Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Tiocfaidh Ar La" Motherfuckers...

It wouldn't be St. Patrick's Day if I didn't post this video. I recognize that I just mentioned this group in my Weekly Playlist, but nonetheless...

Marxman (yeah, I know, right? You get the pun) are a Hip-Hop group that few know nowadays, and there's a certain tragedy in that--as there is with many groups formed in the UK that Americans simply don't hear about. Their roots lie in the meeting of rapper Hollis Byrne (a.k.a. H) and DJ Oisin Lunny in Dublin. After moving to London in 1989, the duo soon added MC Phrase (a.k.a. Stephen Brown, the son of Bristol-born son of Jamaican immigrants) and second DJ Kay One.

Brought together by their love for Rap and a commitment to the ideas of revolutionary socialism, they formed a group that would be short-lived, but would have a massive (though largely unappreciated) contribution to music. Their repetitive beats that pulled great influence from Reggae and Northern Soul would, along with fellow Bristol groups Massive Attack and Portishead, leave a schematic for the soon-to-be-dubbed Trip-Hop scene. Given that half the group was from Irish, it was only natural that they blend in the native sounds of Ireland like tin whistle and such (as you can hear in the track below), and also stand up to the centuries oppression of the six northern counties by Britain.

And therein may lie the reason we haven't heard of Marxman today. Labeling a group "the Anglo-Irish answer to Public Enemy" may carry with is a great amount of street cred, but the folks at the BBC obviously balked. Their single "Sad Affair" gained a great amount of attention upon release, but was ultimately banned from the airwaves after Hollis uttered the words "tiocfaidh ar la"--the unofficial slogan of Irish Republicanism--in the song. Though it was obviously the move of paranoid producers at a time when the memory of the Troubles was still fresh, it had an adverse affect on the group's career, and after two albums, Marxman went their separate ways.

The video below is from their first album 33 Revolutions Per Minute, released in 1993. Featuring singer Sinead O'Connor (perhaps you've heard of her?), it is an iron-hard rebuke to worldwide oppression, tying together the colonization of Ireland with the entire bloody history of British empire, and in turn with modern wage slavery with effortless rhyme and flow. It is a mesmerizing track that stirs solidarity and militancy within all but the most cynical. Not only further proof that Hip-Hop engulfed the globe long ago, but that its natural instinct is toward freedom and equality, no matter who picks up on it.

Today is a St. Patty's Day unique in recent years. The economy of Ireland is disintegrating, and has already provoked massive protests, as well as talk of a general strike on the 30th of March. The shadow of sectarianism has also recently returned to the North, despite all the mealy-mouthed lip-service towards a "peace process." This track reminds of the militant working-class struggle that is ingrained in the history that small island. The time has come once again, for us to say tiocfaidh ar la--our day will come.


A thousand cultures stolen ships that came sailing
Sighted from the shoreline people stood waiting
But armies came invading and raiding to conquer
Understood nothing of a land that stood longer
But might was much stronger than right could ever be
Took away the land planned a new destiny
Butchery and murder and still I say murder
Butchery and murder and still I say murder

Wait! Hold up 'cause Phrase will break the mould
Culture growing stronger aging never old
Death accelerating, and I don't want to die
Fish hooked by a ship, Lord take me where I lie
Gone were the lucky ones, disease or suicide
The pride of survivors to cry for those that died
To resurrect the status and overcome the ploy
No bells or beads to barter for this young black boy

Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die
Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die

Gone are the days now the ships cease to sail
I don't think so what does a wage entail
Nine of five slavery or a twenty four seven
Most slaves tricked by the promise of a heaven
Controlled by the sound of a whip that goes sack
Mind - forged manacles make sure there's no slack
Think your not a slave, 'cause no whip marks your back
Now a bureaucrat wields the nine tails of the cat

Ain't nothing changed but the weather the song remains the same
Hollis comes left set up upon the Lamebrain
You can't tame the beast, the beast can't be changed
Have to smash the system, wisdom rearranged
Slavery claimed to be histories mystery
Wished it could be....It's still part of we
Search and look around my birthplace is torn
But England has fallen dusk negates dawn

Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die
Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die

Ship ahoy, ship ahoy, now they call it perestroika
Mandela's free but still can't stop the slaughter
Now they call it free trade, free choice for all
But the real freedom is ten per cent small
Freedom is a song which the caged bird sings
They keep the key all we see is the keyring
Fooled by the glisten, but the glisten is not gold
And I will not buy the beads that I'm sold

I stand here stand clear truth be my witness
How many Hitlers before you see the litmus
Test I won't rest, slave who won't behave
And no I want not the freedom of the slave
If the East wants the beast let the beast roam
'Cause in the East the death of the beast was sown
You can fool the people that they're equal
But you won't fool me with a sequel

Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die.
Ship ahoy
Lord take me where I lie, don't let my children die.



doug said...

Thanks for this. I'm now on a mission to find their other album "Time Capsule". Wikipedia says they toured with U2!! Can you just imagine that now?

Alexander Billet said...

Whoa! They toured with U2? No, I can't picture that. There's actually going to be an article on U2 appearing on this site on Friday examining the major shortcomings of their top-down politics.

There are downloads available of all of Marxman's albums here:


I think the blog is run by one of the former members.

doug said...

I found that blog through google but the downloads don't appear to work anymore and it hasn't been updated for a year.

I ordered the cd used from amazon uk via a seller in Germany. Keeping my fingers crossed, cost is about $10 canadian s&h.