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- The Arab Diaspora: Voices of an Anguished Scream (Routledge Advances in Middle East and Islamic Studies).
It is this that encourages social solidarity through music: Music as experienced and performed within social movements is at once subjective and objective, individual and collective in its form and in its effects. Through its ritualized performance and through the memories it invokes, the music of social movements transcends the boundaries of the self and binds the individual to a collective consciousness.
Repetitive work and exercise not only become more bearable but productivity may actually increase when labour and training are performed rhythmically and as a group. McNeill observes that by means of emotional bonding through rhythmic muscular movement, human beings experience the blurring of self-awareness and the fading of individual differences, which in turn foster the strengthening of group solidarity and help create the necessary state of mind for whatever joint task is to come.
Music is intrinsic to drill exercise, and joint singing may temporarily unify soldiers in physical expression and ideology to persevere, endure hardships, and fight adamantly.
Moreover, group singing was intended to ensure obedience and self-sacrifice, and ultimately to instil identification with all aspects, implications, and ideologies of war. In this regard, the realities and hardships of war would often be concealed, obscured, or embellished in and through songs.
The Mask of Anarchy
There is for example a vast amount of research dedicated to praise poetry, as well as literature on music as a means of political expression, protest, and resistance in relation to the African continent, but few works have directly dealt with the use of musical repertoires in contemporary African war scenarios. Instead, I am interested in examining why people incorporate music into waging war, what functions music fulfils, and how. In this regard, human beings find resourceful ways of applying music and look for qualitative, activating as well as negotiating factors in music, which prompt certain physical and psychological triggers and responses.
Therefore, and by virtue of the fact that there is a lack of publications available with regard to contemporary African wars and the role of music in it, I draw on other conflict examples outside of the African continent, which have been studied for their musical components to demonstrate and substantiate how and why people in war use music.
The intention is not to compare or even equate the different wars and conflicts from different cultures and epochs with one another but rather to highlight without suggesting a typologisation that similar dynamics are at work in situations where human beings are engaged in conflict, and that music functions to make sense of war and conflict and generate collective experience. A lot of the songs, which had accompanied NPFL activities, were reapplied as part of the military training of Sierra Leonean fighters.
Unlike the more sophisticated and often figurative rhetoric of praise poetry and the scholarly understanding of African verbal arts as texts or narratives of history and literature, 31 most of the songs presented here are simpler in nature and have straightforward melodies, catchy tunes, steady rhythms, and easily memorable lyrics. Usually they are based on a typical call-and-response pattern, which allow for infinite variation and lyrical flexibility in the call phrase followed by the repetitive choral response.
There is general accord that actively engaging in music rather than simply listening to and consuming it makes the experience of the occasion more direct and renders the social context it is performed in more potent and effective. Thus, music as oral tradition is vital for sustaining African community life; it is not only a way of aesthetic or artistic expression but it accompanies social occasions and is often performed in a specific context or social set-up to generate social action.
It is noteworthy that RUF combatants still remembered quite a number of songs even ten years after the war was officially declared over. During interviews, only a few combatants needed prompting but then immediately recalled the tune and lyrics of the songs and enthusiastically joined in the singing. In addition, it is significant that the Gio songs remained popular with RUF pioneers throughout the whole course of the war.
Despite the fact that incongruities between the Special Forces and the Sierra Leonean combatants ultimately led to the expulsion of Liberian fighters within their cadres, it did not entail the dismissal of their songs. In fact, most songs originated from other contexts and cultural practices within Gio society where they were orally transmitted and regarded as public property. During the war, the song was redrafted into a song leading up to and eventually marking the successful graduation from military training by singing:.
The competitive, taunting, and threatening character of the song made it very suitable for adaptation into a war setting. L: Zo lo, le Ma way! R: Zo lo! L: Ay, Foday Sankoh le Ma way! R: Zo lo wah e gay! L: All the fucked up soldiers run away yah! The inflammatory slogans, the boastful character, and the postulation of strength of their own rank and file are upheld as main themes throughout the song. As you are listening to this song, it is just a motivational song when the combatants are together. Moving, on a battlefield. Even after the battlefield they are [at] base, this song can always be sung by the group as a whole, enjoying themselves.
Praising even the weapon that they were carrying.
Praising his own weapon, praising the [unintelligible], another heavy weapon. The substitution of one text for another without significant changes made to the melody of a song is known from other historical and social contexts. Agents from other conflicts and wars have made use of established songs in order to appropriate them for their own cause. Even the meanings of songs seemed to be rather transient, as many songs took on new associations when they left their original contexts and were put to use elsewhere.
Although the American Civil War produced a lot of new compositions, the factions often made use of existing tunes and furnished them with new lyrics. Sometimes borrowed songs ascended to become unofficial anthems but mainly became meaningful pieces due to their ascribed associations and less so by what they actually said.
Regiments would also create their own songs to give them their personal touch and to commemorate victorious events and praise particularly brave soldiers. This suggests that they negotiated the songs on a case-by-case basis, sometimes prioritising lyrics over musical structure alone according to their respective needs. Some songs literally remained unchanged as they were taught, whilst other songs were furnished with added lyrics or had entire lines replaced accordingly.
Originally, it was a casual boyfriend-girlfriend song predating the war.
[PDF] Economic incentives, natural resources and conflict in Africa - Semantic Scholar
It was sung in Liberian villages and towns in Nimba County when one missed his or her lover, adding the name of the person in question to the lyrics. The song was reworked for the Liberian war and turned into a somewhat lamenting praise song for the rebel leadership. Although it lost its romantic component, the adaptation maintained its mournful character. In the song, the combatants would ask for the whereabouts of their leader Charles Taylor and other key commanding officers, showing respect for their superiors and voicing the need for guidance in times of their absence. Charles Taylor, yah nu neh?
CO Rashid, yah nu neh? CO Isaac, yah nu neh? Ka Taylor lorhker!
Ah oh! U do ba seh ber! You own the land all by yourself. It is noteworthy that this last line of the song was only added during the war to create a more direct link to the on-going struggle. In the first quote the fighter actually knows the meaning of the song lyrics and is also able to pronounce the words correctly whereas the second combatant reveals that the song background was unknown to him and his comrades. For this reason, the latter contextualized and received the song differently, but by no means was the song less effectively used.
As a result of the appropriation, the call for Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor was replaced with the name of the Sierra Leonean rebel leader Foday Sankoh.
The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Roots of an African Civil War
It is the interpretation [translation], it is a Gio music. We had Liberians that dominated the vanguards, who came to really launch the revolution. But by then, most of the songs we used to sing were originated [originating] from them […]. Interview with D. You see, I don't really know the meaning. Sometime when we are happy, like if I went to attack a village or a town tomorrow, then today we will be happy, we'll be singing, we have that zeal to move, in case of any obstacle, we will be happy to clear the obstacle.
Interview with A.
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Additionally, the communal origin of the musical pieces may have provided some kind of evocative referral to their Nimba homeland. Interviews have shown that the overall amount of former RUF combatants were unaware of what the Gio songs were about, let alone where they came from other than that the Gio Special Forces introduced them to the Sierra Leonean struggle.
This statement as well as the numerous descriptions by RUF fighters of how meaningful, powerful, and inspiring the Gio songs were despite the obvious language barrier clearly challenges the preconception of music only being able to have an impact and convey a message because it contains lyrics. It is a medium that communicates and operates semiotically, thus calling upon content and meaning beyond its lyrics.
Music is rather charged with meaning due to the subject handling it, performing it, consuming it, and contextualising it. It is the subject who renders music meaningful because it is embedded within a specific performance context. Music should be understood as a device rather than a simple causal stimulus that human beings turn to in order to gain access to and trigger emotional experiences and physical responses. Music is widely used to influence mood by means of intensifying or releasing existing emotions: it relaxes people, it helps them to focus or distract them; music energises, comforts, motivates, and inspires.
The following two quotes by the same former RUF combatant draw on several features mentioned above to do with the image of Gio combatants and by linking them to the commando songs: their reputation as fierce warriors, their ostensible lack of a revolutionary consciousness when they were deployed in Sierra Leone and the application of their appealing song repertory which endowed RUF combatants with bravery and helped them manage emotions of fear:.
It [the commando song repertory] was not originated [originally] from Sierra Leone. They were Gio but this used to give us energy, zeal. Extra zeal to fight. You know, the Gio guys, against all other faith they have but, they are very brave and they can make you extra-brave when you are going to confront the battle, understand? You can't be afraid of anything. You can be singing until you enter the [targeted] town. So you know, […] even [when] we are going to [the] frontline, we used to sing.
The form of the contest in most African countries changed after , but the fundamentally violent nature of the struggle for supreme power did not. Something similar is true of many former colonial territories, particularly in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the nature of political power has been militarized from its inception in its contemporary form, for example in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Algeria, Egypt, Israel, and others.
Thus, despite arguments to the contrary, armed conflicts in Africa and many other parts of the former colonial world go back deeper than the last decade, and beyond the end of the Cold War. Africa was decolonized during the Cold War. Its sovereign states found their places from the outset in that particular context. In those days, say from Ghana's independence in to that of Zimbabwe in , incumbent regimes in every part of the former colonial world could expect to receive finance or other support from their great power allies. Many states had enough coercive power to repress attempts at open war by the opposition, and enough money and other resources to run an effective patronage system.
But opponents could also lobby for funding from sympathetic external powers. Those opponents who did succeed in taking up arms were constrained by their external allies to organize, politically and militarily, in ways familiar to their great-power sponsors, in rough imitation of the formal state structures they aspired to control in due course.
Perhaps the most relevant effect of the ending of the Cold War on Africa's armed conflicts was to deprive political movements of the external funding they had previously enjoyed and the externally imposed political and rhetorical disciplines that this implied. Since then, both states and insurgents have had to develop other sources of finance, for example in diamonds Sierra Leone, Angola, Liberia or oil Angola.
Furthermore, almost all wars are concerned in some way or other with struggles over the control and distribution of resources.