A blog article by Bonniejean Alford (Educator, Activist, World Citizen)
I like music.
Fact is, I love to listen to the words, the beat, the intermingled sounds of emotion and artistic abilities. Genius to my ears, even when it is a genre I do not enjoy listening to. My heart flutters at the very first note of a particular song or another, bringing back memories of moments passed, moments wished for, and anticipation of moments yet to come.
But what does music have to do with social justice?
So much that I could only begin to scratch the surface of understanding.
Historically, music has been used to convey many societal messages. For instance, the Native American rain dance music was perceived with a goal of bringing on the rain. But truth is, it conveyed a societal message about a desire to bring about change within the community and the environment in which community lived. And for them, in that moment, that change was simply the need for rain.
The protest music of the 1960s has inspired dissertations, novels, and entire movements of social change. Woodstock was somewhat meant to be a meeting of the activist minds. It brought together people from all over the country, people with an interest in making the world different.
And often much of what they had in common was the music (and, of course, maybe drugs. But that is a digression I may come back to in a future blog).
Music truly is a powerful tool that connects people. Whether or not you speak the same language, the feeling of music can come through. The beat, the tone of the words, the context of the performance, all speak to the message that is intended.
Most recently, I can think of one song meant to honor and stand up for something. The band U2 wrote and recorded the song “Walk On” in honor of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma (illegally renamed Myanmar by the government). It is meant to further inspire her to continue the fight, but also to share the story with the rest of the world.
The United States Campaign for Burma (http://uscampaignforburma.org/), an American group working for Burmese Democracy, has taken the next step by creating a CD which includes U2’s song, but also other artists’ work as well. It is a compilation of American, Burmese, and other world music artists designed to raise awareness, raise funds, and hopefully one day help bring down an oppressive military regime. All through working in unity across politically imposed borders.
No matter the type of music, no matter the intended audience, music simply has power.