The Symbiosis of Music and Politics

When the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) had a dispute in Kingston, Jamaica, Prime Minister of Jamaica, Michael Manley asked Bob Marley to perform at the free concert “Smile Jamaica” on December 5, 1976. Bob agreed to the invitation to the concert.

BOB MARLEY – Smile Jamaica Concert

Later, Bob’s agreement was misinterpreted. He was accused of supporting Michael Manley’s PNP Party. Indeed, Bob was approached separately before by the JLP and PNP political factions, but Bob remains reluctant to play politics, he prefers to be neutral.

As a result, two days before the concert began, Bob’s house at 65 Hope Road was attacked. Bob suffered minor injuries from gunfire, while his wife Rita Marley and Don Taylor (band manager) were seriously injured. The concert was almost canceled. However, Bob was still performing in front of more than 80,000 spectators.

Not only Bob, Wyclaf Jean, former Fugees personnel have experienced the same thing. His hand was injured by gunfire in Delmas City, Haiti on Saturday mid-March. Jean shooting allegedly related to support for his fellow musicians who want to run for President of Haiti, Michael Martelly or better known as “Sweet Micky”.

What happened to Bob and Jean are two pieces of evidence that music can become a political force. Not only in Jamaica and America, in many nations, but almost every political party also uses musicians to campaign in elections, be it legislative elections, regional heads, and even presidential elections.

Music as a political force

During the Cold War, the United States government focused its efforts and money on recruiting music and musicians to “demean” Soviet ideology. Jazz music is used not only as an American cultural identity (which wants to represent Western culture), but as an expression of “freedom”, and this becomes their strong musical identity.

Music has become its own political force. Musicians who support a political party results in better polls and better chances for winning the hearts of the people. Nonetheless, while political musicians travel to places through private transportations, for instance, hired transportation from Vail to Denver for a music concert, people are looking forward to hearing their music. But some are also waiting to inflict harm to the band a form of retaliation for the party they support.

These musicians know the risk of supporting political parties. They know that they are being used for their music and popularity. But once these musicians support a cause, they will let it show and reflect in their kind of music.

In conclusion: music for propagandistic purposes must be populist, but to unite the voice and touch the innermost heart, what is needed is identity. The music that symbolizes Hitler’s “grandeur” to be admired by the grassroots is Richard Wagner’s music and the music that until now symbolizes the identity of America’s common people, the work of the legendary orchestra “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland. Both of them are classic genres, which have always been labeled “elite music.”

Copland: Fanfare for the Common Man