• Michael Ryan

The Sound of Protest


We live in an ever changing world where societal issues arise and are dismantled quite frequently. The heads of government and policy makers hold most of the power and blame when we are determining the status quo for our society. The real voice of the people, however, resides with the people themselves. Individuals and groups alike will use painted signs at protests, give speeches at various gatherings or even post an updated status on an activist Facebook page in order to unite people in a way that will incite change and reform on culturally acceptable injustices. Conflicts of interest occur all over the world, and yes, even in our beautiful land of America.

When individuals feel oppressed or their rights are diminished, there is a natural tendency to want to speak out against the injustice to whomever is willing to listen. There is also a natural urge to retaliate against those who have imposed upon them. In this day and age it is so easy to learn about world issues by simply conducting a Google search and scrolling through the results. We can instantly be connected to the story of another person who is struggling to live a healthy and happy life in a different country, state or continent. This ability to communicate personal history and trials across cultures and generations has developed into a tool of empowerment which can provide outsiders with a perspective on serious dilemmas and inspire those who are in a position to help... to actually help!

The face of protest has many different looks. Billie Holiday brought awareness to the lynchings of African Americans which were taking place in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The lyrics of "Strange Fruit" illustrated the lynching trees but sadly, this terrible practice did not end until nearly three decades after the debut of this somber tune. The famous classical piece by Dmitri Shostakavich, Piano Trio No. 2, was composed near the close of World War II to protest the actions of the Nazi regime against the Jewish population. Since the piece was obviously a protest to the current actions of government, it was banned until after the passing of Stalin.

In our present day crises, we can see that individuals are taking a similar approach to stop violence from escalating in the Ukraine. This photo from PolicyMic.com shows a Ukranian man, name unknown, playing Chopin and other folk songs before a squad of riot police. This beautiful approach to protest took place in December merely one day before the fall of Vladimir Lenin's statue in Kiev.

Piano protests have spread across the Ukraine over the past couple of months, with several pianos painted blue and yellow to resemble the colors of the Ukrainian flag. An article from PBS.org includes a very important quote which states why this musical form of protest has gained so much popularity in the Ukraine.

“The piano has become the symbol of the revolution, of peaceful resistance,” Markiyan Matsekh, an activist who initiated the musical campaign, told the AFP. “There are different opinions in our country and we must unite around sure-fire values such as art.”

It is extremely important to honor the gift of life which is bestowed upon each of us and to appreciate and care for others around us who have also been given this incredible gift. We are a global community even more now than we ever were before. Individuals, who are by no means famous, have the ability and the privilege to speak to millions or even billions of other individuals through use of several digital platforms. With this type of connectivity at our fingertips, it is easier for us to understand the plight of our peers in different countries and social situations and help one another to achieve happiness.

To learn more about how artists use music to promote awareness and protest, click here to take a look at Sound Junction's website.

Take Care,

Michael


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