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Protest Song of the Week: ‘Le ciel est noir’ by Nana Mouskouri & Garou

One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed and over 350 people injured in bombings in Paris. The Islamic State took credit for the attacks, and in the next few days, France immediately intensified airstrikes on the Islamic State in Raqqa, Syria.

Nearly a thousand people in France came out into the streets to sing and stand up to the fear created by the attacks. One of those songs was an anthem by Nana Mouskouri, a Greek singer who moved to Paris in 1960. It is called, “Je Chante Avec Toi, Liberté,” which translates into “Song for Liberty.”

The first verse:

When you sing I’m singing with you liberty
When you cry I cry with you in sorrow
When you suffer I’m praying for you liberty
For your struggles will bring us a new tomorrow

The lyrics describe how sad darkness and fear must fall away as kindness and love win and liberty comes or is restored.

The French interior minister has spoken out about how the country will dissolve mosques, where “hatred” is preached. He has called for more deportations of “foreign preachers of hate.” French police have conducted 168 raids. Two dozen people have been arrested, but for 104 other people, there apparently is no evidence to arrest them and so they have been placed on house arrest.

This may be the response Islamic State desires, and certainly these actions—which will only fuel anti-refugee sentiments in France and other Western countries—do not honor the ideals of liberty. So, in this moment another song associated with Mouskouri feels more appropriate, “Le ciel est noir,” which is the French version of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.”

The French title translates into, “The Sky is Dark,” and the popular version by Mouskouri, who was heavily influenced by ’60s singer-songwriters, is an incredibly stirring rendition. She first recorded it in 1974. It was recorded again in 2011, as a duet with Garou, a Canadian singer.

The song by Bob Dylan was written in the immediate months before the Cuban Missile Crisis. It quickly became associated with nuclear fallout. However, Dylan has maintained it was not “fallout rain,” just “hard rain,” like some kind of end that may be coming.

When he sings about “the pellets of poison” flooding waters, he specifically is referring to lies people are hearing in the media.

The song evokes war, famine, hatred, and tragedy. The lyrics seem to come from a character’s experiences and collectively create a foreboding sense that this will all continue to get worse from here. Which makes the song fitting for a time when France and other Western countries are bound to overreact to the attacks in a way that will additionally fuel cycles of violence in the Middle East.

Listen to “Le ciel est noir,” Shadowproof’s “Protest Song of the Week.”

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Are you an independent artist who has written and/or produced a protest song that you would like featured? Or do you have a favorite protest song? We have a few submissions we’ll be featuring in the coming weeks, and if you’d like to submit a song, send submissions to protestmusic@Shadowproof.com

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."