Riz Ahmed performed a moving spoken-word song in response to Charlottesville.

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Posted on: 27th August 2017

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The powerful performance of 'Sour Times' drew a roaring applause.


"It seems that we’re living in really, really divided times, and it really hurts," said rapper, actor, and activist Riz Ahmed on "The Tonight Show."

Just days after a white supremacist killed a protester at a Charlottesville, Virginia, march, the "Rogue One" star found himself seated next to Jimmy Fallon discussing his latest TV, film, and music projects. After a few minutes of standard talk show banter, the conversation turned serious, and Ahmed brought up a song he wrote a while ago, that he hoped would never be relevant.

GIFs from "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon"/YouTube.

"I wrote this piece 10 years ago. Every year, I keep hoping it’ll become irrelevant, but it seems to become more and more relevant, sadly," he told Fallon. "It’s my attempt to try and get behind the headlines and work out where all this extremism is coming from."

Then he asked for a microphone and walked to the middle of the stage.

Ahmed performed a phenomenal, heartfelt, powerful spoken-word rendition of "Sour Times" for the audience.

If there's a message we need to hear right now, this is it. If you have a spare four minutes, do yourself a favor and watch the video. If not, the lyrics are printed in full at the bottom of this story.

"So listen, terrorism isn’t caused by religion or an old school vision of Islam / It’s against the Quran, it’s a new innovation caused by mash-up situations / That’s what makes them turn to arms / The problem is modern and it’s all local factors / Dictatorships, injustices and wars cause fatwas."

Our goal, like Ahmed says, should be to better understand where extremism comes from. Islamophobia, bigotry, and xenophobia aren't the answer, and if anything, they might actually just make things worse. To root out extremism, we need to understand its cause, "what makes them turn to arms," as Ahmed says. Placing blanket blame on Muslims is a cop-out.

The situation is a lot more complex than that, and until we can respond to it in a smart, thoughtful, and nuanced way, things will only get worse.

"Sour Times" by Riz Ahmed, as performed on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon":

In these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
I'm losing my religion to tomorrow's headlines
Guantanamo — sorry bro?
Nah, nothing, it's fine.

And now it's post 7/7
Why they calling it that?
They're trying to link it to New York
Like we’re all under attack from the same big bad guy
But it's taking a piss
'Cause the truth is terrorism ain’t what you think it is
There ain’t no super villain planning these attacks from some base
The truth is so much scarier and harder to face
See, there's thousands of angry young men that are lost
Sidelined in the economy, a marginal cost
They think there's no point in putting ballots up in the box
They got no place in this system, and no faith in its cogs
They're easy targets, that be getting brainwashed by these knobs
Who say that spilling innocent blood is pleasing a god
Well, it sounds good when you don’t see no justice or jobs
The gas bills are piling up, but all the oil's getting robbed
So David's taking out Goliath, and his wife and his dog
Segregated, castrated, now we see who’s on top!
So see, it ain’t religious faith that’s causing these crimes
It’s losing faith in democratic free market designs
It’s no coincidence that bombers came from ghettos up north
And the way that Trump talks gives a lost boy a cause
Then double standards get 'em angered, both at home and abroad
There's a monopoly on pens that's why they forge their own swords
They're misguided, turned violent, strapped themselves up with bombs
But they're still cowards, 'cause they ain’t here when the backlash is on

In these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
I'm losing my religion to tomorrow's headlines
Abu Ghraib — sorry mate?
Nah, nothing, it's fine

So all the mans that want to say that my religion has to change
That we’re stuck in a bygone age
It's time to set the vinyl straight
Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that all this terror outrage
These last gasp castaways
These bastards that will blast away
Turned up in the last decade
When Islam has been the way for millions
From back in the day
Instead of thinking that we’re crazed
Investigate just what it says
Fast, help the poor, and pray
Go Mecca, feast, fast, and faith
That’s the basics, that the base
So how did we get here today?
Well, interpretations always change
Today, they're read with rage
Been jihad-ened up
Desperation's kinda f—
Makes you use a book of peace as weapons in Iraq
So listen, terrorism isn’t caused by religion or an old school vision of Islam
It’s against the Quran, it’s a new innovation caused by mash-up situations
That’s what makes them turn to arms
The problem is modern and it’s all local factors
Dictatorships, injustices, and wars cause fatwas

In these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
I'm losing my religion to tomorrow's headlines
But it's fine


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