Do You Hear the People Sing?

Since the dawn of time we have marched to war with music.

Drums beating…trumpets blaring…music was created to stir the soul of one side and freeze the soul of the other….

Marshal music…enhanced by thousands of stamping feet…swords pounding on shields…wild blood-curdling yells…all in rhythm to the beat and drive of the music…such as it was….

Every culture had its own version and every people had its own unique melody and beat.

War and music and beat have always been associated.

Revolution too was driven by music – but more – revolution has always been defined by music. And yes, it was meant to stir souls – but this music was linked to words and the words were linked to big and deep thoughts and the thoughts were often about opposition to oppression and injustice.

I always suspected that my Mother was a closet revolutionary because she brought us up on the folk music of Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie…which of course led me to Peter, Paul and Mary and Dylan…for The Times They Are a-Changin…and from there to Phil Ochs, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the pantheon of 60s protest music.

We Shall Overcome” defined the fight of African Americans for equal rights, and it’s so big and inclusive in its emotion that it has been adopted by countless other movements as well.

The songs I sang (I play bad guitar and sing loudly) with passion…if not precision…like One Tin Soldier…fueled my rebelliousness and I must confess often made me feel subversive just voicing them…even humming or whistling…and maybe that was the point…they made you feel a part of the movement…your membership badge was knowing the lyrics – all of them…and your initiation was being able to sing it with the group at a protest as people yelled and screamed and maybe even bodies went flying….

Maybe it’s in my DNA…maybe my Mom just acculturated me…but when Nusrat Durrani, who conceived and produces MTV’s Rebel Music, showed me the plan, I was taken…I wanted in.

The premise is simple. Wherever we see oppression in the world…wherever we see censorship and the suppression of rights…wherever we see inequality and prejudice…wherever we see people striving for peace…wherever we see peaceful rebellion against it all and in the case of peace, for it all…music is core to the articulation of the cause; critical to creating emotion and passion amongst the crowds and a powerful catalyst for virally spreading the message.

Watch the episodes. I was mesmerized by the global language of music – hip-hop, rock, folk… but the very local flavor of the beat, the melody, often the instruments and of course the words.

I loved that the Israelis and the Palestinians played together last season, despite the climate for separation. I saw justice in the Native Americans participating in the People’s Climate March in New York City and maybe even a little irony as well…as this season kicks off.

I found empowerment in each episode and was awed by the courage and commitment of the musicians as they often defied rather scary regimes to make their point and share their view through their music.

Let’s be clear – music can be used to rally the dark side too – just think of neo-Nazi skinhead hard metal and get the chills…but there is a difference…

Rebel Music is about creating positive social change. Its raison d’être is to build support, to encourage forward motion, to overcome inertia, to create movements…in short, to change the world for good.

Full confession – I am honored to be an Executive Producer of the show, together with world-renowned artist Shepard Fairey, and proud to be associated with Nusrat Durrani, the true force behind the series.  It is an undertaking that is already inspiring young people to look at music in new ways…to look at social change in new ways…to believe they can make a difference and to motivate them to do more than share – do more than click – but to get out in the streets and shout for change…and what could be better for our world?

Be a Rebel – watch one of the episodes and you will get that feeling that I used to get of being a little subversive, and then go out and help change the world….

And maybe that is what Emma Goldman meant…Listen:

“If I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution.”

If you hear it…dance…and be the change.

What do you think?

WATCH THE SEASON PREMIERE TODAY: In a first for MTV, the first episode of the season will debut on MTV’s Facebook page exclusively today at 4 PM EST, followed by repeat showings on numerous Viacom network channels.


Photo credit: Nusrat Durrani / MTV World

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