Planetman’s latest album Love Rebel, a collection of nine songs delivered in a warm, upbeat roots reggae style, with some gypsy and ska influences, is the embodiment of the life and work of a musician who lives by the messages in his songs. Planet – as he likes to be known – was born Adir Tov in Israel, of Yemeni Jewish ancestry, with strong connections to pre-Israel Palestine. He refused to serve with the Israeli army and was sent to jail several times for his principles, but moved to Europe, where via Amsterdam and club/festival culture, he soaked up many different musical influences, before finding his niche, in the positive one love philosophy that he expresses in his music in venues such as Passing Clouds, where his parties and gatherings were legendary in their time for bringing many different musical and cultural influences together.
In my time in London, during the Peace Not War years between 2003-2009, mixing in and out of the various anti-war collectives and with different activists, I was introduced to Passing Clouds, the music and arts venue just off Dalston Road, organised by Eleanor Wilson, who had a deep understanding of how political activism and music combine, who was central to bringing such an eclectic mix of musicians and artists from the streets rather than from an agency. The venue has featured musical styles from around the world with a strong African and Caribbean influence, mixed with urban dubsters, grizzly and sparky socialist and anarchist punks and gypsy folk in acoustic and electric combinations. With nights of films and discussion from a variety of alternative political frameworks, including Permaculture and Transition events, to young trendies looking for an eclectic night out, there was always something for every one here, as long as you are open-minded and willing to share.
Passing Clouds had politics and a rootsy culture at the heart of its community project and it was evident in how they embraced whoever was local and wanted to play music and get involved that they were living their ideals in a very grounded and practical way. Sadly, the venue was taken over by a new landlord and the Passing Clouds crew are currently seeking out a new venue, unless the old venue becomes available again. Central to the music gatherings over the years as been Planetman and his band, the Internationalz. This album gives a flavour of some of those special Passing Clouds nights.
The album deals with themes of love as a spiritual and unifying force and the true rebelliousness of refusing to submit to a system that crushes humanity in its coldness and selfishness. The tone is uplifting and embracing and the style will be familiar to anyone who likes the music, words and singing of Bob Marley. Planet’s voice and inflections are very similar to the world famous artist. To my ears there’s a smoother tone to Planet’s singing, but the message is an extension of that same philosophy, a recognition of what we are needing to move from the many crises we face into a new human and societal connection. The album starts and ends with Love Rebel as the title, but whereas the opening track is a traditional reggae sound, the final track, Love Rebel, Fly, has a more psychedelic flavour, a spacey way to end the album, as if the album itself is akin to the artist releasing a dove of peace and hope into the search for an island in the sun.
This is an album to be embraced and sustained by, an inspiration to those who may be dropping their heads at the seeming hopelessness of the political landscape, a collection of songs that conveys the spirit of the Passing Clouds community, the spirit of the rebel artists, musicians and poets as well as expressions of the indigenous voices that have shared and continue to share their stories and their visions of a brighter world where courage in the face of oppression can be both radical and loving. In short, this is the life that Planetman lives and shares and one which I feel is needed more than ever in these interesting times. I would recommend this music to anyone with a beating heart!