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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘American Dream’ By J.S. Ondara

Editor’s Note

The following protest song was initially featured at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.

J.S. Ondara is a Kenya-born and raised singer-songwriter, who moved to the United States to pursue his music career. He moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, out of admiration for his musical hero and native Minnesotan, Bob Dylan.

His nationality gives him a unique perspective when it comes to critiquing the American experience, which he does on his upcoming debut album, “Tales of America.” The album will be released on February 1, 2019.

“American Dream” is the first official music video and single off the album. Both the tune and video shatters the illusion of the elusive American dream.

The elusive American Dream is eloquently highlighted in the following verse: “But there’s a beast on the clock, guarding against the folk, and the ghost from the river is watching. She won’t let you get any close.”

Lyrics such as, “I say hallelujah, it’s your cue to shoot at,” hint at American gun culture and religious hypocrisy.

The video incorporates potent visuals to complement the song’s message.

As Ondara told NPR Music, “The video follows a man, as he sets upon a journey to purchase a weapon. While on his way, we get a glimpse of the world around him through his eyes, which gives us some insight into his state of mind.”

“Ultimately, the video explores the turbulent times in the country, socially and politically, thereby throwing a shade of irony to the popular notion of ‘The American Dream.'”

The video also references Dylan’s classic protest anthem “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” with the lyric, “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” inscribed on a sheet of paper.

During the 1960s, Dylan wrote several timeless socially conscious tunes. With “American Dream,” Ondara offers his Dylanesque reflection on America.

CJ Baker

CJ Baker

CJ Baker is a lifelong music fan and published writer. He recently started a website chronicling the historical developments of protest music: ongoinghistoryofprotestsongs.com, and can be found on Twitter @tunesofprotest