Music is not taken for granted here. It goes beyond casual listening or something people can “fangirl” over. Music, at the same time, seems more accessible here. I’ve rarely heard anyone say they don’t like music, or that they’ve never engaged in music or the like.
Music is particularly present in my workplace. I was surprised because what is music in the nonprofit environment? There doesn’t seem to be much connection between the two in a practical sense. No. Music and chants are tools of activism. Struggle songs lead every meeting I go to. Chants are spoken during every demonstration I attend. Marches are backed by song.
Music seems to be a tool of unity. All at once, you can sense a united spirit in the air when hundreds of people in a room together engage in song or chant together. It sets a tone that everyone is equal, or on the same playing field. I myself, an outsider, am able to feel that sense of unity when I chant or sing (to the best of my ability) along. I consider myself lucky. I’ve been invited to participate with their community by the sheer fact that I’ve learned these chants and I’ve learned some of these songs. Knowing this musical dimension of activism has brought me so much closer to those working towards change.
But not only does music seem to unite members of a movement, it also mobilizes and energizes these members. Bored children, tired parents and grandparents, busy workers are all able to find the energy to chant and sing along with the rest of the people surrounding them. A fire is sparked within them. This fire is kindled during discussions of the political movement. Never have I seen a group of people more invested and alert during an activist’s speech. The energy from the music carried with them throughout the entire meeting.
As a musician, I often become desensitized to the power and influence of music. But, my work through Ndifuna Ukwazi and Reclaim the City has opened my eyes again to why I started singing in the first place.