Georgia has today undergone the most surprising political change: Mikheil Saakashvili, the president who led the country out of post-Soviet turmoil, has been thrown out of office, massively and embarrassingly losing a general election.
The country will now be ruled by the world’s 153rd richest person, Bidzina Ivanishvili, and his awfully-named coalition, Georgian Dream.
A few weeks ago this was unthinkable. Saakashvili was widely admired for ending the country’s culture of bribery, introducing economic reforms and standing up to Russia.
But then on 18 September, a video appeared showing abuse in one of Georgia’s largest prisons, full of footage of guards beating up prisoners and raping them with brooms.
It shocked the country; it also woke up a lot of the country’s musicians to the fact things weren’t as good as Saakashvili made out. His government was authoritarian to the extreme, locking people up for long sentences for petty theft, while unemployment was high.
One of those musicians was Baski Asatiani, the lead singer of Landmark, an indie band who normally write pleasant and danceable songs about things like Kate Moss.
“I logged off my computer and I couldn’t speak,” he told the New York Times. “After a moment of shock, it was also anger — anger at myself, at the things the government could not control that were happening.
“Maybe they were already happening a long time ago, but when it was in front of our eyes, it was like we all bore responsibility for this. We felt guilty.”
The next day, he co-wrote a song called The System Must be Destroyed (სისტემა უნდა დაინგრეს! in Georgian). Half of Tbilisi’s music scene seems to have been involved in it, from rappers to pop stars to middle-aged crooners.
The tune’s based on Nirvana’s Rape Me, comes on with all the anger of classic Rage Against the Machine, and is basically pretty good.
The song’s accompanying video has got over 113,000 views on YouTube during the last 10 days. Given Georgia’s population’s only 4.4m, that’s astonishing.
Clearly the tune didn’t win the election, but surely it helped get a lot of youth voters out? Surely it influenced a lot of young minds in who they would vote for?
It’s good to see a true street anthem like this emerging; there aren’t enough of them.
(There are some amusing remixes of the tune doing the rounds. Go here for loads of them. The Me and My Monkey one’s worth starting with. Also, apologies to @EllenBarryNYT for ripping off her original article).