From The Studio to the Streets: The Music of Protest

From The Studio to the Streets: The Music of Protest

Music is more than just tunes that please us and make us dance, it is a way to get us to expand our perspectives and open our eyes.


To start this off, I'd like to tell you the story of Victor Jara. Victor Jara was a guitarist, poet, teacher, and an avid Communist activist during the coup d'etat against the leftist presidency in Chile. The coup, led by fascist leader Augosto Pinochet, overthrew the democratically elected Salvador Allende, a president with leftist policies who was looking to solve many of the country's poverty issues. Unfortunately, these policies did not sit well with the United States Government, causing the CIA to back Pinochet's coup and instill a reign of terror that lasted for 17 years. During the coup, many civilians were imprisoned for speaking out, one of them being Jara. Using his skills as a poet and guitarist, he wrote many folk songs that inspired the people, his most famous being "Manifiesto". He played the song in a makeshift prison camp in a Chilean stadium, but unfortunately, soldiers grabbed him and broke both of his hands, mocking him and telling him he would never play again. In the days after, he was tortured and killed, becoming yet another victim of the evil Pinochet regime.

Victor Jara is one of many artists that use their platform to spread messages of nonconformity, of justice, and of inspiration to fight back. Many artists today use their music to spread their stories of hardships and injustice, and to open the eyes of listeners everywhere. Another one of these artists is Molotov, a Mexican rock group that captures the attention of listeners through their vulgar lyrics, fast paced rock rhythms, and their infusion of rap into rock. One song that truly shows what type of group they are is the song "Gimme Tha Power", coming from their album "¿Dónde Jugarán Las Niñas?". The song highlights the corruption in the country of Mexico, stating how the people at the top don't care about the people at the bottom, and they live off of what the working class produces. The chorus is a powerful chorus, the main verse being "give me, give me, give me all of the power, so that we can screw with them". This song is a powerful anthem for protesters in Latin America, as one of the verses is shouted loud and proud: "Viva México C*brones!".

Loud, vulgar, and in your face, Rage Against the Machine comes at the listener with heavy rock riffs and messages that make even the most loyal patriot overthrow their government. One of the most well known rock bands in history, RATM features Tom Morello, one of the most innovative guitarists in the music scene. Morello graduated from Harvard with a degree in political science, and used this to create a platform of nonconformity and leftist ideas. One of RATM's most famous songs is "Killing in the Name of", a powerful song that originated after the murder of Rodney King by four LAPD officers. The verses in the song speak out against racism in the police forces, the lyrics being "You justify, those that died, by wearing the badge, they're the chosen whites". With clear anti-racist lyrics, the songs climax comes as the singer, Zack De La Rocha, shouts "F*ck you, I won't do what you tell me!". A powerful, potent band, Rage Against the Machine is a protest rock band that will live on.

Music is a powerful platform. There is no debating that. Music has penetrated all forms of media today, appearing on the radio, television, and in advertisements. Music itself is a revolutionary idea, so much so that rock and roll was considered a danger to society when it was making its first appearances through Chuck Berry and other figures. Music is an expression of emotion, of ideas, and of the individual. This expression of ideas is what makes music so dangerous and powerful, and even the soldiers at the Chilean stadium knew this when they heard Victor Jara's song. Music disrupts the hypocritical quiet and false sense of peace, and rocks the conservative households to their core. I realized this while watching the blues movie "Cadillac Records", where Willie Dixon spoke about how Chuck Berry was causing the young white teenagers of America to dance in African-American clubs while their parents were fighting hard against desegregation. Music is not for the conformists, it is not for those who choose to stay neutral. Music is for those who dare to defy the authorities who abuse their powers and the evils that are present in today's society.

"My guitar is not for the rich, no, nothing like that. My song is of the ladder we are building to reach the stars"- Victor Jara.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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