Nav: Home

Young people putting music to the crisis: the role of music as a political expression

January 31, 2020

Songs that Sing the Crisis: Music, Words, Youth Narratives and Identities in Late Modernity is the title of a special issue of the journal Young (Nordic Journal of Youth Research) to be published on 1 February, now available online, that reflects on the role of music as an expression of the crisis. It contains case studies of musical genres rap, punk, folk metal, black metal, fado, reggaeton and mahraganat in countries like Spain, Portugal, Finland, Ireland and Egypt.

The special issue includes studies by researchers from the Youth, Society and Communication Research Group (JOVIS.com) at Department of Communication UPF: one by Mònica Figueras (together with lecturers at the URV Núria Araüna and Iolanda Tortajada) on feminist reggaeton in Spain, and another by the researchers José García Sánchez and Carles Feixa about rap and mahraganat in Egypt after the revolution.

As well as being an author, Carles Feixa Pàmpols (UPF) is also the editor of the special issue, together with Paula Guerra (University of Porto, Portugal), Shane Blackman (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) and Jeanette Østergaard (The Danish National Centre for Social Research, Denmark).

The expansion of reggaeton in Spain

The article by Núria Araüna, Iolanda Tortajada and Mònica Figueras-Maz focuses on a non-Western musical style, reggaeton, which became commercialized and globalized at the turn of the century, but in Spain, after the crisis, adopted a more politicized stance. It originated as an underground hybrid style belonging to the lower classes of a peripheral region -the Caribbean-, and was considered a male domain (and subclass), but quickly spread from the marginalized sectors to the middle and central classes. Reggaeton can be seen as an exercise of resignation and empowerment, a tactic to subvert discriminatory gender representations.

The study examines the expansion of reggaeton in Spain from the point of view of gender relations and the mainstreaming of popular feminism. It focuses on three young popular artists: Brisa Fenoy, Ms. Nina and Tremenda Jauría, who have appropriated the style as a subversive tool to convey feminist messages, through the lyrics and body movements.

Both in the commercial slant of the former two and the alternative stance of the latter, the lyrics and their dissemination in political contexts, such as the #MeToo demonstrations on international women's day (8 March) 2018, allow the authors to conclude that reggaeton can be seen as exercise of resignation and empowerment, a tactic to subvert discriminatory gender representations: "these songs and performances are a manifestation of a complex underlying process (...) the so-called revival of feminist movements in Spain as a result of the crisis which caused greater insecurity, poverty in the working classes (but especially among women and young people)", the authors of the work explain.

Analysis of the music of the Arab Spring

The article by José Sánchez-García and Carles Feixa focuses on the politics of a popular world music -rap- and a glocal music -mahragan- in Tunisia and Egypt, respectively. The research is part of the European project TRANSGANG. Based on a comparative research project, the study combines the analysis of song lyrics with ethnographic data from the two countries, after the so-called Arab Spring. These hybrid musical styles could be seen as the soundtrack to the revolution, but also as a factor motivating the protests.

In Tunis, during the Jasmine Revolution (June 2011), rap was the means of spreading discontent with Ben Ali's authoritarian regime, as the songs of El General clearly depict, there was even a division of gender and class: institutionalized politics for middle class young people against marginalized young people. In Egypt, Cairo mahragan was a transformation of Sufi music and dance, mixed with commercial and electronic rhythms, popular in the poorer neighbourhoods, but regarded as "tasteless", crude and influenced by the Western ruling classes.

The lyrics changed with the anti-Mubarak uprising that erupted on 25 January 2011: mahragan songs were politicized and attracted different social groups and generations. As one singer says: "We made music to make people dance, but we also talk about their concerns". In both cases, these musical styles were re-signified from a generational and gender perspective going from resistance to compulsory resilience: rap music in Tunisia and mahragan in Cairo allow lower class young people to imagine the hope and the critical focus of multiple marginalizations.

A special issue that links music, identity, political and artistic protest

The presentation of the special issue states that "young people are often at the forefront of an important contemporary social and political change, and they believe that music has been a central element in these events, whether as a promoter of political mobilization or as an important indicator of the profound changes and reconstructions of youth identity in late modernity". Therefore, this special issue of Young has sought to explore the issues raised by this dilemma, crossing notions of music, identity, political and artistic protest, through interdisciplinary analysis in the fields of sociology, anthropology, literature, cultural studies, the media and history, among others, and, most importantly, it allows putting music at the centre of studies on youth.
-end-


Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Barcelona

Related Music Articles:

Seeing chemical reactions with music
Audible sound enables chemical coloring and the coexistence of different chemical reactions in a solution.
Music on the brain
A new study looks at differences between the brains of Japanese classical musicians, Western classical musicians and nonmusicians.
We feel connected when we move together in time with music
Go dancing! A new study conduted at Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University, Denmark, suggest that then moving together with music, synchronous movements between individuals increase social closeness.
The 'purrfect' music for calming cats
Taking a cat to the vets can be a stressful experience, both for cat and owner.
Young people putting music to the crisis: the role of music as a political expression
On February 1, 2020, the journal Young is publishing a special issue on youth, music and crisis involving Mònica Figueras, José Sánchez-García and Carlos Feixa, researchers from the Youth, Society and Communication Research Group (JOVIS.com) at the Department of Communication.
Music is universal
Exactly what about music is universal, and what varies? Harvard researchers have demonstrated that across cultures, people share psychological mechanisms that make certain songs sound 'right' in specific social and emotional contexts.
Why music makes us feel, according to AI
In a new study, a team of USC researchers, with the help of artificial intelligence, investigated how music affects listeners' brains, bodies and emotions.
The brain's favorite type of music
People prefer songs with only a moderate amount of uncertainty and unpredictability, according to research recently published in JNeurosci.
Watching music move through the brain
Scientists have observed how the human brain represents a familiar piece of music, according to research published in JNeurosci.
Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.
More Music News and Music Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.