The power of music and performing arts

– written by Rakhshan Abbasi –

Music, poetry, dance is always associated with the soul and essence of life. It has not just been used over centuries for entertainment but has also been integrated in the practice of meditation by Sufis and mystical figures; and over the years has been used as a powerful tool in various revolutions around the world. 

The stomping and the ardent clapping of Flamenco has always been associated to a form of protest. Although today flamenco is one of the most exhilarating form of performing arts and is linked to romanticism and national identity, its origin is rooted within socially marginalised communities such as Gypsies, miners and other disadvantaged Andalusian groups. Lyrics from the 18th and 19th centuries tell tales of poverty and social hardship. 

Recently, Spanish activists stomped their feet to send their message to the politicians against the fiscal policies. Choreographed flamenco flash mobs disrupted the Andalusian Spanish Parliament and banks in southern Spain, displayed the capacity of flamenco as a form of social criticism that can give power to the powerless and voice to the voiceless. 

Estonian singing revolution is another example. The singing revolution are events between 1987 and 1991 that led to the freedom of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Estonians organized a series of nonviolent mass demonstrations, including spontaneous singing of national songs that were forbidden since the Soviet occupation. The peaceful revolution lasted for 5 years, and one million singing Estonians won against the Russian occupiers.  

Political hip-hop also developed in the 80s using rap into call of action and social activism. It created a new form of expression to voice exclusion, injustice and racism.  

Nueva canción is widely recognized to have played a profound role in the pro-democracy social upheavals in Portugal, Spain and Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s.  Nueva canción renewed traditional Latin American folk music, and was soon associated with revolutionary movements, in Chile, Argentina and Cuba. 

So, music does not only uplifts mood or combats depression, it also celebrates victory and has the power to galvanize people to bring change. 

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