Political Music

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Political music refers to those songs which have something to say about the current state of society, the environment or anything that poses a concern on the planet.

Music via musicians tells the tales of our times, sharing the emotion and the understanding of what it means to be 'live like that'. Lending easily to empathy and emotion, such music that speaks of life in the context of pain or struggle has the power to bind people.

Political music especially was – and is – written to stir emotions, generate support, and cast doubt on politics. This attempt to inject politics into music – unlike traditional political activities (rally, protest march, meetings, etc.) – is about spreading awareness through song and dance, literally.


Ekla Cholo Re (walk on, alone), by Rabindranath Tagore, spurs listeners to continue their journey, notwithstanding any lack of support. Often quoted in the context of political or social change movements, it captured Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit during the Dandi March, and was also sung by Vinoba Bhave during his Bhoodan movement [1].

American veterans like Joan Baez, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie, among many others, gave this musical tradition its rightful due. If ‘We Shall Overcome’ was a cry for America’s Civil Rights Movement, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin' in the Wind’ and, later, Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’ heralded a generation that was becoming more aware of socio-political issues than its predecessors.

Political Hip Hop

The era of political hip hop [2] reflected the social, economic and political conditions of all African Americans. With rhyme and reason, it has evocatively voiced people's trials and tribulations. Fused with various outside influences including corporate interests, this genre of hip hop has the power to transcend everything from literature to painting to whatever. Ice-T first explored political issues with his single, 'Killers', followed by 'Squeeze the Trigger'. Generally left-wing, his views maintained a sense of machismo, and it is this mix that political rappers have retained ever since.

Conscious Hip Hop

Unlike political hip hop, it is not overtly political and focuses also on social issues. Conscious hip hop mainly concerns itself with religion, aversion to violence and the economy. Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message' was the first political and conscious hip hop track, decrying the poverty, violence, and dead-end lives of the black youth of the time.