Members of feminist punk band Pussy Riot are currently incarcerated in a Russian prison for using their music to protest against Putin’s corrupt oligarchy. One two minute song performed in a Moscow church has created one of the most divisive moments in recent Russian history.

For the politically conscious musician in me who marched against the Vietnam War and French nuclear testing in the 1970s this is de ja vu: music as fuel for counter cultural politics.

For any musician with half a brain the upcoming American presidential election let alone the current issues in New Zealand politics are a gold mine for conscious songwriters. In fact taking pot shots at politicians is all too easy – like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watching Clint Eastwood being wheeled out recently to support the Tea Party agenda with his gun slinging mantra “Make my day!” echoing around the Republican Convention while the ghost of Katrina howled above New Orleans was a cartoon moment. South Park just got real.

As the tumult rises in America it has been inspiring to watch veteran  musician Ry Cooder step up with his fifteenth album – a highly charged political protest record called Election Special.

Predictably he puts the boot in with a searing bunch of songs which confront the Right. With titles like The Mutt Romney Blues and Get Your Hands Off My Constitution he has come out fighting. Frankly even without the embedded political messages the album is an aural assault -the kind of no-holds- barred guitar playing that defines a stunning rock record. Add Cooder’s in-your-fucking -face lyrical intelligence and his unapologetic call to arms to the Left and you realise he is playing for keeps as a political rabble-rouser.  There’s a blood on the carpet and everything to fight for.

He is on record describing the current American Right as “fascists” - referencing Woody Guthrie, the godfather of all protest singers, who was famously photographed in the 1940s with the words “this machine kills fascists” written on his guitar.

Political activity in rock is not limited to just Russia and America. All over the world musicians are actively expressing their political views. The Muslim world has its own courageous musicians among them Pakistani guitar hero Salman Ahmed. With his band Junoon, the U2 of Asia, he has been on his own rock and roll jihad facing down Taliban students, angry mullahs and oppressive dictatorships who want all music to be banned from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He has even been recognised by the Nobel Trust and other peace organisations for his transcendent work using music as a weapon of peace.

The issues may have changed over decades but the song remains the same. From Dylan and The Doors through The Sex Pistols, Billy Bragg and Rage Against The Machine music has politically galvanised audiences. Pussy Riot, Ry Cooder and Salman Ahmed put their hearts on the line, slam on the distortion pedal and sound alarms.

Is anybody listening? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me.