Music as an instrument of social change

#BlackLivesMatter #SayNoToRape #JusticeForUwa #JusticeForTina #GeorgeFloyd. As long as you are connected to the world’s internet you must have come across some or all of these hashtags. On June 2, pitch black images dominated social media platforms through display pictures, statuses and posts. Dubbed “Blackout Tuesday”, celebrities, corporations, music labels, and sports stars vowed not to post on their accounts following the death of George Floyd in America.

Often believed to heal the wounds that medicine cannot touch, music has become known as a balm for the soul

In Nigeria, this was an opportunity to stand in solidarity against an abominable rape culture and the incessant killing of civilians by trigger happy police officers.

From fears of a third World War to fires in Australia to the painful death of the Icon, Kobe Bryant to a global pandemic, it’s safe to say the world is bleeding and in severe need of hope for healing.

Popular black novelist and activist, James Baldwin wrote:

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” Taking a walk down memory lane, the world has encountered several challenging periods and music has continuously served as one of the mediums used to tackle these difficulties, inspire and raise awareness.

Often believed to heal the wounds that medicine cannot touch, music has become known as a balm for the soul. In addition to the entertainment music brings, it also serves as an expression of faith, freedom, peace and justice. Through the passing of time, several songs have cried out against corruption, inequality, police brutality, war, and in support of progressive, civil, and human rights.

Whether aware or unaware, intentional or unintentional, musicians are carriers of influence. To create is to make something from nothing – a godlike trait embedded in man from birth. With this ability also comes the potential to invoke feelings within viewers, readers, listeners, and generally those who get to experience the creation. Between the years 1983-1985, a widespread famine struck Ethiopia, leaving about 1.2 million people dead. 400,000 refugees left the country, and 2.5 million people were internally displaced. Almost 200,000 children were orphaned. This led to the composition of the global record “We are the world”.

USA for Africa, a non-profit organisation brought together the most renowned artists at that time to join their voices to the song, and proceeds made off the record were used to relieve and feed starving people in Africa. Ethiopia being the country of focus.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti passed away on August 2, 1997, yet over 20 years later he still serves as a voice for the voiceless and an influence on the younger generations. In the year 2019, popular Nigerian artists, Falz and Burna Boy re-enacted the Pan African revolutionary on their respective albums “Moral Instruction” and the Grammy nominated “African Giant”.

Fearless, Fela made music a weapon he wielded firmly in his fight for justice and equality for Africans against our own government. Although still riddled with the challenges Fela fought against, his vocal efforts put the need for change on record. As it serves as proof, a piece of history, an audio narrative that encourages Africans to stand for what is right, our rights. And stop suffering in silence, suffering and smiling.

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