Following the US election on Nov 8, 2016, we asked Dowsers contributors to discuss the moods and music the results inspired. We collected their responses in a series, After the Election.
Like the rest of my fellow dowsers, I spent the second half of election week in a fog; I had trouble functioning. What menial task could make a case for my attention when so much had just gone so wrong? Then the weekend arrived, and my wife and I found ourselves at what might have been the single best place to spend that particular Saturday and Sunday: at a lesbian wedding in Berkeley, bearing witness as our Iranian/Indian/Pakistani friend married her Jewish partner. That Sunday, we exclaimed “Mazel tov!” as the new couple stamped on a glass; we watched as they sat next to the Sofreh as friends rained sugar down on them. Later, we danced the hora, then we danced to Bollywood jams, then we danced to “Call Me Maybe.” And man, what a dancefloor: flamboyant gay men dressed like Stevie Nicks, Iranian aunts and mothers in their finery, white folks from so-called battleground states, all cuttin’ a rug together.
Alas, this playlist is not a mix of tunes played that night. I do not have sufficient working knowledge of klezmer, Bollywood, or Carly Rae Jepsen to pull that off. But recalling that wedding did seem like the unavoidably right way to start this post. Because in between the anger, sadness, and pure dumbfounded shock of it all, I’ve found that the mental space I’ve been most drawn to of late is the one in which we’re all making our best good faith effort to connect and commune, to remember a lot of the original values that set us on our various paths in the first place, and what ultimately helped us all to find one another: love for the arts and the people responsible for them; respect for diversity and the myriad ways it enriches our lives; vigilant empathy for all participants. This election reminded us that not all our countrymen share those values (or at least they don’t prioritize them as we might like). And it reminded me that the first place to start when it comes to upholding and ultimately proliferating them is with oneself.
And so I made a mixtape. I used to make mixtapes all the time — not curated playlists of ‘70s psych or ‘90s boom bap or nu-metal workout essentials, which have their place, surely — but personal mixes of radical tunes that I shared with friends who did likewise. This is that. In the event we just met, or you’re an old friend who I haven’t talked to in awhile, and you wanted to know the kind of music I listen to when I want to feel a little more at peace and connected with the universe of good and worthy things this election has momentarily obscured our view of — it hasn’t gone anywhere, by the way, it’s just over the next hill, and we will march on until it comes back into view — then this would be a good place to start. It begins with a lot of dance music, because no matter what happens we should always remember to dance. Then it winds through some singer-songwriter stuff and some ambient-instrumental music, then resolves with a relatively new Monkees song written by Ben Gibbard and some Ethiopian jazz. Protest music, it is not, unless your idea of a protest is turning off the news for an ideally long stretch and just dwelling in your happy place, which actually come to think of it was exactly what that weekend’s wedding was: an act of defiance, dressed in the technicolor dreamcoat of love.