By Nao Braverman
Political songs are not only for lyricists of the folk generation, especially in times like these, as Elijah Behar sees it.
Behar, and his local band, Hindu Kush, recently completed “Blood for Oil,” a song that offers a clever and emotional critique of the Bush administration, the war in Iraq, and American privilege.
With Oak Grove School senior Pablo Esquer on violin, Nathaniel Harnett, 20 on bass, Logan Huguency, 21 on drums and Behar playing guitar while belting out politically charged lyrics, “Blood for Oil” is definitely a contemporary rock song, while addressing a topic rarely touched by musicians of Hindu Kush’s age group.
Local producer Greg Penny, who has also put out some of Elton John, k.d. lang, and Cher’s work, in addition to a myriad of other musicians, heard “Blood for Oil” at an informal show at Behar’s home and immediately offered to produce it.
It was a welcome next step for Hindu Kush, having recently won the Universal City Battle of the Bands, and landed a song on the movie score for the upcoming sequel to “The Lost Boys.”
“I’ve produced a lot of work, but there’s no one I have worked with who sounds like them,” said Penny, speaking of Hindu Kush, which blends the influence of seminal classic rock artists of 1960s and ‘70s like the Velvet Underground and The Doors, with a more current, alternative sound.
Behar, who writes the lyrics to the band’s songs, came up with “Blood for Oil” after a trip abroad, which gave him taste of how America was regarded around the world.
“I was 13 when the war began,” he said. “A lot of kids our age in this town don’t care about this stuff. We live such padded lives. But we are in more debt than ever before, so many people have been killed, and we are going to be paying for the war for the rest of our lives.”
The challenge for Behar was to create a heartfelt song about the war, that would reach a broad audience, including members of his own generation, without getting too cynical.
“We have to try to change our ways, but it is hard when we are spoiled,” he sings. And ends the song with conviction, “Hope still lies inside our minds, it’s time to make a change.”
Behar knew one sure way to get the message out to members of his generation was to post the song, along with a video that features a montage of images which have represented the war in today’s multimedia-saturated society, on YouTube.
Photographs of mangled bodies, torture victims at Abu Ghraib, Lynndie England, flag-draped coffins, and explosions are set to Hindu Kush’s building musical crescendo, bringing more life to the already horrific images. The piece was edited by well-known multimedia designer David Hartwell.
Beginning by pointing out the irony of a war started by “too much fear,” as the song goes, led “by those who bear the name of the leaders of the land of the brave,” Behar ends the song and video by urging citizens to make a change, and vote.
“This is our only song that deals with politics,” said Behar. “Probably the only one we’ll ever do,” he said. But he wanted to be sure it left a strong impression.
And it did, at least for his friend’s mother who called Behar crying after she saw the video.
Hindu Kush is just about a year old and is constantly putting out new material. They play next at the “Rock in Peace” Festival at Libbey Bowl this Saturday.
View the “Blood for Oil” video