The Nexus between Music and Politics: Should Artistes be Involved?

By: Oluwapelumi King

A few days before and after the 2023 presidential elections, there were murmurs from sections of social media about the perceived silence of some top entertainers in the presidential elections. Alongside religious leaders in Nigeria, top musicians like Burna Boy, and Wizkid were criticised for their perceived lack of interest in the elections.

Burna Boy in particular was singled out; some people touted that he sings about socio-polity and disillusionment to win awards. Some pointed out, for instance, that ever since he won the grammy, he has shown little or no interest in National political reality. This article will try to analyse the nexuses between music and politics and infer, whether entertainers must be involved in political affairs or not.

Does Music and Politics Intersect? 

Music is one of the ancient traditions of the world without which it might be a dark and sullen place. Musicians in whatever genre give some form of happiness and encouragement to people. Music has the power to influence emotions and restore hope, regardless of the prevailing circumstance. To many, it is a form of life. For any meaningful nexuses to be drawn between music and politics, there is a need to examine the primary purposes it has and should serve

Authorities in Music and musical research have posited that the primary purposes of music are to allow for the expression of emotions, to improve mental health, and to increase brain power. Others established the relevance of music in ceremonies, recreation, and artistic expression. In more concrete arguments music is established as a channel to communicate both information and emotions. Furthermore, it is said to play a substantial role in culture, provide entertainment, and give people an outlet to be creative. 

It can, therefore, be sufficiently argued that artistes involvement in politics is not primary, but implied. It is embedded in “ceremonial purposes” and its “substantial role in culture”. It depends on the artiste – and sometimes the prevalent reality – to determine what they want to achieve. However, history – replete with the political influence of music and artists – lends credence to the intersection between music and politics. Protests and civil rights movements are, most of the time, accompanied by symbolic musical performances. Furthermore, music is entrenched in National symbolism in the form of anthems.

 It is also not uncommon to find the details of a country’s political history in songs, especially in the era of war, the civil rights movement, and dictatorship. Perfect examples would be Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, and most importantly, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. From Fela’s songs, one could infer a sizeable portion of Nigeria’s military history and the corresponding dictatorship. In the same vein, musical tracks – from artistes like Olumide Ayeni, Folarin Falana, and Tochukwu Ojugwu – added momentum to, and documented the EndSars movement. Songs that border on the criticism of the Nigerian government and the corrupt structure gave life to the protests.

It can therefore be conclusively inferred that music has political purposes and that artistes are important factors in influencing political choices, driving political revolutions, and catalysing political movements. These influences may as well be useful in the electoral process. 

Must Musicians be involved in Politics?

There has become a paramount and growing need for musicians to be involved in politics, especially in a country like Nigeria. For one, politics directly influences the audience’s lives, and sometimes the artists’. Political ideology may influence media policies and the government’s predisposition toward freedom of musical expression. Many people also believe that these artists can influence policies for the good of the people, by giving issues exposure and intensity. Artists can add sufficient pressure on the government – through the media – to do something about certain situations. 

The Black Lives Matter movement for instance; the involvement of several top musicians – like Rihanna, Beyonce, Cardi B, Harry Styles, Adele, and Travis Scott – brought the issue to the international limelight and lent relevance to the reality of systemic racism in America. The same can be said about End Sars; the contribution of artists like Wizkid, Davido, Psquare, and Korede Bello, drove the momentum of the protest against police brutality.

However, in the end, political involvement is dependent on the artiste and their brand of music. A substantial number of factors including capital, brand alignment, and public perception may influence an artiste’s participation in political movements.

For artistes, political involvement is like a landmine or a rocket ship; it may catapult them into relevance and increase public support for their brand. It may also be counterproductive for their brand image, and destroy whatever street credibility they hold. Therefore, while it may be a matter of necessity for musicians to get involved, it is not compulsory they do so. It may not be entirely objective to criticise musicians who choose not to get involved in politics. It is their choice and should be respected.



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