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Environment & Science

Song of the Week: "Slash & Burn," for the NAMM show's musical instrument wood controversy

Razia Said, Malagasy singer.
Razia Said, Malagasy singer.
Jamie Ambler

I try really hard not to pick protest songs for "Song of the Week." For so many reasons, but mostly, they tend to be insufferably bad, if not just whiny. I settled on picking Razia Said for this week's artist, because of the NAMM show, and Said's protest song, "Slash and Burn," has a groovy rhythm that reminds me of political songs of the early nineties out of other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, so let's do it. 

This song is for the NAMM conference, wrapping up today in Anaheim. Yesterday we heard about Henry Juszkiewicz, the CEO of Gibson guitar, a guy who has felt caught up in in something larger in a way he doesn't like. Razia Said's song is kind of about the same feeling, but from a different perspective. 

One day in may
It was a beautiful day
I felt so alone
When the sky opened up
And changed to charcoal grey 
One day in may
Just like any day
It chilled my bones
When i heard you say
That the hills have burned away
Slash and burn
Slash and burn
No where left to hide 
On the mountain side

Said was in town for the NAMM show because she's concerned about possible changes to the Lacey Act brewing in Congress. 

The Lacey act is a century-old law related to agriculture, that's been amended over the years, as recently as 2008, to cover forestry and logging practices. You can't import illegally harvested wood, it's on the importer to document where their wood comes from, and fines and jail time are penalties. Forest advocates say it's working to limit demand for illegal wood in the US and keep more of it out of the country. 

Yesterday, though, we heard from Gibson Guitars about their concerns with the law. Tennessee congressman Jim Cooper shares those concerns: he's pushing the RELIEF act as a way to modify Lacey. Cooper calls it an effort to clarify Lacey, to give it a little common sense.

According to information on his Congressional site, it would lower penalties for first-time violators to $250 when they bring in wood "unknowingly." Since the government has to prove that the person knew it was wrong, that would also limit when contraband gets seized to occasions when it's shown to be stolen or brought in to the country in an exceptionally sleazy manner. (That is not a legal analysis.) RELIEF also would limit the application of the law to solid wood, leaving out composite wood, pulp, and paper. 

Cooper says these and other modifications would ensure fair application of the Lacey Act. 

A petition Rezia Said's pushing takes a starker view. So, for that matter, does her song. 

Watch the rivers bleed
Listen to them cry
Don’t we have a choice?
Slash and burn
It wasn’t meant to be
Who could have said
What have we done
This is our day
And this is our land
What will tomorrow say?
This our place
And this our time
This our land
And this is our home

Said, the Environmental Investigation Agency, the NRDC, and others believe RELIEF will knock the legs out from under the Lacey Act. In Anaheim, writes NRDC's Jessica Lass, they "called for NAMM to stop supporting a bad bill that only placates people seeking to benefit from destroying our tropical forests." 

So, since nothing's resolved about RELIEF, it's worth keeping an eye on Representative Jim Cooper's website (as well as that of southern California's own Representative Mary Bono Mack, a cosponsor of the bill) well as the enviro groups following this issue. 

Listen to the Songs of the Week (new playlist started for 2012!). 

If you miss the past, catch up with the 2011 List.