Occupying Wall Street — with Drums and Protest Songs

Monday, October 03, 2011

Gio Andollo, who performs as Gio Safari, at Occupy Wall Street on Monday. Gio Andollo, who performs as Gio Safari, at Occupy Wall Street on Monday. (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

Since the Occupy Wall Street protests began a few weeks ago, there have been ebbs and flows in the number of protestors, the rallying cries and the demonstrators' run-ins with the police.

One thing has remained constant in Zuccotti Park: drums and protest songs.

“It gets people motivated, it gets people spiritually in the mood, it keep us strong,” said Robert Fontaine, who was enthusiastically beating a broken tom-tom drum on Monday.

Fontaine and other demonstrators say that drums are being played around the clock to remind the public of the group’s presence in the square. They stop only at designated “quiet times” — in the evenings and during the protesters’ daily general assembly meetings.

Saxophonist and Wall Street occupier Gavi Shapiro, who plays with what he calls a “radical street band” from Vermont called Brass Balagan, says the impromptu drum corps, activist brass bands and other groups playing protest music at Zucotti Park aren't there just to entertain the crowd.

“Music can keep things positive, but it can also be a wonderful method of critique," he said. "Protest songs really get people in the spirit."

The never-ending drum circles in Zuccotti Park haven't gone unnoticed. Gio Andollo, a singer songwriter camped out in the park on Monday (and dressed up as a zombie along with other protestors), pointed to a recent segment on The Daily Show, in which Jon Stewart compared the Occupy Wall Street protest to the Tennessee music festival Bonnaroo.

“For some reason, that’s been what has been getting a lot of media attention," said Andollo. "I think it’s because it’s an easy way for them to discredit what we are doing. But if it wasn’t drumming it would be something else. They’d still be calling us hippies and trying to discredit us in any way that they can.”

On Monday, Andollo, who performs under the name Gio Safari, marched down Wall Street with a guitar and harmonica, singing songs from his album Protest Songs Are Dead. He said that, despite the title, he thinks a renaissance of socially conscious music is coming.

“People seem to think that nobody is interested in protest music anymore — that people only want to hear songs about romance or whatever,” said Andollo. “But I think that the occupations cropping up around the country have demonstrated that people are absolutely interested in these political issues."


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Comments [5]

Chris from Hudson, NY

Here's a song about Occupy Wall Street that actually touches on some of the salient issues:

Best wishes,

Oct. 12 2011 09:20 PM
JC Carroll from London England

Heres my protest Song a Gift from the UK

Oct. 12 2011 11:08 AM
GioSafari from Harlem, NYC

Thanks for this report! Just want to let your readers know that 1) they can download my new album for free at and 2) I'm raising money for a tour and to support NPOs working toward peace and justice. See details at
Thanks =)

Oct. 06 2011 01:06 PM
yvetteclark from ca

WallStreet is a symptom.

Oct. 04 2011 05:43 AM
Brandt Hardin from Clarksville

The movement is gaining momentum in its THIRD week now and Occupations are popping up all over the country! Stand up together and use your voice to give to those without through peace and solidarity. Tax the rich and feed the poor- you are the 99%! See my Occupy Wall Street painting and Anonymous homage on my artist’s blog at where you can also see videos of the protests and police brutality as well as get other sources for coverage of the movement.

Oct. 03 2011 05:13 PM

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