[ samizdat ] songs of dissent; music to defy tyrants

Samizdat [ sah'-miz-daht ] n.: The clandestine copying and distribution of literature banned by the state; an "underground press"


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[ There Has Been a Coup d'État in the United States ]

A quasi-dictator sits in the Oval Office. The klepto-tyrant has surrounded himself with like-minded vengeful old white men and is acting on his rage-filled vendettas, targeting anyone who has, or would oppose him.

He and his cronies are codifying their repression by executive fiat and the installation of grifters, hard-liners and know-nothings — regressive, draconian measures designed to erode, dismantle or negate individual rights. They must be challenged at every stroke of the pen.

Further, this government is specifically targeting the voices of dissent in an attempt to silence them: journalists, artists, bloggers, truth-tellers of all stripes — anyone who dares to disagree with the party line. We have become the "opposition," enemies of the state. It is hardly beyond imagination that, in the days ahead, dissenters could find themselves pulled off the street and incarcerated for vaguely defined (if defined at all) acts against the regime.

We must resist. We must fight back.


[ We Resist through Samizdat ]

During the Cold War, oppressed people shared dissident art and literature under the very nose of the Soviet regime and its puppet satellites through samizdat.

Samizdat was the secret exchange of forbidden words and thought — ideas that were spread person-to-person, sometimes in the shadows, often in the glare of the searchlights.

Dissenting opinion hidden in plain sight.


[ That Is How This Project Works ]

Given the need for secrecy, the songs in this collection have been carefully hidden in order that they may be shared clandestinely. These forbidden tunes have been embedded within pre-existing, commercially produced and released cassette tapes and are now circulating among the resistance.

You won't hear the songs when you press "play." Rather, you have to forward to their hidden location farther into the tape.

This is for your safety.

If you have one of the doctored cassettes and are approached by federal agents who demand to know what you are listening to, rewind the tape and play the cassette from the beginning. The authorities will leave you alone with your music when they hear that you're just listening to some old commercial release — hardly a threat to the state.


[ Only You Know Better ]

You know that these songs are the sounds of the resistance — songs of dissent, songs of hope. Honest songs that tell stories, share feelings and, hopefully, connect with you and incite you to action in defense of our increasingly fragile democracy.

This is music the regime doesn't want you to hear.

If you have one of these secret cassettes, you can keep it. But I encourage anyone with a [ samizdat ] cassette to become an activist and share the music with others — trusted friends and fellow members of the resistance, anyone for whom these songs might serve as an inspiration or comfort. There's an element of risk in sharing your [ samizdat ] cassette. But anything that helps undermine the power of tyrants and fascists is worth it!

Find out how you can share these songs (instructions below).

Thank you for listening. Thank you for resisting. Thank you for helping spread the music.


Viva la resistance!

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[ Clandestine Cassettes ]

As mentioned above, this project is best experienced on one of the clandestine cassettes now circulating among the resistance.

If you have one of the secret [ samizdat ] cassettes in your possession, remember that samizdat is meant to be shared with your friends — resistance fighters, dissenters, neighbors, students, activists and patriots.


[ How to Share a Secret Cassette ]

Do your part to fight oppression, bigotry and hate by following these easy steps for copying and sharing a [ samizdat ] cassette.

1. Bootleg the songs on a home recording device* so you have your own copy

2. Make a copy of the instructions that came with the cassette

3. Think of someone who might appreciate these songs and find a way to contact them

4. Plot a rendezvous so you can pass your [ samizdat ] to your contact

5. Keep it secret: don't let the authorities see you or your [ samizdat ]


*IF YOU DO NOT POSSESS the technical means to copy this cassette (i.e., you can't get your hands on a cassette player), click here to listen to the songs, as well as read the lyrics and gain some deep background on how these particular songs came to be.



Wait!!! I jumped ahead. What's all this about "secret" cassettes?

Click here to learn more about how this project works.

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[ samizdat ] songs of dissent; music to defy tyrants

[ samizdat-001 — The Songs ]

This particular set of recordings features performances by Robi Polgar and his guitar hero, Kelly J. Rath, who perform together as The Study Session.

Click the song titles below to listen to a particular song, read the lyrics and learn a little about how the song came to exist in the first place.

1. Thug Nation

One day, they'll wake up and realize who they've empowered. But it's too late.

2. Extra Ordinary

Ordinary lovers plot their escape.

3. Spirits of the St. Louis

Is there any difference between the ordeal of the Jews who fled Nazi Europe in 1930 and the tribulations immigrants and refugees face in America today? No.

4. In Front of the Crowd

What a gun thinks when it's pointed at someone.

5. Mystery Mirror

The onset of dementia, the fear of losing your mind.

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[ Thug Nation ]

If you like what you hear, please support this project.


We have to stop this merry-go-round
Have to escape the circus, extricate from the clowns

Haven't you been listening?
Haven't you been paying attention?

Where did you lose your humanity?
That's just the price you pay for the bullshit that you believe

You lie in bed at night
Now that you've sold your soul
Under the sheets so white

Hide your face under the pillow case
Cutting out eye holes in your pillow case

Thug Nation, Thug Nation
I don't want to hear your explanation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Everybody's getting an invitation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
They're counting on your participation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Cos you don't wanna wind up in a concentration camp

I see you on your high-wire act
Working without a net you can't tell fiction from fact

You lie in bed at night
What do you tell yourself
They march in broad daylight

You hope they're looking for someone else
You know they're looking for no one else

Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Trumped up charges, incarcerations
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Executive orders, deportations
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Why resent when you can hate them
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Making it great for American racism

Thug Nation, Thug Nation
I don't want to hear your explanation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
They're counting on your participation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
You never should have opened their invitation
Thug Nation, Thug Nation
Everybody's heading to the concentration camp


Words and music © 2017 Robi Polgar

Kelly J. Rath — guitars, vocals
Robi Polgar — guitars, vocals


[ How I Wrote the Song "Thug Nation" ]

It took a week following the unthinkable electoral-college anointment of a hate-spewing nativist to the most powerful post on the planet for this song to burst out of me. It was hard to wake up to the realization that (a minority of) voters chose to empower a vengeful tycoon-tyrant-toddler, a strongman-wannabe, a thug — and with him we get a coterie of like-minded punishers intent on beating the country into submission.

This song goes a little way toward expressing the deep-rooted disgust I feel at my fellow Americans who would choose hate and divisiveness over empathy and progress. Yeah, maybe not everyone knew what they were doing, or the serious consequences of their votes (though I have my doubts). They’re still accessories to the crime. Regardless, we're all gonna find out just how fucked we are, sooner rather than later.

Things are moving fast — faster than a a bile-filled, short-fingered tweet-storm. As I said in the screed above, we live in the aftermath of a coup d'état. Long-held civic norms have been obliterated. And it’s bound to get worse before it gets better. This song has already undergone changes to try to keep up. It'll probably undergo more.

I lived through Thatcher and Reagan and Bush I and II and have seen the effects of other right-wingers who have come to power talking populism yet whose real goal was the aggrandizement of themselves and their enablers at the expense of the citizens they claim to serve. I believe nothing they say. Instead, check out what they do, to whom they do it and how.

Then ask yourself just how safe you feel, living in a nation run by thugs.

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[ Extra Ordinary ]

If you like what you hear, please support this project.


The fog comes rolling in
And cuts off pier from shore
The homeward bounders thin
To bar and bolt their doors
The devils sneer and grin
The ocean starts to roar
You push and push again
I've told you once, I've told you before

There are some things I'll never do
Even though you might want me to
You ordinary fool

I could be
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary, too

The rain comes pouring down
We hide beneath the pier
Let's leave this stinking town
And start again somewhere
The ocean starts to pound
The devils grin and sneer
You swim or else you drown
So take my hand and let's get out of here

Cos there's some things I'll never do
Even though you might want me to
You ordinary fool

I could be
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary, too

I could be
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary
Extra ordinary...

...for you


Words and music © 1994 Robi Polgar

Kelly J. Rath — guitars, vocals
Robi Polgar — guitars, vocals


[ How I Wrote the Song "Extra Ordinary" ]

This is an old song, part of a quartet of tunes I recorded on my Tascam Porta-One 4-track cassette recorder back in 1994, collected under the incredibly pretentious title, "Smart Bombs in the Hotel de Vie." I've included it in this set because it's one of the signature songs of the SS — interweaving plunky guitar melodies and vocal harmonies that stray a shade from the expected.

Musically, I remember noodling about with the melodic walk-down that starts the song and then recalling how it sounded a little like the Simon & Garfunkel song "America." Maybe you caught the pun about "homeward bounders" in the lyrics above? From there, I wanted the song to ebb and flow, a little like its seaside setting.

Story-wise, I wanted to write about lovers who felt estranged in their current lives, who sought escape — anything that would raise them up from the doldrums of their existence. So they meet in secret, in nature-aided gloom, as far from the rest of humanity as they can get given their limited resources. Hence the pier, cut off from the shore by a fog bank. And I wanted to express something along the lines of however dire their circumstances, they ought not sell out, not bargain away their souls — there had to be limits on how far they’d go to survive. Ultimately, they realize their only choice is to leave their current lives and start again somewhere else. At least they'll have each other.

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[ Spirits of the St. Louis ]

If you like what you hear, please support this project.


Looking for a sanctuary
Looking for a willing host
We're a floating cemetery
Three-quarters condemned and the unholy ghosts

Our hopes went up in the smoke
Of a Cuban cigar and a continent closed
So the spirits of the St. Louis sail on...

Are you aware we're here?
We've lived among you all these years
Do you want to drown us out?
Or do you only hear what you want to hear?
An S.O.S. or a suicide note
We're a message in a bottle that's forever afloat
As the Spirits of the St. Louis sail on...

Defend the border, build a fence
Secure your blessings of liberty
Feds, coyotes, Minutemen
Everybody's got it in for me
Give me your tired your poor,
Your huddled Masses yearning to breathe free
One day soon you'll have to say it in Spanish
"Yes we can! Se pueda! sí!"

Who's gonna clean your kitchen?
Who's gonna trim your lawn?
Who's gonna feed your children
While you sit in your salon?
See fences fall and the gates unhinge
You can't lock us out 'cos we're already in
And the spirits of the St. Louis sail on...


Words and music © 2017 Robi Polgar

Kelly J. Rath — guitars, vocals
Robi Polgar — guitars, vocals


[ How I Wrote the Song "Spirits of the St. Louis" ]

In 1939, a German ocean liner, the the MS St. Louis, set sail from Europe carrying more than 900 Jews fleeing the Nazis. It was headed for the Western Hemisphere. Havana, Cuba was the initial destination. The Cubans did not honor the passengers' visas and, after failing to find an alternate port to disembark its passengers, the boat was forced to return to Europe, where its passengers dispersed, many of whom wound up in the incinerators of Nazi concentration camps. The United States was as ignominiously unwelcoming as the Cubans. It's incredible that a country that boasts a monument that beckons the most needful to its bosom would turn its back on refugees.

I wrote this song during a previous wave of government, media and public attacks on immigrants and refugees. It was hardly a stretch to switch focus from a story of doomed German Jews to an account of the trials facing immigrants and refugees today.

So, here we are again, slamming the door on desperate fellow humans fleeing war zones and intolerance, attempting to find a better life in the U.S. as our forebears once did. Who besides racists and the propagandized honestly believes immigrants are the cause of their troubles and not convenient scapegoats that deflect attention from the real issues facing our citizenry? Which of America's vociferous immigrant bashers is going to take the jobs only immigrants do? Who among us was not the child of immigrants?

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[ In Front of the Crowd ]

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You have a question, come over, sport
I'll let you hear my full report
You don't like Mondays, go tell it to the hordes
On your messianic message boards

Never sent my children off to school
Never learned to live by the golden rule
Why are those people standing round?

Where am I? I'm in front of the crowd

Pocket Constitutions and your Target card
We practice late in the back yard
It's not my fight, don't look at me
He pulls my trigger and he's free

Never sent my wife to a dead-end job
Disgruntled co-workers, death by cop
Why are those those people falling down?

Look at me, I'm in front of the crowd
Look at me, I'm in front of the crowd

Go text your mom, go call the cops
I keep on popping and I just can't stop
I hope you take this all to heart
So, baby, here's my parting shot

Go blame the victim, don't blame me
Cos I'm not sentient like a human being
I think you'll know just what I mean
You can read it in my magazine

You'll never know where I'm concealed
You stand like statues or you kneel
I'll fill your head with another round

Look at me, I'm in front of the crowd
Look at me, I'm the talk of the town
Look at me, I'm in front of the crowd


Words and music © 2017 Robi Polgar

Kelly J. Rath — guitars, vocals
Robi Polgar — guitars, vocals


[ How I Wrote the Song "In Front of the Crowd" ]

I wrote this song after Late Joys drummer Matt Patterson gig-bantered that the next song I would write was going to be about gun violence. We were playing the Carousel Lounge that night, and had just performed some of my more political songs — songs that concerned themselves with subjects like intolerance and climate change and women's reproductive rights. I don't think he thought I'd actually go out and write this song. But it seemed like a decent challenge and, after a weekend's worth of hunting and pecking, this is the result.

The grist for the song might have been the latest gun-related atrocity, though I can’t say which one, given the sheer number of them. A look at the calendar around the time gives no answers. Or maybe it was a reaction to some atrocity committed on ordinary people by members of the NRA-bought Congress, for whom a good guy with a gun is anyone with a gun (unless that guy's a black guy).

One of the first lines I wrote was about never sending my children off to school and not learning to live by the golden rule. I couldn’t figure out who was saying that at first. Then I realized it was the gun talking. The whole song is from the gun's perspective as it grows in confidence while losing any sense of shame.

One lyric, "We practice late in the back yard" is particularly haunting — not two months after I wrote the song the San Bernadino attacks occurred. One of the details of the gunman was how he used to "just hang out in [the] back yard doing target practice..."

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[ Mystery Mirror ]

If you like what you hear, please support this project.


First I misplaced my keys
There's something else I can't find
I've got a growing unease
For faces, places and time

Am I losing my grip?
Overcome by the vague?
Will I go down with the ship?
Before I go up in flames?

There's something familiar about that face in the glass
Where have I met you before?
In a mystery mirror can I unlock my past?
I'm not sure

If I drown in the waves
Would you throw me a line?
Now I'm no good with names
I don't even recall mine

There's something familiar about that look in your eye
I think I've seen you before
I'd feel so embarrassed if I only knew why
Is there more?

Here's me holding a key
To a door I can't find
Just a growing unease
For faces, places and time

When I'm lost in the vague
Who's gonna throw me a line?
Now I'm no good with names
I think I'm losing my mind

There's something familiar about that look in your eye
I think I've seen you before
I'd feel so embarrassed if I only knew why
That's not all

There's something familiar about that face in the glass
Where have I met you before?
In a mystery mirror can I unlock my past?
I'm not sure


Words and music © 2017 Robi Polgar

Kelly J. Rath — guitars
Robi Polgar — guitars, vocals


[ How I Wrote the Song "Mystery Mirror" ]

This is another song that kicked off as I was noodling with what eventually became the opening riff — a rockin' bluesy phrase of the sort that sometimes just appears when I pick up my guitar. I can't claim to know what to do to expand on these sonic ideas, let alone tease them out into anything remotely virtuosic (that's Kelly's job). Still, with the opening going gangbusters, in no time I had something for all the different song sections. The trick was figuring out the structure and duration of all those verses, vamps, breaks, bridges and so on — to keep the song's energy flowing and not lose the audience's (or my) attention. Repeated performances with Mr. Rath helped cement all those verses and choruses and bits in between into what you hear now.

I'm not entirely sure what drew me to choose dementia as the song's subject, except that diseases like Alzheimer's seem more and more present in our lives. We all have friends or family members who have been stricken to varying degrees with the erosion of their mental faculties. I've noticed a subtle increase in gaps in my own vocabulary — a mini-struggle to find words that used to be at my fingertips, then on the tip of my tongue, that have since receded further and further from my grasp.**

Not unlike the onset of the disease, writing words to this song felt like a race against time. Having completed the music so quickly without any words, I took the theme of losing my mind as my lyrical launch pad in order to catch up to the music. I started by imagining how losing my mind might manifest itself: lost keys, lost something-else-I-can't-recall and so on. The words came fast after that. I recently watched a documentary on Alzheimer's where one lost ability was that of self-recognition. My song's protagonist looks in the mirror and does not recognize himself, and so it is with sufferers of dementia. I'm not sure how I could face that future, seeing that unfamiliar face in the glass. I hope I never have to find out.

**In an alternating amusing/cruel twist of irony, I have had a devil of a time trying to learn the words to this song — trying to wrap my aging mind around their repetitions. It doesn't help that I like to write songs with competing choruses, that is, choruses that aren't exactly the same each time they come around. "Mystery Mirror" not only has two versions of chorus (with a choice of three different last lines), those choruses are sung in reverse the second time through. Now where did I leave those keys?

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[ Please Support This Project ]

Resistance doesn't come cheap in the evil emperor's so-called free-market paradise! To help keep this project going, you can add your support in various ways through word and deed:

1. Bootleg your secret [ samizdat ] cassette and share it with a like-minded dissenter. If you have a clandestine cassette, follow the instructions above. Remember to share it in secret!

2. Download the five-song EP via Bandcamp or give the EP (or the six-song compact disc) as a gift to a friend.

3. Order your very own secret [ samizdat ] compact disc. Okay, so it's neither all that secret nor is it as cool as a cassette. But it comes with all the tracks above plus a secret extra song. PLUS, you can play it in your car, and it's packaged so as to ensure your anonymity — little security measures put in place so the feds won't see what you're up to, you anarchist!

4. Make a donation in our online tip jar. Money raised here goes toward more music and future [ samizdat ] cassettes/recordings.

5. Spread the word. Please tell your friends and fellow-dissenters about this project and point them to this website. Sign up on the mailing list to get major updates on this and future [ samizdat ] projects.


[ Artist Bios ]

Robi Polgar

Robi Polgar is a musician, writer, director and unrepentant soccer junkie, living in Austin, Texas and the leader of this little pièce de résistance. His musical stylings owe a lot to the sounds of various British Invasions — from the 1960s to the post-punk era. You can catch him performing this canon of classics, as well as his copious catalog of original numbers, in Austin and environs.

Read more about Robi, his bands and where you can see him perform.


The Study Session

The Study Session features the intersecting acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies of Austin-based singer-songwriting duo Robi Polgar and Kelly J. Rath. Suburban dads both, the pair met at their daughters' weekend soccer games and realized they shared a proclivity for making music. An early, single, practice session went well, but as both artists were involved in other projects, it wasn’t until 2010 they rediscovered their knack for strumming and warbling as one and have since carved out the requisite time and space to start playing as the formidable unit you can hear here. Hear, hear!

Go to The Study Session website.


[ What's Next for the [ samizdat ] Project? ]

The plan is to release a series of secret [ samizdat ] cassettes, each in a slightly different format, but all of them chock full of resistance, hope and love. And songs — plenty of songs!

Sign Up on the Mailing List — be the first to learn about [ samizdat-002 ] as well as Robi's other ongoing creative ventures.

Thanks!

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[ samizdat ] songs of dissent; music to defy tyrants

© ℗ Robi Polgar. All rights reserved.