otep_phixr.jpgRadical riffs with [sometimes] radical politics: Otep Shamaya is ready to bring her mix of music and politics to a city near you.   Set to embark on another national tour October 27, 2008 in support of her album ‘Ascension’ [co-headlining with Ill Ni?o], Otep takes another step to solidify her place among the vanguard of rocks’ resurgent leftist legions.  

 ‘Ascension’ was released on Koch Records, and marks her third full length with over 500,000+ career global sales, and 6,000,000+ song plays on Myspace.

We should all show respect and give thanks to any musician who takes the time to support worthy causes like bringing awareness to the genocides taking place in Darfur, Myanmar, and more.   We should also be thankful we live in a country where a talented, hardcore, openly lesbian rocker can take her show on the road, and rock the house from town to town; even get invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention.   The sound is tight, and at the right volume the rock will rip your face off.   Hopefully future releases from Otep will concentrate on the clearer cut humanitarian cases she champions so well.

I had the chance to ask Otep a few questions about some of her favorite causes:

Gary: Tell us about your work on Darfur:

Otep: At first, I held a small fundraiser and donated the money to bring medical supplies to the refugees. Soon after I was asked to write an Op/Ed for the AP that detailed the facts of what has happened and what is happening there and my reaction to the apathetic hypocrisy of even the most liberal minded folks. I had spoken about Darfur to anyone that=2 0would listen and most would be supportive and condemn the inaction of our government and then they’d go on gossiping about the latest celebrity miasmas and which celebutard has the best “beach body”. It was infuriating that they couldn’t see the inaction they were complaining about was blossoming in their own lives. In contrast, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. never waited for someone else to do what was right. They saw injustice, and they acted. Indeed, instead of waiting for someone else to make a difference, we should be the change we seek.  

Gary: Tell us about your work with Myanmar, and was that affected by the cyclone?

Otep:   It seems to me Myanmar has been neglected by the media and even some of the more vocal Darfur supporters. I have tried to do what I can to bring information awareness to what is happening there.

Gary: Tell us about your speech at the DNC in Denver:

Otep: I was asked by Rock The Vote to deliver a bi-partisan speech on the importance of voting. It is my firm belief that being informed and involved is no longer just a necessity but it is an act of defiance. Through our efforts via Myspace we were able to register over 500 people in less than 36 hours.

Gary: Tell us a bit about your views on Women’s rights in the Middle East:

Otep: Well, that’s like asking about ice on the sun, isn’t it? “Less than Livestock” is the term that comes to mind. It’s my firm belief that women in this country have the duty to be as active in our political processes as possible. How many girls and women go to sleep at night under a sky of oppression? How many dream of having the rights and freedoms that we enjoy here? We must vote in honor of the women who will never have that right. We must be educated for all the girls who will never be able to learn to read.   We must never forget that we were once the same and that it has only been 80 years since American women have had the right to vote. I hope our example can be the hammer that breaks the chains and restraints in the global community.
Gary: Any plans to join Angelina Jolie assisting the estimated 2,000,000 Iraqi refugees in getting resettled; as well as making sure they continue to be protected and provided f or under any future administration… now that the violence in Iraq has been tamped down?

Otep: I am definitely supportive of the cause and if there’s any way I can help I will certainly do so.

Gary’s Note: for a bit of context on the next section, I suggest the readers look to The Washington Post — the people who exposed the Watergate Scandal, and endorsed Barack Obama- for the article:   “Bush Lied? If Only It Were That Simple.”


Gary: The song ‘Confrontation’ sounds pretty angry about the Iraq war.   Give us your take:

Otep:   In 2004 I wrote a song called WARHEAD that was a ferocious attack on the Bush administration and their illegal war in Iraq. But, later, it occurred to me that he wouldn’t be able to get away with this if the American people were more vocal of their opposition. So, I decided to write CONFRONTATION in hopes of motivating people to stand up for the beliefs, speak out for the rights, and strike back against tyranny.

Gary: Have you read the ‘full’ Iraqi Perspectives Project reports, or the ‘complete’ Iraq Survey Group reports by David Kay and Charles Duelfer?

Otep: I have, indeed, read both and it validated many of my previous thoughts and educated me on a few more. It’s amazing that our military still has feet on the ground in a country that didn’t attack us, that didn’t have WMD’s, or the terrorist threat that we are allegedly going after. And, according to these reports, the WMD’s weren’t hid in Syria for safekeeping (as we were told), and that Saddam wasn’t interested nor did he have the capability for chemical and biological weapons – he was after a nuke but so are North Korea and Iran and others, but I digress. This is not news to me as I never believed for one second the Bush administration’s (lies) that sent us to invade and occupy Iraq. But it is infuriating that we’ve lost so many brave lives in a war that has no bearing on our national security or gets us any closer to capturing and punishing those that masterminded the Sept 11 tragedy.   I am hopeful that Americans will continue to be vocal about their opposition and demand accountability. The best way we can do that — is VOTE.

Gary: That’s an interesting answer considering the testimony of both heads of the Iraq Survey Group [the precursor to the Iraqi Perspectives Project]:

David Kay states, in retrospect, “despite not finding ‘large stockpiles of WMD’, Iraq was actually more of a threat than we had previously realized before the war”?


and Kay’s successor Charles Duelfer:


As for the terrorists: according to the Iraqi Perspectives Project Report Otep says she read, in extract 10 & 12 Iraqi Intel Service describes Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad [EIJ] as a group with which it “cooperates and have relations with”.   It furthers describes Egyptian Islamic Jihad as “one of the most brutal Egyptian organizations”.   Nobody is saying Saddam ordered 9/11, he didn’t have to [although exploring the possibility was not unreasonable].   As time and events have proven, Egyptian Islamic Jihad forms a core component of al-Qaida’s coalition of terror. EIJ is one of many terror groups Saddam was working with.   Read the latest report for yourself, aptly titled “Emerging Insights”, as in there is a lot more work to be done to better understand the situation:


I also suggest the work of Iraq Survey Group Vet Ray Robison and his book “Both In One Trench: Saddam’s Secret Terror Documents.”   Note: Among other evidence, ‘Both In One Trench’ contains the document with Saddam’s actual order to Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami, to target American forces in Somalia.   The incident would later become famously known for its movie name: ‘Blackhawk Down’.

For more background on ‘Blackhawk Down’ including statement from Mike Durant, one of the downed pilots that day, see:


Fortunately Otep later acknowledged that she needs to reread the Iraqi Perspectives Project report…a wise decision indeed.  

In round two I give Otep a chance to live up to her preferred presidential candidate’s post partisan proclamations in an effort to “heal our country” and “improve our standing in the world”.     As well, I try to give a thorough explanation to the attempts to change the subject by her bringing in other countries to the conversation.     Fair questions, but not without well qualified reasons why each is its own case [read: 17 UN Resolutions,].      

Let’s hope I can get this incredibly talented rocker to focus her energy on more clear cut humanitarian issues.   Stay Tuned…

Words By: Gary Jacobs

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