Music has always conveyed a special message for Anthony Mckeon. “One of my first childhood memories when growing up in North Dublin was weeping when I heard U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday.”
Then years later, he was a 24 year-old down and out, on the streets of London, seemingly lost in his own urban frustration. Then at 24 picked up a guitar “I’d never played a musical note in my life. But then I picked up the guitar and it was like hanging out with an old friend. I decided then that I’d travel the world as a musician,” he says.
“I began playing because I saw music as a formula that’s proven in bringing people together. Look at what happened in the sixties – every revolution is led by musicians."
McKeon's new-found vocation landed him in Sydney’s eclectic beach district, Bondi, where he would produce songs in reaction to the corporate greed and soul-less life that engulfed him in his darkest moments.
That was 12 years ago. Now 36, the Irish-Australian singer-songwriter has just released his first solo album, "Hole in the Wall."
He's now preparing for a tour of India and China in his latest attempt to change the world through music.
He has previously taken a precarious journey to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories known as the West Bank, where he performed a street concert lobbying for peace in the Middle East.
Such an ethos to “reclaim the streets” also saw him coordinate the World’s Biggest Busk, where almost a thousand street musicians gathered to bring non-stop rhythm, beats and melodies to the Bondi Beach district.
And he has “reclaimed radio” for live musicians, bringing together local bohemians and beatniks for in-studio jams during Monday Night Live.
McKeon’s genre of folk and reggae influenced world music has a common theme: it rejects the apathy of a world to corporate lies and the military-industrial complex.
“You know, I’m all for corporations," he says. "But they are organizations that should be working for the people. They should be in line with the biorhythms of life, the balance of nature.”
His work lobbies for positive change within popular global brands, focusing on Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
In "Coke go's Green" he exposes Santa Claus as a "beggar and a thief" who was sold out to Coca-Cola advertisements. (The original garments worn by Saint Nicholas were a deep Irish green, which features in his controversial film clip where Jesus Christ is taken from his cross to be set free of consumerist interpretations of his message). Its a Christmas song that will have you thinking.
In “You Can Change,” a band of musicians (and a theatrical, burger-throwing Ronald McDonald) occupy a McDonald’s store to demand nutritional food from the corporate burger giant. Check them out on YouTube.
McKeon says, “Let’s have McDonald’s. But at the very least they should be serving humans food that has some nutritional value."
“Look at Coca-Cola. It's everywhere. What I’m saying is let’s use this corporate infrastructure to reach people in all kinds of medical ways. But also make the drink that’s something of sustenance, rather than fizzy lolly water."
Just like he changed his own life, he asks for corporations to do the same.
He draws the "Hole in the Wall" album together with a song co-produced with acclaimed Irish guitarist and vocalist Damien Dempsey, called "No Soul". The duo instruct big business not to pollute the earth's air and for global executives to “get your hands off your face” and start working with humanity to create a more sustainable, healthier world.
“Any corporation is run by people. They’re not faceless – human beings are making every decision in this world. It’s within our power to change.”
He's about to take that message to the world. He'll be teaming with Melbourne-based Irish fiddle player Andreas De Staic in forming The Shanti Rebels during Goa's upcoming festival season.
But for McKeon, life is not without struggle, and hope.
“When I go back to how I felt when I was 24, I hated myself. I was depressed with the world that surrounded me and spent all my time trying to escape it,” he says.
“I’m a little different now, and similar to a lot of people, I guess, in that I sit in my living room and dream of a better life, a better world for us all. Music is just my way of giving my dreams a chance of coming true.”