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Politicizing Music

Music remains to be one of the most popular art forms in the history of mankind. Through the years, music provided avenues for self-expression and identity construction. The never-ending combination of various rhythm, harmony and melodies render a cathartic effect that readily touches the innermost emotions and feelings of one’s soul. Human beings and music are inseparable entities. The highly “intimate (DeNora 63)” connection of music and humans stems from the fact that music also serves as a reflection of one’s historical, social and cultural experiences.

Taking these aspects into total consideration, it would not come as too much of a surprise if music has been one of the most important vehicles of political activism and ideological discourse. The marriage of music and politics is something that is innate and thus cannot be readily suppressed. From time to time, music serves as one of the primary instigators of mass and direct actions. This is most especially true in times wherein political instability and social chaos. Likewise, music is highly utilized in the assertion of rights by various groups and communities.

One of the most evident social, cultural and political uses of music in the United States can be highly observed in rap music. Despite of the fact that rap has been readily criticized for its strong links with violence and sexuality, it cannot be denied that this musical genre played an important role in shaping and redefining the African-American experience in a predominantly white community. Rap music is highly instrumental in the formation of the Hip Hop culture in which the attempt to reclaim one’s identity and cultural space are intensely manifested.

The underlying themes and principles embedded in rap music revolve around issues regarding race, sexism, discrimination and suppression (Asante & Mazama 264). These issues can be fairly described as something that is not openly discussed in public. This situation further places the Black community into the bottom of the cultural and economic hierarchy. The seemingly derogatory stance attributed to African-Americans is one of the reasons behind the strong need of having an efficient medium in which they can articulate their sentiments encourage cooperation and foster a strong sense of belongingness.

Thus, in this particular situation, rap transcends into a mere musical genre. It is through this kind of music that political awareness is created and shared. Rap in this context serves as an ideological medium fully determined to educate and raise consciousness in the Black community. Rappers are not just musical artists but also deemed as “cultural heroes (Asante & Mazama 264)” and “ideological partisans (Dawson 79). ” In the meantime, music’s political aspect does not end in being a cultural voice and representation of minority groups.

As mentioned, music can generate a cathartic effect and indeed, very influential. This basically explains why music has been readily utilized in critical and hostile situations wherein the safety and security of the public are at stake. The 9/11 attack was yet one of the most depressing era in the history of the United States. Many lives were taken and various dreams were broken. During those times, music played two distinct roles. First, music was used to encourage the American community to support the battle against terrorism. Simultaneously, anti-war music was also prevalent.

But whether music was used to support both patriotic and anti-war movements, under this situation, music’s political orientations are manifested through propaganda purposes. The destruction of the World Trade Center calls for a strong sense of courage and unity. The United States is being attacked and thus, it is the duty of every individual to defend the country. However, a mere presentation of the attacks’ possible implications would not suffice to raise arms and engage into arms. The American society somehow needs a strong justification and reinforcements on why it should go to war.

Apparently, this is something that music can readily provide. According to Secunda and Moran, the 9/11 aftermath witnessed a proliferation of songs that mirrored American heroism and nationalism (178). Songs of this nature were readily employed by the Bush administration and media channels such as CNN (Kellner 105) in an attempt to rekindle nationalistic sentiments and concerns—music acted as a vivid reminder of the United States’ bravery. However, it cannot be denied that 9/11 also brought forth the rise of anti-war music.

Based from a critical examination of the matter, anti-war music, in this case, was not only concerned on preventing individuals to sustain the government’s aims. Anti-war music also functioned as an outright criticism to the war’s atrocious effects. Musicians, to be more specific, Dixie Chicks employed country music to question the government’s hidden agendas in popularizing war (Secunda & Moran 178). If patriotic songs served as the public’s reminder, anti-war music, in this case, became the public’s conscience. Music’s political function is also manifested in certain youth cultures.

Although Punk traces it origins in UK (Scaruffi 170) , this musical genre has been also embraced by the American youth. Through the years, punk has become the language of the working-class teenager. Governed by the so-called DIY (do-it-yourself) ethic, punk served as a concrete outcry against a highly consumerist culture and middle-class orientations. The famous tagline “three chords, now go out and form a band (Rombes 140)” best describes the music’s intense reactions not only against the capitalistic processes that are present in the music industry and society as well.

Punk rock shares a striking similarity with protest songs since both have highly expressed the animosities rendered towards government institutions. However, punk rock has thoroughly evolved and became a chosen lifestyle of many. The employment of non-conformist hairstyles, wardrobes and proliferation of independently published reading materials (zines) (Skelton & Valentine 103) readily reflect the music’s ideological inclinations. Individually speaking, music has been the basis of my political convictions and assertions.

This has increased my ideological consciousness and proved to be highly instrumental in the choices and decisions that I create. Politics is a highly complicated concept. Yet music transforms it into a language that I can easily comprehend and understand. Music’s political nature helps me develop a critical mind, generate solutions and engage in direct action. Works Cited Asante, Molefi and Ama Mazama. Encyclopedia of Black Studies. California: Sage Publications Inc, 2005 Dawson, Michael. Black Visions, The Roots of Contemporary African-American Political Ideologies.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001 DeNora, Tia. Music in Everyday Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000 Kellner, Douglas. From 9/11 to Terror War. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003 Rombes, Nicholas. New Punk Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005 Scaruffi, Piero. A History of Rock Music 1951-2000. Nebraska: iUniverse Inc, 2003 Secunda, Eugene and Terence Moran. Selling War to America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group Inc. , 2007 Skelton, Tracey and Gills Valentine. Cool Places, Geographies of Youth Cultures. London: Routledge, 1998

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