Danny Nedelko: A pro-immigration punk anthem everyone should hear
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-punk rock when it comes to songs completely criticizing everything bad about society and/or the government. However, there is something heartwarming about a punk song that points out society’s flaws in empowering ways. I came across the song, “Danny Nedelko” by the British post-punk band, Idles this past week and haven’t stopped thinking about the pro-immigration anthem since I heard it.
The United Kingdom has its own variety of ethnicities that date back to its imperial era. The largest minority in the UK are Black British citizens with African or African-Caribbean roots. There is also a large portion of the Indian diaspora in the UK, making up about 2.3 percent of the UK population. Given many European countries’ histories of harsh colonialism, I find the rise of far right-wing populists throughout Europe especially dangerous. In the UK specifically, immigration is seen as a major issue in the eyes of British citizens. According to 2016 surveys regarding Brexit, the economy, immigration, and sovereignty were the top three reasons people voted for the Brexit referendum. According to the same survey done by NatCen Social Research based in London, the biggest single distinguishing factor in terms of general priorities for the United Kingdom government was immigration (47% of Leave voters compared to 16% Remain voters). Immigration and the economy were the most important issues when it came to the public opinion’s view of Brexit.
Given the public’s recent views of immigration in the UK, Idles’ “Danny Nedelko” is refreshing and features not only pro- immigration lyrics but pro-humanity lyrics. The song starts off with, “My blood brother is an immigrant, A beautiful immigrant,” it goes on with an ode to the different ethnic groups in the UK, “My blood brother's Freddie Mercury,/ A Nigerian mother of three.” Many know that Freddie Mercury, the late iconic front man of the band Queen, was British yet some do not know of his Indian Parsi descent. He was born on the island of Zanzibar, which was a British protectorate that eventually became a part of Tanzania. His family later emigrated to England in 1964. Here Idles acknowledges immigrants in the UK and their long lasting legacies.
As Idles front man chants the next lines “He's made of bones, he's made of blood/ He's made of flesh, he's made of love/ He's made of you, he's made of me/ Unity,” he emphasizes everyone’s human dignity—whether born in the UK or not. This ode to humanity is followed by the most punk rock aspect of the song in my opinion, “Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain/ Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate.” When it comes to immigration, I personally think many people are easily manipulated by politicians to fear any foreigner. This causes overall issues of xenophobia and racism and unfortunately Idles are correct in stating that fear, in the end, often leads to hate. The song continues with multiple references to the different immigrant populations in the United Kingdom, “A Polish butcher, he's Mo Farah” and “My blood brother is Malala,” both references to the Polish and Pakistani populations in the UK.
The video of the song features Danny himself, a Ukrainian immigrant friend of the band, walking around posing with multiple people throughout the city, some of which are immigrants. He wears a shirt that reads, “No Man is an Island” based off the poem by John Donne. The poem is over 400 years old, yet its message rings true today—every human is a human. Joe Talbot, Idles’ front man, told the audience at the Glastonbury Festival in 2019 that hearing PJ Harvey read the poem in 2016 on the same stage was what inspired the song. The video is also particularly interesting as Danny flashes the “Ok” symbol which some view today as a symbol taken over by white nationalists. He shows that love will reclaim the symbol as the song also overpowers many anti-immigrant attitudes in the UK.
Listen to the Idles pro-immigration anthem on all streaming platforms and watch the video here.