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Editorial

Redemption Songs

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Sep 27, 2016 11:02 pm
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For as long as people have been writing songs, music has been used as a tool to relay political and social messages. It has come in the form of anti-slavery chants, anti-war calls, anti-poverty anthems and anti-violence messages laced in the words to the songs. Music, it is safe to say, has often been employed as a medium to express dissent. This form of music has come to be known as protest music. In popular culture, the American folk-singer, Bob Dylan is the most celebrated political singer of his generation. But it does not mean that there were no protest singers before or after Dylan. Protest music, despite numerous obituaries dedicated to it, has not died yet.

The heritage of our Naga music today is nothing like its legacy. Like almost everything else, the form of music that we have adopted today is a colonial baggage. That doesn’t mean that it is an awful thing. Or even a good thing, for that matter. It simply means to say that our music was replaced by that of the western one – the Christian hymnals, to be precise. From what little that we know today of the form of music that predated the western incursion, it will not be an exaggeration to suggest that there was context to it. Political and social contexts, at least – judging by the war songs and the ones sung during celebration of festivals.

Conventional belief states that art imitates life. That music, as a form of art, is a reflection of the society. This is how protest music emerged across societies all over the world. As a movement against existing social, political and even economical injustices, protest songs are by nature situational. It attains association with social movements through context. Also, the normal trajectory is that artists in positions of political and cultural privilege have the choice of making protest music. But the music made by the marginalised groups tends to be inherently political, in this context.

Except for an extremely negligible number, Methaneilie Jutakhrie springs to mind instantly, Naga musicians have failed to channel the social and political context of our times. This is not to question their talent. Their abilities are beyond questioning. But by somehow not choosing to be the voice of their times, they have discarded perhaps the most crucial connection that exist between an artist and the public in a marginalized society like ours. That connection is relevance. In a time such as this, with the kind of phase that our society is going through, it is strange that our musicians choose to sing how we don’t need no weed or ask those buying records to be my wife.

It is understandable that in order to sell records, musicians must be able to connect with all types of audience. And for so many years, we have been told how lack of support to our musicians has killed careers. Perhaps, it is time that we tell our musicians to embrace relevance. Connect with us. Tell our stories. Sing our redemption songs. Be our context.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Sep 27, 2016 11:02:16 pm