From the prehistoric era, music has been part of the development of human civilisations. Its definition even in modern times is culturally influenced, and there is no universal definition of what music can be. Each culture perceives it differently, for some it may be a fundamental part of their cultural roots, while for others it could just be a symbol of leisure and fun.

Music can be a participatory, community-based activity that is experienced in different social settings. We can either listen to music in our homes all by ourselves, or we can go to huge concerts attended by thousands. What kind of music we listen to can represent our emotions, opinions and positions.

guitar

Music can be persuasive and it can be used both positively and negatively to influence opinions. Some might use music to maintain a conflict or to further their own agendas. From the World Wars to civil wars  have been influenced by music.

As an example: During the Mexican Revolution (1910) “The Corridos Prohibidos” was an expression of the Mexican popular music that served as a means of communication between the north and the south. Many consider this as a key part of the development of the revolution. During dictatorships in Latin America like the one in Chile  between 1973-1990, the emergence of protest music was the voice of the people. It was one of the  few ways that the people could express their opposition against the regime. This is just two examples out of over a hundreds around the world where music has played a part in the conflict.

Here is “Corrido Prohibido”

Today we speak of modern conflicts and conflict transformation. Some authors such as Mary Kaldor have termed the conflicts that are happening today, ”new wars”. She explains that these new wars are must be understood in the light of the intensification of global interconnectedness. Kaldor emphasizes that globalization led to a blurring of war and organized crime that fostered a war-economy built on looting and black market transactions. States became decentralized, and a multiplicity of fighting units such as guerrilla groups or the paramilitaries often established by governments sprung up (Kaldor 2006:98). This is off course a superficial cause, but it does have great explanatory power, and at first sight many conflicts today could be understood in this light. This highlights the complex nature of many conflicts today.

Because of this development, how to resolve and approach conflicts must also be developed. We need to be more creative in the way we approach conflict resolution. This is where music and art-based approaches come in. These creative and expressive ways of human activity can be a powerful source of peace building energy, and it should be given greater emphasis to this approach within conflict resolution and the peace building community (see more Ramsbotham 2011:ch 16). Music have the opportunity to unite people, be a platform for understanding and provide the  opportunity and space for contact.

A great example of how music can be a creative solution to a conflict, was the “Resonant Community” project in Norway (1990’s). This was a program where the goal was to change attitudes towards immigrants among young students by exposing them to music from around the world. The main idea of these kinds of projects is to build bridges between parties that have been perceived to be part of a conflict.

We invite our readers to put bricks on those bridges that are being built around. It does not have to be through music, because there are many ways of how to transform a conflict in a positive way. You just have to use your imagination and adapt to the new challenges that modern times demands.

Sources : 

Ramsbotham, Oliver (2011) Contemporary Conflict Resolution 3rd ed. Polity Press.

Kaldor, Mary (2006) New and Old Wars 2nd ed. Stanford California: Stanford University Press.