Making music

What moves you (both physically and emotionally)? Hip hop, the dhol, or Surinder Kaur? Artists, musicians and dancers often use their skill and art as a medium to promote their ideas.

staples.jpgThe music of the Staple Singers soundtracked the civil rights movement: it was their songs that were sung on protest marches; Martin Luther King was a close friend of Pops Staples. “Pop, he always told the songwriters: if you wanna write for the Staples, read the headlines,” she says. “‘Cause we wanna sing about what’s happening in the world.

You’ve probably heard the classics “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself” by the Staple Singers…

The jazz writer Stanley Crouch once described the sound of the Staple Singers as “joy and thunder”. From the 50s, the family group, led by Roebuck “Pops” Staples, married a rumbling gospel with soul and blues and politics, creating hits such as I’ll Take You There and Respect Yourself.

Music has played a significant role in mobilizing social and political movements- from the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa by its power to move people emotionally and also to convey information .

We talk a lot about issues our community faces- what music motivates you to face those issues?

Do artists have a responsibility to engage with the issues of their day? Or do activists have a responsibility to make music about their ideas to connect with their audience?


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25 Responses to “Making music”

  1. Mewa Singh says:

    Some shabads, 2pac, and sometimes even Michael Jackson, ask me my mood on any given day!

  2. Mewa Singh says:

    Some shabads, 2pac, and sometimes even Michael Jackson, ask me my mood on any given day!

  3. kprincess says:

    haha, i feel like all the inspiration you need, you can get from a shabad. whether it's social or environmental activism.

    but bob marley also helps. i think music's been diluted by the money machine. Not many singers out there singing about change nowadays, at least not in the mainstream.

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Also a point came to mind, however most significant throughout Sikh history for motivating and imbibing Sikh activists with a that certain jazba (spirit) has always been the role of dhadhi. Currently, Jagowale Jatha most immediately comes to mind, but so do some of the most famous greats, Nabhe Waliyan Bibiyan. Whether you enjoy it as is, or through the sounds of the many remixes that appear every Vaisakhi (has 2008's album come out yet?), dhadhi music can always bring the heat.

  5. kprincess says:

    haha, i feel like all the inspiration you need, you can get from a shabad. whether it’s social or environmental activism.

    but bob marley also helps. i think music’s been diluted by the money machine. Not many singers out there singing about change nowadays, at least not in the mainstream.

  6. Mewa Singh says:

    Also a point came to mind, however most significant throughout Sikh history for motivating and imbibing Sikh activists with a that certain jazba (spirit) has always been the role of dhadhi. Currently, Jagowale Jatha most immediately comes to mind, but so do some of the most famous greats, Nabhe Waliyan Bibiyan. Whether you enjoy it as is, or through the sounds of the many remixes that appear every Vaisakhi (has 2008’s album come out yet?), dhadhi music can always bring the heat.

  7. Sundari says:

    Definitely inspired by shabads, particularly Bhai Harjinder Singh Ji. Also, Onkar Singh from Toronto, whose clear and articulate explanations of gurbani have made an impression on me. Also currently listening (over and over again) to Federico Aubele, a singer-songwriter from Argentina who inspires me in a similar way…

  8. Sundari says:

    Definitely inspired by shabads, particularly Bhai Harjinder Singh Ji. Also, Onkar Singh from Toronto, whose clear and articulate explanations of gurbani have made an impression on me. Also currently listening (over and over again) to Federico Aubele, a singer-songwriter from Argentina who inspires me in a similar way…

  9. Phulkari says:

    I would also say shabads and dhadhis. Some mainstream artists have also been inspirational, such as the songs sung by Punjabi artists Gurdas Maan and Amrinder Gill. Along with various rappers, R&B singers, and other English musicians.

    I don’t think we, as consumers, should hold artists responsible for singing about issues of their day. The sense of responsibility should be internal to the musician and not coming from an external source. Music is an art form, create as you please. If musicians genuinely believe in a cause, their work will naturally show it and it’s this music which is the most meaningful and inspirational (look at Bob Marley) for social organizing. Lastly, I would not want to further make singing about social issues “a bandwagon scheme” where artists jump on to just be en vogue and profit from it.

  10. Phulkari says:

    I would also say shabads and dhadhis. Some mainstream artists have also been inspirational, such as the songs sung by Punjabi artists Gurdas Maan and Amrinder Gill. Along with various rappers, R&B singers, and other English musicians.

    I dont think we, as consumers, should hold artists responsible for singing about issues of their day. The sense of responsibility should be internal to the musician and not coming from an external source. Music is an art form, create as you please. If musicians genuinely believe in a cause, their work will naturally show it and its this music which is the most meaningful and inspirational (look at Bob Marley) for social organizing. Lastly, I would not want to further make singing about social issues a bandwagon scheme where artists jump on to just be en vogue and profit from it.

  11. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    On a slight tangent, thanks for the "I'll take you there" video – I've had my solid gold moment of the day.

    Check out the dancer at 2:18 of the video…I think we all have an uncle who busts out similar moves at wedding receptions :)

  12. P.Singh says:

    Reema,

    On a slight tangent, thanks for the “I’ll take you there” video – I’ve had my solid gold moment of the day.

    Check out the dancer at 2:18 of the video…I think we all have an uncle who busts out similar moves at wedding receptions :)

  13. Maestro says:

    I don’t think we, as consumers, should hold artists responsible for singing about issues of their day. The sense of responsibility should be internal to the musician and not coming from an external source. Music is an art form, create as you please.

    Nobody sings/raps about anything significant these days and so why shouldn't we, because of the plain fact that we are consumers, demand more? There are a few MCs from our community that are actually doing something impactful.. Mandeep Sethi is a hip-hop MC who actually raps about issues pertinent to our community. The remixed dhadi music from Shaheedi and RDB is played at every nagar kirtan/vaisakhi mela. People like the beats, but i doubt if they know what they're singing about.

  14. Maestro says:

    I dont think we, as consumers, should hold artists responsible for singing about issues of their day. The sense of responsibility should be internal to the musician and not coming from an external source. Music is an art form, create as you please.

    Nobody sings/raps about anything significant these days and so why shouldn’t we, because of the plain fact that we are consumers, demand more? There are a few MCs from our community that are actually doing something impactful.. Mandeep Sethi is a hip-hop MC who actually raps about issues pertinent to our community. The remixed dhadi music from Shaheedi and RDB is played at every nagar kirtan/vaisakhi mela. People like the beats, but i doubt if they know what they’re singing about.

  15. Phulkari says:

    Maestro,

    In the context of the post, I don't think we should "demand" artists to make music about the issues of their day because I fear further comdification of "social activism". I don’t want people singing about social issues because their main drive is to make money off of it. However, I do think as consumers we can "inspire" artists to sing about social issues, rather than demand it from them.

    Music is a powerful form of social organizing because its strength lies in its ability to inspire, which stems from genuine involvement. In my opinion, you should be inspired to engage in social change, not paid for it. Inspiration sustains movements, not dollar signs.

    I would ask you, were Mandeep Sethi and Tigerstyle "demanded" by their consumers to make music about social issues or were they "inspired" to make this music?

  16. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    What difference does it make about intentionality? You will never know if Mandeep Sethi or Tigerstyle were 'demanded' or 'inspired'? So 'demand' more by PURCHASING more "conscious" music and you will further 'inspire' them the artists. Demand via your wallet/purse can be a good thing.

  17. Phulkari says:

    Maestro,

    In the context of the post, I don’t think we should “demand” artists to make music about the issues of their day because I fear further comdification of “social activism”. I dont want people singing about social issues because their main drive is to make money off of it. However, I do think as consumers we can “inspire” artists to sing about social issues, rather than demand it from them.

    Music is a powerful form of social organizing because its strength lies in its ability to inspire, which stems from genuine involvement. In my opinion, you should be inspired to engage in social change, not paid for it. Inspiration sustains movements, not dollar signs.

    I would ask you, were Mandeep Sethi and Tigerstyle “demanded” by their consumers to make music about social issues or were they “inspired” to make this music?

  18. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    What difference does it make about intentionality? You will never know if Mandeep Sethi or Tigerstyle were ‘demanded’ or ‘inspired’? So ‘demand’ more by PURCHASING more “conscious” music and you will further ‘inspire’ them the artists. Demand via your wallet/purse can be a good thing.

  19. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,

    Intentionality, in my opinion, makes a difference. When an artist makes “conscious” music, either a mainstream artist or not, is he/she making it first for the money or because he/she is inspired by the issues. The reason this intentionality matters is that if it’s primarily for the money determined by consumer demand, then he/she is just “using” the cause for his/her self interest. Those dynamics of self-interested “use” are generally similar to actions that lead to the social issue in the first place. You haven’t done anything different, just added to the issue. Secondly, if consumer “demand” dictates your music in terms of making money and not inspiration, then tomorrow this demand will change and something else will be popular to sing about. If money is your carrot, then generally speaking, that music is usually not inspirational because it’s just manufactured.

    However, I agree with you on the issue that you brought up about inspiring through purchasing “conscious” music. As a consumer, you can further inspire an artist (whose intentions from the beginning were to make “conscious” music because of inspiration and not money) and demand from the industry more “conscious” music (usually they’re the ones not giving major record deals to “conscious” artists), by purchasing this music. Furthermore, you can encourage mainstream artists to continue making “conscious” music about social issues that inspire them.

  20. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,

    Intentionality, in my opinion, makes a difference. When an artist makes conscious music, either a mainstream artist or not, is he/she making it first for the money or because he/she is inspired by the issues. The reason this intentionality matters is that if its primarily for the money determined by consumer demand, then he/she is just using the cause for his/her self interest. Those dynamics of self-interested use are generally similar to actions that lead to the social issue in the first place. You havent done anything different, just added to the issue. Secondly, if consumer demand dictates your music in terms of making money and not inspiration, then tomorrow this demand will change and something else will be popular to sing about. If money is your carrot, then generally speaking, that music is usually not inspirational because its just manufactured.

    However, I agree with you on the issue that you brought up about inspiring through purchasing conscious music. As a consumer, you can further inspire an artist (whose intentions from the beginning were to make conscious music because of inspiration and not money) and demand from the industry more conscious music (usually theyre the ones not giving major record deals to conscious artists), by purchasing this music. Furthermore, you can encourage mainstream artists to continue making conscious music about social issues that inspire them.

  21. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    However YOU as the consumer will never be able to judge the INTENTIONALITY of another. So why even attempt to move a conversation in that direction? Enjoy it for what it is. So whether a person recorded the song out of 'inspiration' or just to 'use' the cause, as a consumer, just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, not what it is not.

  22. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,

    I think we will have to agree to disagree because I do think intentionality can be judged to a certain degree… it's never full proof, but ask the artist and look at the development of their music. I think you can gather enough information to make a reasonable decision.

    Of course, everything aside … enjoy music … that’s why it’s made! :)

  23. Mewa Singh says:

    Phulkari,

    However YOU as the consumer will never be able to judge the INTENTIONALITY of another. So why even attempt to move a conversation in that direction? Enjoy it for what it is. So whether a person recorded the song out of ‘inspiration’ or just to ‘use’ the cause, as a consumer, just sit back and enjoy it for what it is, not what it is not.

  24. Phulkari says:

    Mewa Singh,

    I think we will have to agree to disagree because I do think intentionality can be judged to a certain degree… it’s never full proof, but ask the artist and look at the development of their music. I think you can gather enough information to make a reasonable decision.

    Of course, everything aside enjoy music thats why its made! :)

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