If the King loves music, it is well with the land ~ Mencius
He who sings scares away his woes ~ Cervantes
You are the music while the music lasts ~ T.S. Elliot
One good thing about music - when it hits you, you feel no pain ~ Peter Tosh
The above quotes all pay homage to “music.” Music has been equally denounced as it has been celebrated by cultures over thousands of years. It has been used as an art form, as a tool for the state (propaganda and “nation-building”), as a way of bonding social capital and bridging social capital.
Music has an inherent power to share, to indoctrinate and to entertain.
Psychologically then, we would be right to question how does music influence our emotions and behaviour?
There has been a lot of “pop” psychology or studies masquerading as psychology which all seem to denigrate particular forms of music (think rap/contemporary hip hop) as having a negative influence on the listener. Heavy metal/thrash rock; also suffer from this accusation. Religious and or social conservatives tend to agree that one form of music is ok, but other forms must be closely monitored or worst case: even banned. The furore over some records such as “Smack My Bitch Up” (The Prodigy) and “Sympathy for the Devil” (The Rolling Stones) exemplify how some were turned off by the lyrical content and what they thought the lyrics endorsed.
Smack My Bitch Up - The Prodigy
Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones
Conversely, religious groups often use music as part of their religious practices. Churches of most denominations have long incorporated choir singing as part of their religious worship. Hindus, Sikhs and Sufi Muslims also use religious chanting to bring them to a state of closeness with God:
Sufi Music (Sukun)
It would be funny to hear what secularists would say about religious music as a form of indoctrination...
Music is unavoidable in the modern age as it has been since time immemorial. However its construction as an input has evolved from something, which at one time was perhaps story telling/celebratory, religious to now a form of mass entertainment. How different people react to different forms of music is interesting, I personally cannot and will not listen to some forms of music as either the lyrics or the beats ascribed to that music form do not move me/uplift me/inform or entertain me. The only music that has the power to do so for me: is reggae music. I will come on to a more detailed discussion of reggae music later, the purpose of this little post is for you as the reader to explore and question whether music in its entirety or just some forms of music have an important input into your psycho-social being. Can you switch off from music? Does listening to some music give you perspective? Does it entertain? Does it soothe? Is it part of your religious or cultural beliefs?
Reggae music has a certain nostalgic meaning for a lot of people. At its height, in the early 70s to 80s, reggae music exploded on to the world scene thanks to pioneers such as King Tubby, Toots & the Maytals, The Wailers, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown. Reggae music was vastly different to the electro-synth sounds of disco music that was being pumped out of New York clubs. Reggae had a mission to not only entertain but to inform its listeners about the socio-economic-historical legacies of empire, nation-building (particularly for Jamaica) and racism. It was an inherently political music form and one could say laid the foundations for spoken word and rap to develop its own energy and cultural capital. The reggae music of the 70s in particular then, had a very particular resonance for a lot of listeners who would have been teenagers in that decade, that is why these people still turn up to Rodigan up and down the country, because the music of that generation left a lasting input into their being. The music educated them on the hardships of life post empire, how to build a nation, how to be a man, how to be a woman, all these ideas and personal development issues which one could say had been catastrophically decimated by the legacy of empire; now had an outlet in the lyrics of reggae music which connected listeners to a very simple off beat or skank. If you compare the reggae beat to other forms of music, you will immediately hear its simplicity, it is hardly ever complicated by lots of drums and synth sounds. The simplicity of the beat lets the lyrics take over.
For younger connoisseurs of reggae music, this is incredibly important, we have a history, a cultural record to which we can refer to, and even though some of what we may feel is romanticised, the fact that the explosion of reggae music and its global reach from Jamaica to Japan, means that we have access to a story that is generally whitewashed in the history textbooks and or given scant attention to. When you are part of a diaspora community then, the music that forms part of your cultural heritage; is important in providing you with context and an input into who you are. Even if you are not part of that ethno-cultural group, the fact that reggae music along with Punk music recorded so many important historical moments for groups, which were often maligned or ignored by the dominant majority, gives us access to knowledge.
Junior Murvin - Police and Theives
Dennis Brown - Here I Come
Has the input of music led to a higher standard of output from you?
By Farzana Rahman.