Tuesday, December 28th, 2021
Protest: Arlo Parks
The Power to Enact Change
Dec 28, 2021
By Jennifer Irving
Photography by James Loveday (for Under the Radar)
Issue #68 – Japanese Breakfast and HAIM (The Protest Issue)
Raised in London, 20-year-old Arlo Parks, aka Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, leads a new generation of poets and songwriters. With her recent debut album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, Parks has quickly—and deservedly—grabbed the attention of the music world. Now, with a larger platform, she is determined to use it in a positive way, aiming to be active in her desire to create change.
“I feel like this [last] year has definitely shown us that when we see something is wrong or if there’s something that we want to change, we have to be active in our indignation. We can’t sit back and hope that things evolve. We have to be out there and…I feel like young people are doing that more and more, which fills me with hope for the future to be honest.”
Parks lives in the UK, but sees similarities with politics in the U.S. Although she called current British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ex-President Donald Trump both “very, very polarizing,” (“Let’s put it that way” she follows up with), she thinks more about the positive similarities—the power of young people to enact change.
“There’s definitely been a sense in terms of the younger generations of the fact that something has to change.
And I feel like that is quite powerful. The idea of the younger generation seeing the fact that those in power don’t represent their ideas and who they are, and getting out there and wanting to change things.”
This push from young people for change is also starting to make its way into the music industry. One thing that Parks mentions as an encouraging example of this is a recent initiative by British musician and producer Mura Masa, who set up a free program for Black women to gain experience in live music roles such as house, mixing, and monitor engineering. “It’s things like that that are happening are very encouraging,” Parks says, “but I definitely feel that there’s a long way to go, especially when you look up at the lineups of certain festivals.”
Having written a large part of her debut in quarantine, Parks says that the music of our time will be marked by time spent inside. “I definitely think there’s going to be a sense of introspection because of the time spent in isolation and the time kind of gathering a sense of self-awareness. Art is always very much impacted by the time in which it’s made, but I guess also the lens of the individual. So we’ll see.”
When comparing protest songs of the ’60s and ’70s to the current day, Parks believes current protest songs are less distinct and subtler. “I think there are a lot of different forms of protest, like talking about one’s experience as a queer person or as a person of color is the same form of protest as someone making something that’s overtly political,” she says. “And I think that that is the beauty of it, that there are so many things that can be considered protest songs. And so I guess it’s less narrow. I think it can be weaved into anything.”
[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 68 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online. The issue was our 2021 Protest Issue, in which we once again examined the intersection of music and politics and conducted photo shoots with musicians holding protest signs of their own making.]