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Music and Violence

Music and Violence

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Soca, Calypso, Dancehall, Dub, among others are genres of music indigenous to the West Indies. Like most music, the lyrics and instrumentals tell a story of adversity faced by West Indian people, whether past or present. The soca genre might feature less severe topics, such as cheating and promiscuity, however, many genres chronicle the West Indian experience as it relates to crime, oppression and racism. My favourite example of this is reggae and calypso.

I think back to one of my favourite calypso songs ‘Crying’ by Singing Sandra. This song touches on poverty, teenage pregnancy and crooked politicians, to name a few, it is sung so soulfully that it really does make you feel like crying. Another example is literally any Morgan Heritage song, if you want a great picture of strife in the West Indies look up one of their albums. Music is used the same in the West Indies as it is every where else. It is an expression of feeling as it relates to our environment.

Fast forward to more controversial genres such as Dancehall and Dub. Do you remember which countries banned Vybz Kartel from performing? I don’t, but I remember it was mainly the smaller islands.

Can someone explain to me why politicians are so concerned with banning violent music, instead of curbing actual violence? Don’t worry, I’ve figured out the answer; they’re lazy.

So much energy is spent by politicians and religious leaders banning music they find unfit, instead of actually helping the communities they claim to serve. Frankly, if you’re so concerned by violent dancehall music Pastor XYZ, why don’t you go into the communities and stop young men from becoming young criminals, or would that take too much effort for too little recognition?

You might argue that violent music begets more violence, and you are partly true. Psychologists have studied this phenomenon and have found that children who are already exposed to violence are more likely to act on violent music than those who are not. Therefore, we can conclude that violent music isn’t the cause but the symptom of a larger problem; violent environments. It is expected that a child who grows up around gun violence will have it normalized, if they hear it in their music as well, but as we discussed earlier, music is a product of the environment. If we want to lessen their exposure to violence, we should tackle the root causes; poverty and lack of opportunity.

Banning violent music to curb violence is like suturing a gunshot wound with the entire bullet left inside. Quite frankly, it is a half-assed attempt at a permanent solution. I am not an advocate for violent music, as I find most of it distasteful. However, we must learn to see past initial reactions and look for real solutions. If rape is constantly featured in songs, do you really think banning the songs will curb rape? It is highly unlikely. This means that we should catalyse social change and public perception, not run our mouths and hope something sticks.

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