A diverse group of queer musical artists from around the world have been featured in the groundbreaking new album Rainbow Riots.
The album has been dubbed “a protest musical repertoire” and includes LGBTQ artists from Uganda, Malawi, South Africa and Jamaica – some of the most dangerous countries in the world for LGBTQ people.
Released on June 16, Rainbow Riots is described as “an eclectic fusion of afrobeat, electro, soul, pop, orchestral, rap, dancehall, gospel and spoken word.” It was composed and produced by Swedish artist and activist, Petter Wallenberg.
It will be the first time most people will hear a Jamaican dance hall artist who is also a gay rights activist. It will also introduce the listener to the music of a queer rapper from Malawi, a queer South African rap crew and a whole array of LGBTQ artists from Uganda – often called the world’s most homophobic country.
As one of the Ugandan artists puts it: “Our lives are already in danger – it doesn’t help if we keep quiet.”
Some of the artists featured include Mista Majah P (Jamaica), Brayo Bryans (Uganda), Shivan (Uganda), Kowa Tigs (Uganda), Umlilo and Stash Crew (South Africa), and Ivy B (Malawi). Others have chosen to remain anonymous, their involvement with the project posing such a threat in their home country.
Speaking to Mambaonline, performance artist Umlilo said that while South Africa is seen as a haven for LGBTQ rights in Africa, the reality remains that “if you’re a trans woman, a gay or lesbian person of colour you are in danger…”
“I think this is something that is forgotten because we have such a progressive constitution but on the ground, it is still very difficult to live as a queer person in our country,” noted Umlilo.
A fight for freedom against tyranny
During the recording of Rainbow Riots, Wallenberg attended Uganda Pride in August 2016, which was subsequently raided by the police. The incident not only drove the project on, but bearing witness to the atrocities also inspired the creation of the Rainbow Riots global charity, working for LGBTQ equality and rights.
All proceeds from the sales of the album go towards the charity’s work in ending discrimination against LGBTQ people around the world.
“Imagine that your very existence is a crime and that the police, authorities and lynch mobs chase you simply because you are who you are,” Wallenberg said. “This is the reality of LGBTQ people in many countries around the world. I created Rainbow Riots as a movement to fight for freedom against tyranny”
The first track to be taken from the album is Equal Rights – a song which has been picked up as part of the UN ‘Global Goals’ campaign: an initiative to end extreme poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030.
Umlilo and Stash Crew
“The violence and prejudice needs to end and this is the beginning of that movement to try and have queer people come together and spread the message of equality for all,” said Umlilo. “It’s really great to have white gay men fight for same-sex marriage in first world countries but let’s not forget that other countries still criminalise homosexuality. In others people can still get a death penalty sentence. It’s absurd!”
There are plans to continue to bring the Rainbow Riots album to life through music videos, workshops and live performances around the world.
You can buy the Rainbow Riots album on iTunes or stream it on Spotify. Watch the video for Equal Rights below.