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Music…A force for socio-political change

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“When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them” — Plato

Music and social justice have always been natural partners. Throughout history, music has mingled with social justice, as colourful tones, pulsating rhythms and meaningful lyrics have been a catalyst or soundtrack for movements of social change.

The Greeks were among the first people to truly realize the potential power of music. Known for creating democracy and the republic, Greek intellectuals also understood how music could help move society to rebel against their government.

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Protests demanding social justice as the alternative to an unacceptable status quo have been mounted in response to war, political and social inequality, poverty, and other constraints on economic and development opportunities.

Although social justice is typically thought of as a political agenda, many justice movements have used music as a way of inviting and maintaining broad-based participation in their initiatives

Ray Pratt in his book Rhythm and Resistance, observed that: “No music alone can organise one’s ability to invest effectively in the world, but one can note powerful contributions of music to temporary emotional states.”

It is a result of the way music feeds into our emotional lives and the sense of social well being we get from sharing emotional states with others that music so frequently accompanies movements that build, and depend upon, solidarity.

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In America, music as a form of protest could be heard on the cotton fields of the South during times of slavery, with biblical songs that depicted themes of freedom and servitude, such as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and Go Down Moses.

Celebrated folk singer and revered political activist, Joan Baez said: “I think that music is probably the only medium that really does cross all boundaries, and all languages, and all countries.”

For Professor of Sociology at Yale University and author of Music and Social Movements, Ron Eyerman: “The main thing people talk about, when they talk about music and social movements is that music is kind of a resource for people in those movements.”

“They use it is a basis for recruitment, but it’s also something for people inside the movement, it’s a way of creating and strengthening a sense of collective identity, a sense of we, ‘we are in this together,” he added.

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Music, on the other hand, is the systematic combination of sounds and voices for the creation of certain harmonious effect that may be tailored towards disseminating particular messages. Hence protest songs of folk music have a long history of engagement with social justice struggles for abolition of slavery, universal suffrage, and other human rights agendas.

For instance, Afrobeat, Reggae and Rap music of the late ’80s and 90s pointed to more inequalities, with artistes like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Bob Marley, U-Roy, Peter Tosh, Lucky Dube, Ras Kimono and recently, rap acts like Ruggedman, Eedris Abdukareem, and Illbliss sang about bad governance, corruption in government, police brutality, and poverty-stricken neighborhoods, among another social misnomer of the Nigerian society.

Many of Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s songs are often used by demonstrators, protesters, and striking unions, as exemplified in the 2012 protest against the removal of fuel subsidy, where Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, Fela’s Army Arrangement, Suffering and Smiling, and Eedris Abdukareem’s Jagajaga, give fun like other popular songs that diss the social distrust in Nigeria, whilst people, marched around Lagos, with a mega party held at the Gani Fawehimi park Ojota, Lagos.

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There is no doubt of the fact, listening to Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up, Fela Kuti’s Suffering and Smiling, and Eedris Abdukareem’sJagajaga, not only provokes meditation upon social problems, is capable of igniting political protest and help sustain such was already embarked upon.

Rapper Tobechukwu Melvin-Ejiofor, popularly known as Illbliss, Oga Boss, or Dat Ibo Boy has reawakened the consciousness of Nigerians to the social misnomer in the country with his latest body of work, IllyChapo.

The 17-track album, which serves as his tenth body of works and sixth album, aptly befits an ode to his God status that affirm his quality consistency through 10 projects. With the latest offering, Illbliss put himself forward as a preacher of love, a charmer, a town crier, sociologist, family man, and entertainer.

With a better track arrangement, love for country woven with allegiance to tribe and responsibility to friends and family, he delivers the sweetness nested in the middle of a fusion of old and new.

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As a taxpayer, Illbliss in the track Country, put himself forward as a social crusader eulogizes Nigeria on different levels of fear of impending danger, decrying the bad governance, lopsided national character and corruption that become endemic.

Whether completely immersed in punchlines or sharing the glory of his powerful flow, Illbliss is always poised for battle. In the track, he takes a look at topical issues being discussed among Nigerians at different levels of discussions, either in the social media space or in the cluster groups. He opened the track with the charge to Nigerian youths, urging them to channel and utilize their energy into positivism if not they will suffer… “Omo make una use that energy o, if not una go suffer…No owrry.”

He went on to bring to fore the issue affecting most Nigerians, as he sang…. “So much going on in this nation, they say the northerners are planning an invasion to a certain… they say this is Jubril, SARS on the streets still going for the kill, who the f–king put this social media bill, politicians looting with no chill, laws get amended we are not defended from the heartless…. everything we do is with lawless, dog eat dog for jungle and that is the motto.”

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He continued, “Cultural hustling with muscling with the blood of the innocent hanging overhead of bastards in leadership,” asking the government to show one thing that works for the good of the people…“they ate so much and left the bones for the people. The government was designed to rip off the people.”

The rapper noted that it is only God has kept and kept the country going, as the leadership has looted the treasury dried, leaving the citizens with tears and pains… “Why are we struggling hard in our country,” he queried, as he continued with the beat flow.

Illbliss noted that the law of karma and retributive justice will definitely catch up with the bad leaders, even as he blamed the British to have caused the problem. Like Bob Marley in his hit song, Stand up, Get up, the rapper urged Nigerians defy the odds and stand up to take charge, even if it means paying with our lives.

Hate or love him, Illbliss no doubt is a prime connoisseur of contemporary Hip-Hop in Nigeria. With IllyChapoX, he brings Nigerians back to the consciousness that so much is wrong with the country, as he does for God, country, family, passion and business.

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