While fans of politically-conscious protest music are filling the social feeds this week with excitement and speculation over a bunch of guys in their fifties raging against the machines, there’s a current torchbearer for passionate informed dissent who defies all preconceptions of The Face of Protest. Her name is Kate Tempest, and her performance Monday night on Australia’s ABC show Q&A is the most incendiary bombs of truth and perspective we’ve heard since Zack De La Rocha fell off the planet (or was pushed by a bro-mob of guys named Chad wearing Che Guevara shirts, whatever).
Born Kate Calvert, the 30 year-old closed the Q&A show on Monday by performing her rousing spoken-word rendition of Progress, skewering the precious idolatry of corrosive religion, vampiric media, unchecked consumerism and beyond. Through incredible wordplay and jarringly stark imagery, Kate bullseyes the multitude of modern crises with an arresting power of poignant truth. Her words are an air-raid siren of awakening in a world where we desperately ignore the fact that nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole, a haunting juxtaposition of the fact that the paper and plastic our wallets is the purest and truest vote we’re ever going to have. Aware that pop culture is no true culture after all, but a glittery parasite with no form or foundation, Tempest inserts the needle of awareness with a sweet urgency.
“They used to burn women who had epileptic fits, they’d tie you to a stake and they’d proclaim you a witch,” she rhymed. “Now they’ll put you on the screen if you’ve got nice tits, but you will be torn apart if you let yourself slip, and they’ll draw red rings around your saggy bits.”
“Yes, the world is your playground, go and get your kicks,” she says in conclusion. “As long as you’re not poor or ugly or sick. We never saw it coming, just like all the best tricks, because, yes, once we had the fear – but now we have the fix.”