition of what this band is all about.
Six 'revolutionary new men's products'
from the show!
1. Love Potion #10 Mouthwash
2. 'Alternatives to Fucking' Video
3. Men's Ear Enhancers
4. Humanizing Eye Glasses
5. Male Sensitive Basher
6. 'Hi! I'm Horny' Signaler
Don't Understand Women!
cassette featuring 6 "revolutionary new men's products" taken
from Norman Nawrocki's provocative & internationally acclaimed anti-sexist
comedy cabaret, I "Don't Understand Women!" Includes "Alternative
to Fucking Video;" "Humanizing Eye Glasses;" "Male
Sensitive Basher" & "Men's Ear Enhancers." Ideal for
the boyfriend in your life. These excerpts are lighthearted cartoon-like
colourful disguises have been put aside, the music turned off. Entertainer
Norman Nawrocki picks up a chair, carries it to the front of the stage
and sits down to address his audience. For the past hour he has brought
laughter and tears to a lunchtime gathering of University of Calgary students.
Now it's time for reflection on the solemn message - a time to think about
Nawrocki's fast paced, 60 minute presentation on human relationships in
this constantly changing world. About the way men relate to women in the
'90s. About how they treat them.
guy at least once this week has said, 'I don't understand women,'" Nawrocki
says. A few heads - both male and female - nod in agreement.
straight-backed and hands folded on his lap, explains to the crowd that
the performance dealt with "the kinds of things we as men don't usually
talk about - we don't make the time to talk about ... All I ask is go
home, talk to your buddies, talk to your boyfriends, talk to your women
friends. Don't be afraid to talk about this stuff.
There's nothing to feel guilty about. There's nothing to feel paranoid
about. It's all simple everyday stuff. Every guy in the audience knows
exactly what I'm talking about. We've all been through this. "The reason
it's important for us to talk about this is because we all want this world
a more secure and safer place for all of us men and women.
Ultimately that means us, as men, are going to have to be able to work
with women together to change things and make this world a better place.
I encourage every guy here to take that up as a responsibility.
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