Radio — Music and grassroots politics in Montreal


On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, I speak with Stefan Christoff. He is both a long-time organizer in a range of grassroots movements in Montreal as well as a musician, mostly a pianist. He sees strong connections between the movements in which he is active and music, including music that does not carry its politics in words, and today he explains those connections.

Mostly, when you think about the intersection of music and radical politics, what comes to mind is music in which the lyrical content conveys the politics – from Public Enemy to Ani Difranco, Rage Against the Machine to Paul Robeson, Kinnie Starr to Asian Dub Foundation, and so much more. And certainly for Christoff, punk and post-punk music, for example, were an important influence in his younger years. Yet after he moved to Montreal and became active in organizing in the community on a wide range of issues – from police brutality to global justice, solidarity with the Palestinian people to anti-capitalism – Christoff combined a growing interest in instrumental performance with a sense that we neglect the imaginative, creative, even spiritual side of ourselves in movement contexts at our peril. He came to see such music, particularly collaborative composition and performance, as a way to bring people together, as a way to cultivate expansive visions of a transformed future, and as a way of nurturing that spiritual side, and what he variously describes as the “dream-based aspects of activism” and the “imagintiave zone of activism.”

Christoff speaks with me about his organizing, his music, and the way in which, for him, they so radically intertwine. As well, we’ll discuss a few specific musical/political projects – including Duets for Abdelrazik, Regard sur le 7e feu, and a duet project with Egyptian-Canadian musician Sam Shalabi called Flying Street – and hear a couple of brief excerpts.

To learn more about Christoff’s work, you can follow him on Twitter or Soundcloud.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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