Colonization and Exploitation in music’s clothing

People around the world like to listen to music for different purposes – for relaxation, running, studying, unwinding or just enjoying the art of music. But when we listen to music regardless of the purpose, we are completely unguarded and defenseless. Different people feel related to different genres and different artists for various reasons. To some people, music sounds harmless and artists are like saints. In other words, music is just music. We do not expect anything harmful out of music – how can music be poisoned with other things? This has remained a question for many, although the effect of music on the subconscious is scientifically proven. Also, music therapy has proven to help treat certain disorders such as depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s diseases and more but the power of music can be misused in the wrong hands.

The music industry is mysterious. Some musicians and singers get more famous than the others, get sponsorship from various companies, get promoted, tour around the world, build an international fan base, sell millions of albums or get millions of views on the internet, achieve international fame and get wealthy, we can even read gossips on them in some magazines! Obviously, it is tempting to be that person. It is nice to have the approval of millions of people and their admiration. It should also feel good to be an important role model that some people desperately and almost blindly try to change their lifestyle to be like him/her. For others, it is tempting to use (it’s fairer to say misuse) that “artist” and his/her fame and influence. Therefore, there are various competitions and contests around the world that promise to promote and support the winner, naturally, they are good businesses on their own too. Some of these contests are more famous and popular than the others and even broadcast the contest live for people around the world. Yet, there are so many factors that make a successful artist. But talent and good academic training are not enough, it is the magic touch of the music industry that can make a “star” out of a person even without much talent or/and academic background. So why the music industry should choose a particular person and spend a fortune to make him/her famous?

Eurovision is an annual song contest, over the years, the contest has been the subject of criticism regarding both its musical and political content. Eurovision seems to want to bring unity among different European cultures and values, in a sense to celebrate diversity. Yet, 2019 has been the most controversial year for Eurovision. The decision to hold the contest in Occupied-Palestine (Israel) has split the artists around the world into pro and anti-Eurovision. For those who may not be aware of the conflicts in middle-east, especially the Israel-Palestine conflict, it might not be understandable why a music contest should turn to be politically controversial or why Eurovision should be held in a non-European country in the first place.

Roger Waters – co-founder of Pink Floyd, songwriter, bassist and singer – had encouraged artists not to perform in Occupied-Palestine. Speaking to The Guardian, Waters says “To perform in Israel, is a lucrative gig but to do so serves to normalise the occupation, the apartheid, the ethnic cleansing, the incarceration of children, the slaughter of unarmed protesters … all that bad stuff.” He also admires 136 thousands of Swiss brothers and sisters whom signed a petition demanding that Eurovision pull out of the finals in Tel-Aviv and “brothers and sisters all over the world who are standing shoulder to shoulder in support of human rights in general, and, specifically, at the time of the 71st anniversary of Nakba, brothers and sisters in Palestine.” Also, he has suggested the alternative to Eurovision, the Globalvision.

On the other hand, Madonna the pro-Eurovision artist participated in this event. At the final, two of her dancers made a lot of controversy by performing side by side with Israeli and Palestinian flags on their backs which supposedly was a call for unity, in the most optimistic interpretation. “It was an error” Regev the Israeli rightwing minister said. As beautiful as that display may seem, it may only be a cover. That kind of thought could easily persuade her to join Roger Waters’ campaign, but she did the opposite. Was this display a preparation by the music industry for the plans to come?

Independently, the Icelandic group Hatari waved Palestinian flags when the results were being announced. Both displays were condemned by The European Broadcasting Union that organizes the event. Moreover, Iceland’s entry could be “punished”, Eurovision organizers said. This has not stopped Hatari though, after the contest, in collaboration with Palestinian artist Bashar Murad, they sing about liberation and resistance. The music video has also been filmed in Jericho, Palestine.

This kind of artists’ confrontations has happened before but on a smaller scale. Not very long ago, there has been a music event called “Venezuela aid live” in Colombia in the name of fundraising through USID. But it increased tensions at Venezuela’s border. The concert was organized by the British Richard Branson. Again, we could clearly see different reactions from different musicians. Some musicians had supported this event by participating in it. Some singers like the Venezuelan Jose Luis Rodriguez, A.K.A. “El Puma” began their performances with short but clear messages “Thanks to dear Colombia and the United States.” – But on this event, Roger Waters believes “It has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people, it has nothing to do with democracy, it has nothing to do with freedom, and it has nothing to do with aid,” a US “shtick” has fooled Branson.

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido supports the event as President Nicolas Maduro barricades the border for “serious and illegal threats attempted by the Government of Colombia against La Paz (peace).” and doesn’t allow the aid to enter. Maduro believes that it is a “political show” and an excuse for a US intervention. “Do we really want Venezuela to be turned into another Iraq, Syria or Libya? I don’t, and neither do the Venezuelan people,” said Waters.

On the other hand, the Venezuelan government held its own “Hands off Venezuela” two-day concert on a border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela. At each end of the bridge, music was performed but for absolutely different purposes, and for different beliefs.

Are we aware of the things that the music industry is rationalizing and normalizing for us through the music and lyrics? Probably not. Works of art should be judged on the basis of wisdom and reasoning, and not on the basis of transient fancy and emotion, said Beethoven. How are we being mentally and ultimately physically affected by the music that we listen to? In the long term, we could be simply brainwashed. Our beliefs and goals are being replaced by beliefs and goals that we do not want. Our loved ones start following the villain role models. Gradually, we will start to think and act in a different way which is only profitable for certain companies and organizations. So we will think and behave the way they want us to think and behave. In this process, certain harmful thoughts and acts become ordinary for us that are not to be ordinary, and once it is, we don’t care much about it. Finally, it is the listener who chooses what to listen and what not to. It is always best to be aware and make an informed choice.


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