Acclaimed guitarist Marc Ribot has released “The Militant Ecologist” featuring Meshell Ndegeocello, the latest track off his upcoming Sept. 14 release, Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 on ANTI-Records. Ribot set out to assemble a set of songs that spoke to this political moment with appropriate ambition, passion, and fury, starting at the end of 2016, not just in response to the American elections but to the political trends he was seeing around the world.
“I am alarmed by Trump and the movement he’s part of,” he says. “I’ve spent a good chunk of my life running around the world on tour—I’m kind of an accidental internationalist—and I see that he’s not an isolated phenomenon. And if we don’t deal with what is going on, it is going to deal with us.” In releasing “The Militant Ecologist featuring Meshell Ndegeocello, Ribot repurposes the popular Italian resistance song “Fischia il Vento” (Whistling in the Wind). Renowned punk rock filmmaker Jem Cohen has also directed a video for the song featuring a green-tinged New York City skyline with a flag whipping in the wind.
For their new take, Ribot and Ndegeocello change the male partisan fighter in the original song to a woman fighting to stop global warming. “We changed the gender in our version and the flag at the end is green,” Ribot explained of his and Ndegeocello’s take on the song and visuals. “But Meshell projects the persona of a resistance fighter going on a mission perfectly: ‘strong her heart, and swift her arm to strike.”
The eleven songs on the record include a few original compositions as well as traditional songs that are drawn from World War II anti-Fascist Italian partisans, the U.S. civil rights movement and Mexican protest ballads. It also features a wide range of guest vocalists, including Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Meshell Ndegeocello, Justin Vivian Bond, Fay Victor, Ohene Cornelius and Sam Amidon.
Over a forty-year career, Ribot has released twenty-five albums under his own name and been a beacon of New York’s downtown/experimental music scene, leading a series of bands including Los Cubanos Postizos and Ceramic Dog. Since his work with Tom Waits on 1985’s Rain Dogs album, though, he is best known to the world as a sideman, playing on countless albums by the likes of Elvis Costello, John Mellencamp, Norah Jones, the Black Keys, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Grammy-winning collaboration Raising Sand.
Along with his musical efforts, Ribot has also been an outspoken activist/community organizer in a number of causes, from affordable housing to musicians’ rights in the digital age. Portions of the album’s proceeds will be donated to The Indivisible Project, an organization that helps individuals resist the Trump agenda via grassroots movements in their local communities.