the Music of Peace
My introduction to the music of peace was in 1984, watching the giant Live Aid concerts that were broadcast from many cities around the world. I was an eleven year old girl, and I had no idea that people were hungry and had no food. I came from a disadvantaged family, so there were times for us of little food or food that wasn't our favourites, but we had never starved. I watched the videos from Ethiopia, and cried when I saw babies of skin and bone, and children too hungry to run and play. It was a powerful message; one of action and of hope, as long as the world came together to overcome artificial boundaries.
Music has been a galvanizing voice of protest for centuries.
It was instrumental in the civil rights marches in the United States, with songs like "We Shall Overcome" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhnPVP23rzo and "Freedom Highway"
It also played a part in helping the world become more aware of the practice of apartheid in South Africa, with songs like "Sun City" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aopKk56jM-I&feature=related and "Biko" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nekFozZow4Y
People who had never heard of the human rights abuses against blacks in South Africa were appalled, and levelled global pressure against the South African government to end apartheid.
There is also the example of Buffy Sainte Marie in the 1970's, raising the profile of the aboriginal North Americans, and how they were abused by colonialism. Her devastating song, "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl08n8_b3Sw illustrated how they were treated by the governments of the time and the results of the harsh treatment of Native Americans.
These songs share an important feature - they are words of peace, and non-violence, and they have a message for the listener. Music remains a universal language, accessible to the rich and the poor, men and women, the elderly and children. There are many musicians and musical groups today who devote themselves to songs of peace, and they are responsible for informing and enlightening millions of people as to conflict situations around the globe. The Somali-Canadian musician K'Naan has an international success with the song "Wavin' Flag" that talks about the need for peace in his homeland of Somalia, and the lead singer for U2, Bono, is well-recognized for his efforts as an activist, as well as for songs such as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" talking about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Michael Franti not only writes lyrics of peace, but also hosts a "Power to the Peaceful" series of free concerts every year that welcomes activists and musicians from all over the world. These are just a few of the many musicians who call for an end to armed conflict and for governments to promote human rights.
One of my favourite peace music groups is the Playing for Change band, which is comprised of musicians from around the world who celebrate a message of harmony and hope: http://playingforchange.com/
The following is a video of the Playing for Change musicians performing Bob Marley's 'One Love.'
As this is such a broad subject, with so many deserving musicians worthy of recognition for their peace building efforts, I will write a series of articles regarding the actions of artists and musicians who are making a difference in their communities, nationally and globally to promote peace. If you have any suggestions of musicians or artistic groups who are making a difference in your community, I would love to hear about them!
One last song to inspire, "Stand Up" by Australian band Blue King Brown: