April 12, 2024

‘It felt so wrong’: Chumbawamba wants New Zealand politician to stop playing ‘Tubthumping’ at rallies


As New Zealand’s populist Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters walked out to address a political convention in the city of Palmerston North in March, the sound of the iconic song “Tubthumping (I Get Knocked Down)” blared. by the British punk band Chumbawamba through the speakers.

And while this wasn’t the first time Peters used or referenced the ’90s hit, his song choice has now drawn the vocal displeasure of the band itself.

During his State of the Nation address, Peters, the leader of the nationalist New Zealand First party, criticized the former Labor government’s policy of co-governance (joint decision-making with the Māori people) and pointed to the emergence of a -specified “race-based theory” that he compared to a philosophy “we saw in Nazi Germany.” Peters then called for education reforms, including removing “guidance on gender, sexuality and relationship-related education” from schools.

The controversial comments drew backlash from other members of New Zealand’s coalition government, which is largely made up of the mainstream National and ACT parties. But those headlines were quickly overshadowed by Chumbawamba publicly condemning Peters’ use of his song.

“Everything Peters stands for is contrary to Chumbawamba’s worldview,” Dunstan Bruce, the band’s founder and former singer, told CNN. “And especially with that song, a song that was written as an anthem for the underdog, the dispossessed, the working class – it felt so wrong that Peters found it suitable for himself.”

A self-described “anarchist collective,” Chumbawamba found their voice in the era of ’80s punk music and built a brand of activism through support and funding for progressive causes – especially after enjoying global commercial success in 1997 with “ Tub thumping’. also famously sold his song “Pass It Along” to automaker General Motors for $70,000, only to donate that money to activists waging an environmental campaign against the company.

Chumbawamba, which split in 2012, has asked its former record company, Sony Music Publishing, to send a cease and desist order to New Zealand First. The label did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on possible legal action.

Rights management organization APRA AMCOS NZ, which is responsible for licensing public music performances in New Zealand, told CNN that the owners of the convention hall where the song was played had obtained a license to play music at the venue. But there were conditions: First, the license did not cover any use of music that “could reasonably be regarded as suggesting approval, affiliation or endorsement by any artist, songwriter, publisher or record label.”

“Anyone familiar with this band and its views would quickly realize that such use in such a context would never be condoned,” an APRA AMCOS spokesperson added. The owners of the convention hall did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

“This is so difficult to police, and in looking for ways to stop Peters, we realized that these things are legally vague and take time to enforce,” Bruce said. “If people like Peters want to abuse our music… we have to be able to respond appropriately.”

If the case ever ends up in court, Chumbawamba might have to show how Peters or New Zealand First had benefited – or how the band had suffered harm – from the alleged infringement, said Peter Dungate Thrush, a partner and specialist in the field intellectual property rights. at New Zealand-based law firm McCabes and Company.

“One of the problems is that it is very difficult to point out the great financial damage that is being done (to Chumbawamba),” Thrush said, predicting that the money recovered from a legal battle will likely be very small. However, he added that the potential profits for the band might not just be financial: “It will … make it clear that they take copyright seriously, and that other people shouldn’t use (the song).”

For Bruce it’s simple: “We don’t want our name to be associated with people like Peters.”

It’s not the first time a New Zealand political party has made headlines for its music choices. In a 2017 Supreme Court ruling, American rapper Eminem was awarded 600,000 New Zealand dollars (then about $415,000) for copyright infringements by the National Party of New Zealand, which a few years earlier released a song titled ‘Eminem Esque’ in a political advertising campaign. The court ruled that the song was a “substantial copy” of the rapper’s 2002 Academy Award-winning hit “Lose Yourself.”

More recently, Eminem targeted former US Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, reportedly issuing him a cease and desist letter to prevent him from using “Lose Yourself” during his campaign last year. Former US President Donald Trump has now faced a host of complaints from famous musicians accusing him of using their songs without their permission, including The Rolling Stones, Rihanna, Pharrell Williams and Bruce Springsteen.

Chumbawamba is no stranger to politicians co-opting his music. The right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) drew the ire of the band in 2011 when then-leader Nigel Farage walked out to ‘Tubthumping’ during a conference.

Dunstan Bruce speaks on stage at the premiere of

UKIP appeared to honor the band’s request to no longer use the song. However, Peters has doubled down and taken to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to say: “There is nothing that can end or stop.”

Peters further claimed that the song “worked like a charm” at the conference. In response to CNN’s request for comment, New Zealand First Party chairman Julian Paul said the party had nothing further to add.

Whether music can significantly influence our perception of political campaigns or speeches is a matter of debate. According to Emmanuel Heisbourg, a former researcher at the University of Montreal who has studied the influence that music in political ads has on people’s opinions of politicians, removing or changing a song can have “a very, very small impact” on how competent or compassionate candidates emerged, for example. But it remains an under-researched field, Heisbourg told CNN.

As well as being an energetic composition that could stir passion in a crowd, the lyrics of ‘tubthumping’ (a British slang word for noisy political protest) have clearly struck a chord with those promoting messages of resilience. Peters has referenced the song’s iconic chorus: “I get knocked down, but I get back up. You’re never going to stop me” – before.

Last summer, months before his aforementioned State of the Nation address — in which he paraphrased Chumbawamba’s lyrics to show a tone of optimism about his government’s achievements, drawing cheers and applause from a crowd of supporters and lawmakers — Peters directly mentioned the name of the band. “If we stand up, the dirt will start again,” he said at a party conference in July, according to a transcript published by New Zealand First. ‘Actually, as you know, it has already started. That’s a barometer. That’s a real poll, that’s a sign that our opponents are really concerned. Expect it and ignore it. Just repeat the words of Chumbawamba to yourself: “I get knocked down, but I get back up.” You’re never going to stop me.”

For Chumbawamba, the mass appeal and stirring message of their hit is “both a blessing and a curse,” according to Bruce.

“We didn’t realize how much that message would resonate around the world and how it would apply in virtually any situation,” he said. “We want the song to always be a force for good. And to reflect what we believe in and stand for. Hence those moments when we have to make a fuss when things go wrong.”

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