Thursday, 10 July 2014

War of the Words

One hundred years ago, international tension was fermenting, about to erupt into our first global conflict.

The 28th of this month marks the 100th anniversary of Austro-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia, in response to the notorious assassination of the Heir to their throne in Saravejo.
What could have been yet another minor European un-neighbourly squabble quickly escalated as heavyweights Russia, Germany, France and Britain took sides according to which treaties were in place at the time. As the great powers' dominions and colonies joined the fray, even the United States eventually stepping into the ring in 1917, the cataclysm known as the first Great War raged for four years and claimed approximately 17 million lives.
It's a complex and tragic series of events which are still being unravelled today. Humour is an unexpectedly powerful learning tool which the BBC is no stranger to. Even the brilliant Black Adder Goes Forth made sharp and lasting observations about the Great War, not the least being the closing moments of the series.

In a similar, but catchier vein, the BBC commissioned a Rap Battle from Balista Media, with key players present their points of view in Hip Hop style, as part of the WW1 100th Anniversary programming.

Daniel Page as Serbian assassin Gavrillo Princip and Morrison Thomas
as Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph.

The over-worked writer eventually needed exploratory surgery when his larynx swelled to twice its size as a result of all the shouting into microphones he did while putting the tracks together. And on the shooting day military buttons pinged through the air as the performers aggressive gesticulations stressed the historically accurate uniforms.
The result, however, is genius: a masterclass application of music and humour to relate a complex and important story. But don't take my word for it:

(With thanks to Gary for bringing this, yo.)

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