I mentioned, a bit ago, about my radio show The Parish News – you can read the blog post about The Parish News’ first steps in 2019 here. In that post, I mention a man called Åke. Now then, I am even unsure how to pronounce his name being the ignorant Englishman that I am – I admit, non-English languages are not my forté (pun intended).

But why would I write a blog post telling you about Åke Hodell? Well, because his work shook me out of a coma.

I had been in political apathy for a while – I had not ‘put my name’ next to any cause for a while – even if ‘putting your name’ is the sterilised, sanctioned version of protest that we have open to us.

I listened to a piece called “Mr Smith In Rhodesia” and I was amazed at the man’s genius. Mr Smith In Rhodesia is a protest poem about British brutality in Zimbabwe and it was eye-opening.

Åke Hodell (1919 – 2000) was a Swedish experimental text-sound composer and writer who used his compositions to voice political dissent. His work, though congruent with electroacoustic and avant-garde movements, is most closely associated with the ethics and aesthetics of the Fluxus movement.

Hodell was trained as a fighter pilot, but after a crash in 1941 spent several years in the hospital, which catalyzed an antimilitarist ethos and shaped his artistic direction. In his first text, Flyende Pilot (1953) and subsequent books, Hodell explored what he termed “elektronismer”, or “textsound composition”, which collages field recordings and the narrative human voice in a similar way to the way of a radio drama or of musique concrète. Many of his text-sound compositions, produced in collaboration with the Swedish Broadcasting Commission, had strong political content.

“Mr Smith in Rhodesia” from 1969 protested the racist government led by Prime Minister Ian Smith, and “Where Is Eldridge Cleaver?” questioned the disappearance of the Black Panther and leading ideologist of the black freedom movement believed to have been assassinated under Reagan.

“Mr Smith in Rhodesia” was for a long time banned from being broadcast on the radio in Sweden after vigorous protest from the British tabloids.

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