How Will The Cost-of-Living Crisis Affect The Music Industry?

Writer Mark Roberts / Photographer Connor Pope

Like 2020 and 2021 were the years of non-stop COVID-19 coverage, 2022 has shaped up to be all about the cost-of-living crisis, with a brief 10 days of wall-to-wall coverage of the queen’s death, and then straight back to it. The cost-of-living crisis has torn a significant hole in the wallets of many of the UK population, and with it a sense of anxiety and worry has swept the nation.

Although the recording music industry was booming in 2021, live music performance suffered significantly throughout the pandemic. In the summer of 2022, inflation hit a peak of 10.1% in the UK, the highest in Europe, and a figure not seen since 1982 under Thatcher’s reign. The implication here being that your money is worth 10% less this year than it was last year.

With inflation causing knock on effects to the economy, what exactly will the impact be on the music scene in Birmingham and across the UK?

The reason behind this rise in inflation, according to the government and the Bank of England, has been Russia’s war with Ukraine impacting supply chains. Although this might not be the whole picture, with quantitative easing reaching high levels over 2020 and 2021 – pumping new money into the economy, but which is inherently inflationary.

And then according to Unite the Union, 60% of inflation in the UK can be related to “corporate profiteering”. A figure that is reflected across tthe pond by the Economic Policy Institute.

But the impact on the music scene can’t be understated, with Russian oil and gas not flowing into western markets the prices of energy and fuel have skyrocketed. The touring band, who rely on petrol and diesel to get around, will find more of their fees being spent on fuel. And with OPEC further cutting the supply of oil we can expect to see a rise in price at the pumps.

Another potential factor that’s recently rocked the UK economy, with warnings from the IMF about its ramification, is recently resigned PM Liz Truss’s (and Kwasi Kwarteng’s) mini budget. Upon its release the pound almost immediately dropped, reaching its lowest level against the dollar since 1985.

Whilst the recording music industry may get away with just having to manage the effects of a raise in energy prices, the greater impact will be felt in the distribution sector – with the cost of vinyl production (already stretched to its limits in terms of capacity for production) rising along with other music merchandise.

This cost will be felt by artists on the front line, with increased prices on their merch desks.

The venues will likely be the worst hit, with sharply increasing prices in alcohol products being felt in the hospitality sector combined with a poorer society, and eye-watering energy bills compounding into a lack of money to spend on nights out, gigs, and drinks. Warnings that thousands of pubs face closure bring these problems into the stark light of day.

Hopefully, with the government’s plan to borrow to help with energy bills now involving businesses this onslaught will be reduced. However, the cost of mortgages are also rising due to the Bank of England’s raising of interest rates, leading to higher rents for the venues at a time when they could use it least.

Then there’s the often less thought of people, those who rely on the creative scene for income and who will also be affected. As venues close, everyone from bartenders to production managers will be out of a job. And with unemployment already at a record low, they will likely find it hard to find new ones.

Promoters will have less money to promote their gigs, and less venues to promote in. Local, evolving artists will find less tours coming through their city to support. Photographers and journalists will have fewer gigs to cover, and if they are paid they likely won’t see a real-terms pay increase.

It’s frequently presented in the mainstream media that wage increases during a time of inflation cause a wage-price spiral, where inflation begins to spiral out of control as businesses repeatedly raise wages year-on-year and raise prices on their goods and services in response.

It’s important to note that there are differing opinions on whether this wage-price spiral is the most realistic outcome, found mainly on ‘the left’ but also in the opinions of Milton Friedman – the pre-eminent neoliberal economist of the late 20th century and advisor to both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Whether, therefore, wages rising would impact the music industry negatively (or any other industry) is still up for debate.

The ripple effect of the cost-of-living crisis predicts a dark time for the music industry in Birmingham, and the industries that rely on it. Which means it’s more important now than ever, to rally together, and share the warmth of a sweaty dance floor and a well lit stage, instead of putting the heating on at home.

Heating that is, now, three and a half times more expensive than in 2020.

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Caught Up In Medicine Bakery With Local Indie Lad Robert Craig Oulton

Writer Reece Greenfield / Photographers Maddie Cottam-Allan & Reece Greenfield

On an uncharacteristically bright afternoon, I sit down with Brum singer-songwriter Robert Craig Oulton in the Medicine Bakery for a coffee, and a revelatory mushroom sandwich. After soaking in our surroundings, we get chatting about his latest EP Caught up in the Moment, which was released on the 14 October, as well as his upcoming tour starting Friday 28 October at Muthers Studio.

Rob begins by talking about who recorded the EP: “Mark Gittins is just amazing, he just gets it you know? He really listens, it sounds silly but some [engineers] don’t.”

He then goes on to talk about the process and how recording guitar, drums, and bass together captured a more organic feel which can be heard across the record.

“They’ll be mistakes but it’s a case of, oh we’ll keep that mistake that’s a cool one.”

Rob also recorded his acoustic single ‘Cruel World’ with ‘Wrong’ at Mega Tone, “Which was an accident really, I was moaning about music so [Mark] said ‘Come in and do something and realise why you do it again’.”

He goes on to answer my inquiry about the striking artwork taken by Danny Boyle of Total Luck.

“We only used one roll of film, and then just picked the first two pictures layered together.”

I explain to Rob how much I love the order and the progression of the EP, and want to ask him about each song.

“[The intro] is instrumental, which is not my usual thing. It was the first time I’d put reverb before the distortion in my pedal chain, and all of that echoey roomy sound gets distorted.

“The guitar just sounds very unstable, crashing into itself and if I hadn’t done that the song would never have come about.”

As we move onto the second track, ‘Return Policy’, Rob explains the inspiration for its punky feel: “The song’s about fucking wishing someone would leave you alone.

“It may not sound like that, but it’s about when people are ‘fessing to be there for you, and you’re just like ‘just fuck off’.

“The whole thing is two fingers up to those people.”

Moving onto ‘Secret Garden’, I learn this track went from being the object of ambivalence to Rob’s favourite track on the record, and the most personal one. The song features brass provided by Felicity Evans and Alex Astbury of Diddy Sweg and Heavy Beat Brass Band.

“As the brass comes in really delicately, that moment is my favourite on the record. The song is quite long but I had so much that I wanted to say on that song, that I didn’t want to chop any bits out.”

I’m also keen to hear about the penultimate song and single off the record released 16 September, ‘Wrong’: “That’s another one where the guitar sound completely informed the song itself.

“I bought this guitar pedal that you can hear on my guitar at the start. It’s simple, but it’s just effective, you know?

“It’s more about the sound and trajectory of the song. You could not have English as a language and you’d still get it.”

I can’t help but remark upon the excellent banjo playing by Connor Boyle, before moving onto the final track ‘Cruel world’.

Rob explains how he has been sitting on this song for over five years: “I wrote this at a weird point in my life where I went a bit mental and was overdoing it a bit.

“I knew it was strong, but it had to be the right time.’

The striking guitar tone was achieved with a 1961 Hofner. “It’s humongous, you have to fight with it but it was so worth it, it sounded good from the get-go,” says Rob, grinning as he looks back fondly at this moment.

“There was a lot of really good vibes in the room as everyone was looking at each other when I started tinkering around, I can remember Mark from the control room being like ‘woah, what’s that then?!’”

We move on finally to Birmingham’s venues, its music scene, and his upcoming headline show.

“Hare and Hounds Kings Heath; I’d say is the best sound in Brum, they serve the songs, they serve the artists.

“Brum’s music scene gets a bad rap… people should be looking this way, there’s things that aren’t even my bag that need more attention.

“We are well on our way to getting any unsavoury characters out, and there seems to be a good level of people doing different things. But we’re all aware of each other just being part of that community.”

Rob finishes,  “Good music here is not hard to find.”

Rob’s new EP Caught up in the Moment is available to stream on all platforms, and his next show to kicks off his UK tour is at Muthers Studio on Friday 28 October – with support from Exhaler and Bright Lightning. Entry on the door (no tickets) is £5

In his own words: “We’re all just hanging out… it’s gonna be a bit of a party!”

For more from Robert Oulton visit

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ARCH FEMMESIS Are Coming Back To Brum Bishes

Writer Jasmine Khan / Photographs supplied by ARCH FEMMESIS

The Sunflower Lounge is the fourth stop on ARCH FEMMESIS’ first national headline tour, following their recent EP release and support of Lancaster based rock band The Lovely Eggs.

Queering up Birmingham this Friday 28 October is Midlands based avant garde, electro-unk duo ARCH FEMMESIS, with their cacophony of galactic, feminine, punk-rave sounds.

Before sitting down, in virtual space, to catch up with dynamic performance artist ZERA TØNIN and chaotic synthesiser MEDDLA, I take one last listen through their EP Violents. While it’s easy to hear ARCH FEMMESIS (or watch them live) and only process an eccentric storm of colliding noises and sensual sensory experiences, there’s a softness apparent in the music video for ‘Madusa’ that needs exploring.

ZERA TØNIN, musician, muse, and ‘mother of queerlings’ kicks off the conversation, confident above the multitude of background art studio noises.

“Being on the road with The Lovely Eggs, they’ve given us advice, given us pointers. We know what it’s like now, we’ve emotionally prepared, we’ve got our arses in gear and we’re ready,” says ZERA, emphasising the end of each clause with a firm clap.

It’s clear the pair are raring to go, and while talking through their previous touring experiences, both ZERA and MEDDLA express how important it is their support slots hold spaces for queer, “especially fem queer people.”

“You’re slightly anxious that everyone’s going to be better than you, because they’re all fucking amazing,” grins ZERA.

“There’s a universal feeling of being the aunties and uncles of the little queerlings”.

MEDDLA adds, “On our own sets, we’ve enjoyed the new energy of fems and queers at the front…wishing us to get even crazier.”

From seeing them live, I know ARCH FEMMESIS’ sets aren’t just them playing songs, they’re multifaceted, interactive theatrical performances. So, I’m desperate to know what fits and fabrics we can expect now ARCH FEMMESIS have full control of the vibe.

“It’s going to be a sensory feast for the eyes and the ears,” states ZERA in a serious but slightly mystical tone.

“I’m currently in the arts studio, I have a sewing machine, I have the merch station, I’m making outfits, stage decorations…” their dedication to detail is evident.

In terms of the sound, MEDDLA explains – “We’ve been getting a bit more dancy, a bit more housy. Because we’re headlining, we really want people to party and be free to be in the moment.”

ZERA cuts in firmly, eye’s wide, “When we say house, we do not mean short-back-and-sides in a fucking club.”

Given the curated combination of masc and fem punk energy radiating from the duo, I didn’t think it was ‘short-back-and-sides-house’.

“We mean old skool, classic, 80’s, Chicago house – but make it British,” ZERA confirms.

Despite the leather-dom exterior, there’s clearly a glittery-bottom inside ARCH FEMMESIS. From their lyrics, to the settings of their music videos, to the soft wholesomes smiles they get when they talk about being surrounded by creative queerlings.

“There is a brutalism to our performance of femininity. We aren’t just sexy and pretty…” begins ZERA.

“…I’m quite pretty!” pipes up MEDDLA. They are and we all giggle as ZERA tries to catch up with her train of thought.

“There’s a softness with our recent EP Violents, it’s a play on words, on the word violets which is the flower of sapphics, and turning that into violence.”

ZERA describes the religious and mythological iconography – Kali, Salome, Medusa – all “demonised” in “recent Western society and culture” which has become the influential backbone behind their latest releases.

They explain, “Growing up Christian, I was told to think that Kali was a representation of the devil.

“But, growing up around people from the Asian community, they’ve explained she’s a goddess not to be fucked with – in a good way. She’s nurturing, she’s powerful.”

ZERA continues, explaining their musical interpretation of the feminine is “creative destruction”, the balance of two powerful forces. “I wanted to write music from those things which I’ve personally been taught to shun or shame.”

“And our song ‘Madusa’ is written as the background to that story which often doesn’t get told,” finishes MEDDLA.

ARCH FEMMESIS are devoted to creating a space which champions queer oddity and feminine expression. They’re putting their all into this tour, and I want to know what ARCH FEMMESIS are looking to get out of being in Brum.

MEDDLA starts off strong: “Birmingham, it’s one of our favourite cities to perform in. We always have such great gigs in Birmingham.”

“It definitely feels like you have such a sense of community, and you’re down to earth; humble and people will invite you in. We’ve always felt a lot of love from Birmingham.

“Bring your mates and your nan,” adds ZERA, “you might discover something interesting.

“We need queer epeople, fem people, outcasts. We’re tired of middle-aged men with beer guts in the audience; we love them, we love their money.

“But, we want it to be accessible to the people we made our music for. That’s the queer people, the minority genders and POC, people othered by the mainstream, it’s for them.”

ARCH FEMMESIS headline The Sunflower Lounge on Friday 28 October, with support from YNES, Retropxssy, and Greysha – as presented by Indie Midlands. For online ticket sales visit:

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Reflections From The London Film Festival Screening At MAC 8-16 October

Words by Jimmy Dougan

On 8 October, the week Birmingham cinephiles had been counting down to finally got underway at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC). For the first time, the British Film Institute has gone national with the London Film Festival, screening films in several partner venues across the UK – including Birmingham.

Seeing as tickets for the London screenings were gold dust, I’d pounced at the chance to catch new films from some of the world’s best directors, weeks, even months, before general release. As I hurried downhill from Moseley towards MAC, I felt like a child on Christmas morning.

Over the next week I would be seeing five critically acclaimed, provocative works that promised to be anything but boring. It was raining over MAC so the stars weren’t exactly out, but the excitement in the air was palpable for Noah Baumbach’s long awaited White Noise.

White Noise is an absurd, blackly funny film. As a fan of Don DeLillo’s famously weird 1985 novel, rightly seen as unfilmable, I’d worried that director Noah Baumbach may have bitten off more than he could chew. My apprehension was dispelled immediately – this is a hilarious and deeply frightening film. Baumbach’s editorial flourishes are small but impactful; we trust him, and the unwieldy source material never feels beyond his control.

It is a stellar pick to kick off the week, and I loved it. Next up? Ruben Östlund’s Triangle of Sadness, one of the hottest tickets of the festival.

I was immediately struck by just how young the crowd was, with only a scattering of free seats and a buzzing energy in the cinema. While MAC generally attracts a more reserved clientele, this crowd was much more Custard Factory via Hurst Street, if you catch my drift.

With the opening moments of the film drily lambasting Balenciaga before blasting M.I.A’s ‘Born Free’, we settled in for a wild ride. And, Östlund certainly gave us one. The film is a brutal takedown of post #MeToo gender roles, and a savage critique of the uber-rich, holidaying aboard a luxurious yacht.

A centrepiece dinner scene shows one of the most shocking sequences from any film in my recent memory.

As the guests gorge themselves on caviar, the ship itself goes haywire, buckling under the weight of the gluttons aboard. It’s a shit-soaked, vomit-drenched farce; excrement explodes from toilets, half-digested oysters coat the walls. I’ve never heard an audience react so viscerally, so vocally, to a film before – they applaud, then wretch, then cheer.

Shit flowed as bodies tumbled down marble staircases. This is hell as rendered by Picasso, a headlong stumble into a Buñuelian abyss. Subtle? No. Some of the most fun you’ll have in a cinema this year? Absolutely.

13 October saw a sell-out screening of Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin – a tale of a friendship abruptly halted. To give any more away would do this film a disservice. McDonagh is a master, and he mines a rich vein of distinctly Irish strangeness here, one that Beckett exposed but has since gone untouched.

There were plenty of Irish accents in the crowd – as a proud member of Brum’s Irish community, I found it moving to watch the new film from one of Ireland’s biggest Hollywood exports surrounded by its diaspora.

We were also treated to a short film from Midlands-based director Theo James Krekis, called Pram Snatcher. The crowd clearly enjoyed it, and whilst Krekis has only done short films before, describing Pram Snatcher as a proof of concept for a full feature length film, he also lectures in directing at the Screen and Film School Birmingham.

I hope the wait isn’t too long for Kerkis’ next because Pram Snatcher establishes him as a director to watch.

Over the final weekend, we were shown two films which subverted the detective genre in canny and ingenious ways. An acolyte of South Korean cinema, my friend Mat was giddy with excitement before Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave, a film about a detective becoming dangerously entangled with a woman accused of killing her husband. It’s a sleek Hitchcockian thriller that’s also, oddly, one of the most romantic films of the year.

It is gorgeously composed and framed, with a puzzle box complexity. Watch this one twice to catch all the clues.

Puzzle boxes also feature in Glass Onion, the bigger but not necessarily better follow-up to 2019’s hit Knives Out. Before the sold-out screening, a pre-recorded intro from director Rian Johnson begged us not to share any spoilers whatsoever before the film’s Christmas release, and I have no desire to incur the wrath of Netflix so I’m remaining tight-lipped.

I will say that Daniel Craig is on great form as detective Benoit Blanc. But the film is Janelle Monáe’s; a performance of quiet fury, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The crowd went wild for this one – what an end to a brilliant week.

Covid-19 had a catastrophic effect on the UK cinema industry. If the multiplexes were limping, the indies were practically crawling. According to David Baldwin – MAC’s cinema and screen producer – September 2022 was their busiest month since reopening post-pandemic. There is clearly still work to be done in rebuilding audiences, but hopefully this heralds better days ahead.

MAC had the most consistently busy cinema I’ve seen in a very long time, and I feel truly lucky to have been given the opportunity to preview, and write about these films.

See them, love them, even hate them. Just don’t watch them on a laptop, because every single film screened made an urgent and powerful case for the vitality and importance of the collective, cinematic experience.

You can watch White Noise on Netflix on the 30 December. You can also see Triangle of Sadness released in UK cinemas on the 28 October, and The Banshees of Inisherin is in UK cinemas now – so is Decision To Leave. Glass Onion releases on Netflix on the 23 December, with screenings in selected cinemas from the 23 November.

Pram Snatcher – official trailer

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Resistance Has A New Sound In Birmingham As ‘For Iran’ Is Sung In City Centre

Writer & photographer Pooyan Kimiyaee

Resistance had a new sound across Birmingham, as the song ‘For Iran’ was heard in a demonstration on Saturday 8 October – as residents marched through town protesting Mahsa (Zhina) Amini’s devastating death. It follows a string of protests in Birmingham, and globally, against the treatment of women (and men) within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Birmingham Review spoke to Damoon Marzban, one of the organisers of the 8 October demonstration here in Birmingham.

He said: “Since 2002 we officially created a group named the Iranian Political Association. It was made for Iranians to be able to share their political views of any kind, and so anyone who wants to act politically for Iran has the space to do so.”

When asked what forms of actions the organisation had taken, Marzban spoke of an anti-war demonstration organised as a walk from Birmingham to London.

He recalled: There’s plenty of political associations in London and we’ve been there with them. When there were whispers that the United States wanted to attack Iran, we walked from the trade union meeting here in Birmingham all the way to London.

“Our demands were for them not to attack Iran but to help the fight for democracy in our country.”

Iran’s population of immigrants or refugees outside their homeland have been described by Princeton researchers as transient, to the point it “…may contribute to the shaping of a migratory diplomacy that would, directly or indirectly, influence bilateral relations between Iran and countries where Iranians have settled.”

Meaning, the community inside Iran has not been alone in their efforts to make their voices heard. As seen in Birmingham’s Bullring market, and over 150 other cities around the world, thousands of Iranians have progressed the conversation, as their brothers and sisters persist throughout Internet blackouts in Iran.

Whilst Iranians can share a multitude of political views with the Iranian Political Association, the 8 October demonstration focused specifically on the 22 year old Mahsa Amini’s death. Part of the Kurdish minority, she was arrested due to the fact her hijab was put on loosely and as such, according to Iran’s morality police, was ‘improperly’ worn.

After Amini was arrested, she was transported to a ‘Re-education Centre’. Then, according to the Iranian authorities, Masha Amini was taken to hospital after sudden heart failure and subsequently died. However, witnesses report seeing her beaten in the van as she was taken away – an accusation the Iranian police deny.

A source from Kasra Hospital told Iran international that Mahsa Amini arrived at the clinic unresponsive and brain dead. In addition, the same source said Amini’s brain tissue was crushed following “multiple blows” to the head. As a result, the Iranian people accused the regime of having murdered her.

Subsequent protests broke out in Iran and across the world demanding the world to shine a light on Iran and question its treatment of Iranian people, specifically women. Iranians are calling this current protest – the Woman, Life, Freedom movement – a revolution. Even Iranian schoolgirls are reportedly removing their hijabs, cutting their hair, and hanging signs in their school demanding changes to the way women are treated in the Republic.

Historically in Iran, protests can come with a heavy loss of life. As seen in Zahedan, a city in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, authorities allegedly shot live ammunition into protestors on 30 September 2022.

The reports on the dead differ, but according to Human Rights Watch the global humanitarian watchdog ‘compiled the names of 47 individuals whom human rights groups or media outlets documented as having been killed, mostly by bullets.

‘These included at least nine children – two of them girls – and six women. Meanwhile the Iranian state television reported 60 civilians, as well as 10 security force dead. Reports have appeared on social media that portray that number even higher, upwards of 90 people dead and hundreds injured.’

Furthermore, since protests following Masha Amini’s death began the Norway-based Iran Human Rights organisation reports the civilian death toll had increased to at least 201, including 23 minors.

Internally, the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly been accused of having a history of police violence typical to an authoritarian state. But where Iran and other countries in the Middle East, such as Syria or Egypt, differ from other protest movements in the likes of Hong-Kong or the United States, is that within these regimes the abuse of Islam allows the authoritarian state to limit, if not forbid, music as haram using Salafi and Deobandi denomination interpretations.

Which, amongst other factors, impacts the people’s ability to organise and protest.

Iran’s ‘morality police’ play a major role in making sure mediums of expression, such as film and music, are up to ‘moral’ standards according to Sharia, as well as laws outlined by the Islamic Republic itself.

Intimate acts, such as kissing, are forbidden strictly in Iranian cinema and are edited out of foreign films. Within music as well, lyrics related to intimate concepts are construed as erotic and as such banned. Even drawing a portrait of a woman without a headscarf is technically heresy.

The Islamic Republic goes a step further and bans lyrics or films that contain political ideas contrary to the regime’s preferred narrative. People who disobey this specific part of the limitations – in any poem, film, book, or article – can be charged with ‘advertisement against the regime’ and typically imprisoned.

The current Woman, Life, Freedom uprising, specifically, has taken the cumulative strife of several generations of Iranians, their loss of life and liberty over the past four  decades, and united the entirety of a nation’s spite in one song/poem – which, even though it contradicts Iranian moral standards, can be heard at every protest.

And in this rebellion, penned by Shervin Hajipour, the people of Iran are discussing a distillation of the horror carried onwards.

It is simply titled ‘For Iran’ and is the encapsulation of thousands of tweets with the same hashtag, as well as the origin for the name of the Woman, Life, Freedom revolution.

The presence of music, or rather more specifically protest music, has a history in Iran preceding the 1979 revolution itself. And the fact this music has now been found in Birmingham and across the world is by virtue of that same transient mass of Iranians wandering the desert for the past 40 odd years.

Today, people within the country have fought against the regime’s forces night after night, with advents of new techniques in protesting. In the meantime, protestors outside of Iran have made themselves clear in support of their homeland, with one collective demand in and outside the country – the end of the Islamic Republic.

A movement that first began with professor Homa Darabi’s self-immolation in Tajrish Square on 21 February 1994, was spurred on by Shervin’s song – even though he was imprisoned, released on bail, and later added to the list of the disappeared.

‘For Iran’ is now written on high school chalkboards, heard in New York, Washington D.C, Los Angeles, Berlin, Stockholm, London, and now Birmingham – sung in hundreds and thousands of voices across the globe, all collectively saying:

For dancing in the streets
For the fear of kissing
For my sister, your sister, our sisters
For trying to change rotten brains
For shame of not having money
For yearning of just a normal life
For the garbage boy and his dreams
For this enforced economy
For this polluted air
For Valiasr and it’s worn-out trees
For Piruz and his possible extinction
For dogs, innocent but banned
For tears with no end
For this moment will never happen again
For smiling faces
For students, for future
For this enforced paradise
For the national elite imprisoned
For Afghan children
For all these “for”s with no repeat
For all these empty chants
For houses, collapsing like they’re made of cards
For the feeling of peace
For the sun after long nights
For pills, nerves, and insomnia
For men, homeland, development
For girls who wish to be boys
For women, life, freedom
For freedom
For freedom
For freedom 

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