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Protest and Music  

Sumangala Damodaran

The relationship between music and politics and specifically that between music and protest has been relatively under-researched in the social sciences in a systematic manner, even if actual experiences of music being used to express protest have been innumerable. Further, the conceptual analysis that has been thrown up from the limited work that is available focuses mostly on Euro-American experiences with protest music. However, in societies where most music is not written down or notated formally, the discussions on the distinct role that music can play as an art form, as a vehicle through which questions of artistic representation can be addressed, and the specific questions that are addressed and responded to when music is used for political purposes, have been reflected in the music itself, and not always in formal debates. It is only in using the music itself as text and a whole range of information around its creation—often, largely anecdotal and highly context dependent—that such music can be understood. Doing so across a whole range of non-Western experiences brings out the role of music in societal change quite distinctly from the Euro-American cases. Discussions are presented about the informed perceptions about what protest music is and should be across varied, yet specific experiences. It is based on the literature that has come out of the Euro-American world as well as from parts that experienced European colonialism and made the transition to post-colonial contexts in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.