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Music and Social Change
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent."
- Victor Hugo

Music is never simply noise: it is the sound of a society, of a time, of a place. Music marks the spirit of people; people make music that reflects their thinking and feeling. Music, then, always has the potential to be dangerous - it can inflame the revolutionary - which is why it has been banned and censored at many points in history. It articulates the ideas and emotions that are too strong for words, and that "cannot remain silent." This refusal to remain silent is why music has so much social power. In this month's theme, we explore music as a reflection of, and force for, social change. Music that is angry, joyous, and necessary.

1939, USA
Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol

This song, written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish communist schoolteacher, is considered to be the first significant song of the civil rights movement and the first direct musical assault upon racial lynchings in the American South. It was first performed by Billie Holiday at New York's radical nightclub Café Society in 1939; protest songs on behalf of America's blacks were almost unheard of at the time. The "strange fruit" of the title are lynched blacks, hanging from trees across the American south.


Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Listen to the music young people are making!

Omar Mostafa
Lady B
Omar Mostafa
23, Egypt
View profile
Song: Japarab

I play an Arabic musical instrument called Ud or "Lute" in English. Last February, I was participating in the "Ship for World Youth Program," where I had the chance to meet and share my culture with youth from all over the world.

This musical piece is Japarab (Japan + Arab) music, which is a combination playing between me and a Japanese female friend Yacchi, who plays a typical Japanese instrument, Koto. This piece is a combination of 2 famous songs from Egypt and Japan, but we felt that there's a common soul between them that could be felt when you listen. Our performance inspired many people on the Ship, and it was a unique dialogue between cultures. I'm really happy about this experiment, which deepened my interest in the music of other cultures.
I Am Hip Hop
"I Am Hip Hop" is a video created by youth through the Global Action Project, a project that defines hip hop as a youth movement and culture, an expression of the daily life experiences of urban youth.
Watch the video!
Discussion Boards:
Remember the first time you heard your favorite song? Maybe it drifted to you from a distant corner of a noisy room, traveling down your ear canal and hitting you right in the heart. However it happened, talk about the role that music has played in your life with other TIG members by participating in the cacophony of the discussion boards! Go!
Global Gallery:
A good song screams at the world when the rest of the world is silent, afraid to shout. A good song provokes the mind. A good album can whisper and still be heard in a noisy room yet is best heard in a silent one. Even the best of lyrics silently commences with the scratching of pencil on paper. Silence is the fertile ground on which all sounds grow, and even the loudest of noises has a silent start. There are infinite forms of silences, and infinite sounds. Express Silence in an image. Go!
A couple dancing across a room. Their feet move together, following an innate rhythm. Friends dancing in the street. Their heads bob together, weaving a melody of camaraderie. Citizens march in time. They sing verses of solidarity. Songs travel over the ocean, humming, "This is to let you know how I feel." In this issue of Panorama, we explore the ways in which music brings people together. Go!
More Resources
Music Mayday is a young and dynamic global youth platform aimed at developing youth cultures and communication leading towards international co-operation and understanding between young people. Music Mayday focuses on success stories and organizes youth driven activities in the area of creative and artistic expression by means of different media. Based in the Netherlands, the Music Mayday Foundation provides support to national Music Mayday organisations and designs and co-ordinates international activities. It stimulates young people all over the world to connect through music, video, dance, theatre and new media, while sharing ideas and interests.
Is part of UNESCO's programme for the preservation and revitalization of Cultural Heritage, and presents living musical traditions as a social act between performers and audience, and is a source of invaluable inspiration for today's creators, musicologists and traditional music lovers.
Is an independent international organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide, monitoring cases of music censorship, providing information and building a support network for artists.

All songs and lyrics are provided for informational and educational purposes only. Songs and lyrics are subject to all Canadian copyright laws and remain property of their respective owners.