Millennium Post

Music is what music does

Music is what music does
I remember wrapping up last week’s column by quoting one of my favourite artistes of all time, U2 frontman Bono. He said, “Music can change the world because it can change people”. And, I when Bono says something, you HAVE TO believe him! And, for those of you who, unfortunately, aren’t familiar with him or, his work (for example, my father. I mentioned Bono, and he said, “is that a fruit?” Go figure!), I give to you Sir Plato. He said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything”. Profound, right? Might even seem extreme to give music that much power, but I thinkour man knew what he was talking about.

I think all of us agree that there is no better way to measure how far society has evolved than through music. It has been used as a medium to express emotions when words have not been enough. Recall that famous Hans Christen Andersen quote, “Where words fail, music speaks”? The soft hum of the violin, the sharp notes from the electric guitar, the furious beating of drums- these are more than enough to expressevery kind of feeling. But, put words and music together and the artist has a tool that can awaken a thousand souls all at once.

Music is a universal language that we all understand. By appealing to our emotions, it has the ability to break down complex issues into things we can all relate to like love, friendship, fear, or loss. In this way music expands our horizons and opens our minds to new ideas. Iconic folk artiste Pete Seeger asserted that, “the right song at the right time can change history”. Let’s say, I got a little inspired and came up with a list of 5 songs that have changed the world and its ways!

We Shall Overcome
What do I say about this song? Originally sung by Pete Seeger, it came to be associated with the Civil Rights Movement in the US in 1959, and quickly became the movement’s unofficial anthem. In August 1963, 22-year-old folksinger Joan Baez led a crowd of 3,00,000 in singing “We Shall Overcome” at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recited the words from “We Shall Overcome” in his final sermon before his assassination. Closer home, Ek Din SurjyerBhor (literally translated as One Day The Sun Will Rise) was recorded by the Calcutta Youth Choir during the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence and became a favorite of then Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh MujiburRahman. It wasregularly sung at public events after Bangladesh gained independence.

Wavin’ Flag
KeinanAbdiWarsame, known by his stage name K’naan, was born and raised in Mogadishu, Somalia. After the start of a civil war, however, his family feared for his safety and joined his father briefly in New York City, followed by Canada. While K’naan doesn’t consider himself political, he attempts to use his music to describe things as they are like in his hit song “Wavin’ Flag” which was the 2010 Soccer World Cup anthem. In its original lyrics, he talks about the struggle of refugees displaced by war, and how people are waiting for the dream of freedom.

Widely regarded as John Lennon’s signature song, Imagine conveys his wish for world peace. Initially inspired by a poem written by Yoko Ono, “Imagine” is poignant as we look to the future and work towards a world without extreme poverty. From children being shot in Palestine and schools being bombed, to children dying of malnourishment in Sub-Saharan Africa, we live in a world that seems to be going from bad to worse. Bettany Hughes, New York Times bestselling author and TV/radio broadcaster sums it up rather beautifully. She says, “’Imagine’ is the first globally significant song showing a basic, humane desire for peace. It wasn’t a protest song; it was an aspirational piece of music, and that’s why it became so popular so quickly. For the first time, there was this feeling that you could have one global anthem which everybody could share because the motivation behind it was this universal desire that wasn’t linked to a particular nation, state, civilisation or religion.”

We Are The World
The hit single was recorded by USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) was the name under which 44 predominantly U.S. artists, led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, in 1985.The considerable profits from the enterprise went to the USA for Africa Foundation, which used them for the relief of famine and disease in Africa and specifically to 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia.Never before had so many artistes come together for a single cause and look at the magic they created! It’s been 30 years since, and the song continues to resonate and inspire.

Get Up Stand Up
This iconic song is a reggae song written by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. While touring Haiti,
Marley was extremely moved both by the lives of the Haitians and the extreme poverty they faced; according to his then-girlfriend Esther Anderson, this is what inspired him to write this song. As with many of these songs, Get Up Stand Up holds relevance even in the modern world where inequality and human rights violations still abound.

The author is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict, hopes
to soon finish writing her debut novel, and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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