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Occupying Wall Street — with Drums and Protest Songs

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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."