BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE

David Byrne Fires Back at ‘Racist’ Trump with ‘Beautiful Shitholes’ Playlist

After he heard the president’s ‘shithole countries’ comment, the artist began to wonder, ‘Can music help us empathize with its makers?’

Kevin Mazur/Child2014

The political mediasphere may have moved on from “shithole”-gate, but David Byrne hasn’t.

Three weeks after President Donald Trump referred to Haiti, El Salvador and the continent of Africa as “shithole countries,” the former Talking Heads frontman released a playlist pointedly titled, “The Beautiful Shitholes.”

“I assume I don’t have to explain where the shithole reference came from,” Byrne wrote in an email to fans Thursday morning. He said he wanted to share the music included in order to give “just the smallest sample of the depth and range of creativity that continues to pour out of the countries in Africa and the Caribbean.”

“It is undeniable,” he said, leading him to ask the question, “Can music help us empathize with its makers?”

“For me, Trump is not the issue. We know and have known for a long time that he is racist. That is a fact, borne out by plenty of evidence. It’s not news—we know what he is,” Byrne continued. “What is truly disturbing is the Republicans who go along with this person. Their behavior makes them complicit and the same as he is...exactly the same, no difference. Remember that come voting time.”

The playlist contains tracks from artists like the Puerto Rican band Calle 13, the Grammy-winning duo Amadou & Mariam from Mali, the multi-cultural Orchestra Baobab and others. It is truly a beautiful lineup of songs that Trump would not even begin to comprehend if they somehow found their way to his ears.

In a new interview with Rolling Stone to promote his upcoming album American Utopia, Byrne, who has always incorporated world music elements in his own work, echoed this message about Trump, calling him a “fucking racist,” and saying of the GOP, “If they don't break rank, they're as racist as he is.” He also said he has no interest in the “nostalgia exercise” that would be a Talking Heads reunion.

“The swells in Davos too—who are happy to get rich off Trump’s policies and are more than fine supporting a racist. None of them has risen to condemn his racism and to say that this man does not represent our values as human beings,” Byrne added at the end of his letter. “Got that off my chest, now maybe I can listen to some music.”