On that 14th of June in 1949, the audience present at the Tchaikovsky Hall had thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The powerful baritone voice of the American singer resonated inside the hall. The predominantly Russian audience, traditionally enamoured with the bass voice found the performance extremely pleasing. However, the concert was fast coming to an end and the audience was getting restless. It was then that the singer spoke from the stage, in near perfect Russian. He spoke about his warm friendship with Soviet Jews like Solomon Mikhoels and Yitzhak Feffer.
September 11 has perhaps been remembered in history for the wrong reason. Yes, it was on that day, in 2011, that the Frankstein monster unleashed by capitalism two decades earlier in the mountains of Afghanistan came back home; and yes, it was a terrifying homecoming. Perhaps more importantly, it was on this day, in 1973, that a murderous regime climbed the stairs of power after toppling Chile's democratically elected civilian government. For millions of ordinary Chileans and for the supporters of democracy worldwide, that date is a constant reminder about the fragility of freedom.
Revolutionary artists are a particularly unlucky lot, in that they typically die twice. First, a biological death, usually penniless and persecuted. Then, second time around, a slow methodical political assassination - wherein they are celebrated as a “creative genius and dreamer out of touch with reality”, appropriated into a “national treasure” and, of course, their creative output commoditized by media corporations into special edition albums, books, posters, coffee mugs and foundations.
Poetry has always held within it the potential to bring about sweeping changes. It is perhaps for this potential that poets and poetry are feared by both the despot and the fanatic; for their worlds are built on absolute adherence to decadent dogmas and total servitude to blind beliefs. Poetry has the power to ridicule the dogma and question the belief. Luckily for them, most of the poets choose to work on a realm of pure fantasy. The sweat, toil and tears of the real world rarely find their way into the world of the poet. But then, there are other poets-the exceptions to the general rule.
Every resistance puts forward a challenge to the existing order. And arts are no exception to this challenge. It eventually becomes the duty of every progressive resistance to mould art in its own image so as to produce works that will in turn shape the future; works that invigorate the people to cast away the chains of slavery, works that embolden ordinary people to resist invading armies, works that thrash the deities of ignorance, works that topple the thrones of tyranny, works that question the diktats of bygone eras, works that unfurl the banners of liberation.