The Power of Music


Probably the greatest art mankind ever created. It has such an influence on people, on their moods, their actions, their feelings. Most of the songs we posted here mean something to us (especially Gonçalo’s childhood stories :P), and each of us experiences different sensations, extracts different meanings, by listening to a song.

But music is also very powerful in what comes to activism. Star musicians have a great influence on their fans, and they use it to raise awareness to problems such as the human rights, or aids, or other charitable causes. That is what may be called musical activism.

The man of whom I’m going to speak about is a major exponent in musical activism, Peter Gabriel, being associated with the Amnesty International since 1986. He, together with Virgin’s owner Richard Branson, proposed to Nelson Mandela the creation of a group of world leaders, a council with the purpose of “working objectively and without any vested personal interest to solve difficult global conflicts” [in Wikipedia]. Mandela created the Global Elders, with personalities like Desmond Tutu, Graça Machel, Jimmy Carter and Kofi Annan.

In 1986, he participated in an Amnesty International tour, where he played to thousands of people. He finished that concert with his song Biko, which was written as a tribute to Steven Biko, an anti-apartheid activist who was brutally killed in 1977 by the South-african police on room 619. This version of the song is very emotional (it gives me goosebumps) with the entire stadium singing the lines: Biko, oh Biko!

In 2011, Peter released an album of stripped-down covers with an orchestra, called “Scratch my back”, with the intention of releasing an album where the covered artists would cover songs by himself, named “I’ll Scratch Yours”. In this album, he recorded “The Boy in the Bubble”, a song by Paul Simon, which in turn covered Biko. The result is a very nice interpretation, as Simon totally revamped the song, almost turning it into one of his own.