A platform for political expression and social justice: Eshan Merali - Volunteering @ CFMU
One of the fun promo spots that we play on-air is called "The Man". With a nod to Jack's Black's iconic scene from School of Rock (2003), we mention that we're "bringing back sticking it to The Man". Instrumental to that end is one of the music genres most emblematic of that entire concept: punk.
And hosting our punk show, we have Eshan Merali. Every week, Eshan hosts Steal This Show!, and steal it he does. Each episode explores the punk ideology in a new way; some recent episodes include Folk Punk, Women in Punk, and Flowing Water, which featured rappers with flow (love the pun).
I spoke with Eshan about his journey at CFMU and what hosting the show means to him, so read on to hear from one of our Mac student hosts!
Let’s start with what year you’re in, your major, and any other highlights of your Mac career you’d like to add!
Heading into my fourth year at Mac! I’m majoring in Biological & Medical Physics and pursuing a minor in Environmental Sciences. I also volunteer with the McMaster Indigenous Student Community Alliance (MISCA).
How did you hear about CFMU and what made you want to get involved? What do you do here now, and how long have you been doing it for?
I’ve known about CFMU since I started studying at McMaster just by passing by the room in the basement of the Student Centre. At the time I had just started getting into collecting records, so when I first saw the record room my head exploded (figuratively). The idea of getting to work in an environment surrounded by music as well as share a bunch of music that I like with others was such an exciting thought, but I never got around to pursuing the opportunity. Then a friend of mine who also hosts a show, Psychojazz, encouraged me to fill out a volunteer application form, and I managed to get a spot on-air!
Now, I host Steal This Show! which I’ve been doing for a little over four months now!
At the time I had just started getting into collecting records, so when I first saw the [CFMU] record room my head exploded (figuratively).
What is the premise of Steal This Show!? Where did the idea come from?
In essence, the idea of the show is set mainly in punk music, but I didn’t really want to limit it to that. Music has always been a platform for political expression and social justice and that is something that I really want to try and share on the show. Punk is a genre that I’ve been listening to for the better part of my life and it has definitely encouraged me to immerse myself in community activism and really take a stand for the things I believe in. With this show I’m hoping to encourage others to take up the same mindset through music that can encourage this, while also just exploring different types of music that are related to the genre, either musically or in terms of the overall message.
I was very torn on what type of show I wanted to have at first. It was really between a punk show and a jazz show since I really enjoy learning about, as well as exploring different artists within both those genres. I then decided that I wanted to talk about more than just the music alone, but also the social implications of music. Going through some of my records, I found Propagandhi’s politically charged album Less Talk, More Rock, which has written on its cover “Anti-Fascist, Gay-Positive, Pro-Feminist, Animal-Friendly,” which convinced me that punk music would be the better pick for myself in pursuing a show that explores political and social justice. So, then I played on the title of Abbie Hoffman's book, Steal This Book! , which I think provides a good encapsulation of what I’m trying to achieve with this show, leading to the birth of Steal This Show!
Music has always been a platform for political expression and social justice and that is something that I really want to try and share on the show. Punk is a genre that I’ve been listening to for the better part of my life and it has definitely encouraged me to immerse myself in community activism and really take a stand for the things I believe in.
Can you explain the ideology of punk and what you appreciate about it?
I think the ethos of the genre is mainly rooted in it’s progressive and rebellious nature, whether political or social. It has become so ingrained within the genre and its community so that these characteristics are still present within the music and respective scenes today. Although it would be very wrong and inaccurate to say that this sort of expression through music originated in punk, it certainly did motivate a wide audience, myself included, to challenge the dynamics of the society in which they lived. There’s also a huge aspect of it that encourages a DIY ethic with many bands releasing their own music and touring by their own means. There's so much support that's given to DIY and local artists within different scenes and that's something I can't help but love about the genre.
I think the ethos of the genre is mainly rooted in it’s progressive and rebellious nature, whether political or social...Although it would be very wrong and inaccurate to say that this sort of expression through music originated in punk, it certainly did motivate a wide audience, myself included, to challenge the dynamics of the society in which they lived.
If you had to pick, what would be your favourite episode of the show so far?
I think my favourite episode so far was the Ska episode, mainly because of one little thing that I learned while putting the show together. It was a really simple thing, just that Reggae had its roots in Ska, and not the other way around. While it was a really small thing it made me realise that there's still so much for me to learn about the origins and influences of different types of music. Having a music show really allows me to explore these origins and that’s really exciting.
Would you say that hosting this show has helped you in other areas of your life? If it has, how?
Hosting has definitely helped me in my work as an activist. Having this show, I feel motivated to read and research on social movements and keep up to date with local issues so as to have somewhat of a structured framework and provide little points of discussion or thought between songs. Having these small discussions during the show has definitely made me more comfortable discussing movements and activism in a public atmosphere. These ideas that are researched then also help further shape my contributions to movements in which I am involved.
While it was a really small thing it made me realise that there's still so much for me to learn about the origins and influences of different types of music. Having a music show really allows me to explore these origins and that’s really exciting.
Do you have a message for your listeners?
Thank you for listening! I hope that the music I play has been able to have an impact on you as it has had on me.
Finally, do you have any advice for students interested in volunteering with CFMU?
There are so many different ways of volunteering with CFMU and I would definitely encourage anyone who is interested to apply! For those interested in having a show, there is so much freedom given to share whatever you are passionate about, so be creative and have fun with it.
One of the best things about local radio is that it lets community hosts and listeners interact with music in a whole new way. And to paraphrase Eshan, music is a vehicle through which we can express ourselves and share our visions for the future. When you put those two things together, you get a show that encourages students and the community to reconsider the power they have to help change the world.
Thank you, Eshan, for all that you do here (and for keeping our street cred high)!
Olivia Fava is a 2019 McMaster linguistics graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Her love of jazz music, thrift stores, fantasy novels, and Scrabble comprises at least 35% of her personality. Contact her through email at email@example.com.