Let’s face it, with all the money and resources flowing through the music industry, only a small percentage of what we, the audience, receive is focused on topics of social change. The rise in consciousness around racial inequality and social justice has seen a flurry of releases highlighting these important issues. Yet there is so much more scope for music to be used as a tool for raising awareness and fuelling solutions.
For me, one of the telltale signs that I’ve found a song that inspires positive transformation is that it makes me want to cry and smile at the same time: Cry, because it touches me in a tender place of grief as I reflect on the point at which we stand as a human race. Smile, because the words and music ignite hope that we can and will move forward with grace, dignity and reverence for all life. Every so often, I come across a song that hits this sweet spot.
Here are three of my top songs for transformation, along with a selection of lyrics that I find most impactful and why. These all happen to be by female artists. Next time, I’ll mix it up.
We’d love to hear your favourite songs for change. Come on over to the Community Forum and share yours in the comments for this post.
Resilient, Rising Appalachia
“Realigned and on point
Power to the peaceful
Prayers to the waters
Women at the centre
All vessels open to give and receive
Let’s see the system brought down to it’s knees”
There is something subtle and powerful in these words. They evoke a felt-image of a strong, peaceful society emerging, in which qualities of receptivity and harmony are central to human systems.
The term ‘resilient’ is being used a lot these days and it means different things to different people. For me, it implies our ability, as individuals and communities, to respond and move with the needs and circumstances that arise, while maintaining integrity within ourselves and integration with our surroundings.
Here is what Rising Appalachia say about the video and the song, illustrating the deep and positive intention behind this creative work:
“Filmed in North America’s most diverse setting, New York City, Resilient is a stark telling of the song’s message through the grace of the dancers bodies and reflections on the poetics. The video was made to be simple, stark, and direct, engaging the viewer into the intimate space of each artist. We wanted to strip away the clutter of objects and centralize the song on our common humanity. Our eyes. Skin tones. Muscles. Smiles. Power. Each dancer responded both with choreography and improvisation to what resilience meant to them personally, and we sang the words straight into the camera to bring the listener in close to this intimate song. Resilient is meant to be a tangible, graspable, relatable folk song for people of all backgrounds and walks of life.”
Originally from Atlanta, USA, Leah and Chloe Smith see their roles as musicians as one component of a greater overall vision, which includes advocating for social justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and Indigenous rights.
Good World, Martha Tilston
“Everybody’s saying that there’s no hope on earth,
We should build a spaceship and form the next rebirth,
Blast away into the blackness, in search of carbon worth,
One leaf of what we have here, already have here, have here…
And everybody’s saying that time is running low, so
Meet you in the supermarket, panic-buy and then
Down below into the bunker, like rats in a cave,
I wanna stand on the edge of a cliff just to feel brave, just to feel brave, there’s something we could save, there’s something we could save”
This song takes you on a journey. Through her vivid imagery, Martha Tilston takes us to an almost apocalyptic reality that is eerily close to our own. Despite the edginess, she invites us to hold onto the courage and goodness that will see us through this era of consumerism and ecological destruction.
Tilston, an English singer-songwriter, based in Cornwall, UK, is described as possessing ‘a voice like spiderwebbed hollows and lyrics that inspire and captivate.’
Human Kindness, Carrie Tree
“They call me migrant, and they call me a thief,
And they call me a beggarman and asylum seeker.
And I was once a teacher, I was once a family man,
I was once a dreamer and community leader.
I’ve seen friends and family all scattered and broken,
And we don’t know why the cruelty keeps raging.”
Based in Brighton, UK, Carrie Tree wrote this song after volunteering at a refugee camp in Calais, France.
The terms ‘migrant’ and ‘asylum seeker’ can allow us to distance ourselves from the identities and life experiences of each person who flees their native country looking for safety.
In this song, Carrie Tree captures, with her emotive voice and lyrics, the raw humanity of so many people seeking a secure place to live and, in doing so, reminds us what it means to feel a true sense of ‘home.’
Her words offer a chance to reflect on our fear of and prejudice towards the most vulnerable people in our society; and to ponder how our personal interactions and collective responses might be different if we were to honour the stories, pains and gifts of each individual.
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Photo by Xuan Nguyen