Southern California environment news and trends

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

Jamie Ambler

Razia Said, Malagasy singer.

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


Why Gibson guitars ran afoul of logging rules, and why activists are in Anaheim for NAMM

Sen. Rand Paul Host Roundtable With Gibson Guitar CEO

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Henry Juszkiewicz, CEO of the Gibson Guitar Co. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raided the Gibson Guitar Co. and seized wood, computer file and accused the company of making guitars with prohibited wood.

Over the last few years, guitars and a sort of obscure law against illegal logging have come into conflict. Environmental activists are in Anaheim today, at the National Association of Music Merchants trade show, to do a raising awareness song-and-dance about this. Literally: they've got a musician with them. 

The guitars are Gibsons, and the law is the Lacey Act. An NPR colleague reported on this issue from Tennessee last year. Gibson is just a flash point: federal law enforcement officials have investigated the company on the suspicion that it broke laws in India and Madagascar. The Lacey Act makes it illegal to import and trade in illegal timber. (For more about how that's determined, check out the resources from NGO Environmental Investigation Agency.) The idea's to make the supply chain more transparent; U.S. importers of wood products must file a declaration identifying the species name and country of harvest.