Talkin Bout’ a Revolution



Music holds the power to expose inequality, and influence social change. Tone, beat, rhythm and lyrics blend to give rise to social cohesion. It crosses divides in culture, attitudes and beliefs; igniting unity. Music has the ability to remove ‘them and us’ even for the transient moment of a song. Watch below for an inspiring example! Follow the link (at the end of video) for a FREE album by ‘Empty Hands’.

Commonly used as a practice of social justice, music helps to gain campaign momentum. If you think about it, even protest chants use rhythm for effect…no, no we won’t go!

Pete Seeger 1919 – 2014, an American folk singer and social activist

Guo and Tsui (2010) state “resistance and rebellion are still important strategies for people at grassroots level.” One band that can be viewed through this lens is Midnight Oil. Their music and activism brought Australian Aboriginal land rights into the spotlight. Lead singer Peter Garrett’s  “resistance and rebellion” can be heard in his quote; “even if your pushed to the wall for the things you believe in, don’t give in!”

Tracey Chapman’s song ‘Talk‘n’ bout’ a Revolution’ perpetuated the notion that people would rise up out of inequality when she sang “finally the tables are starting to turn”.  It could be interpreted this indicates an end; a Marxist view of delivering equality in every way to everyone. Tracey’s view of ‘an end’ is in direct contrast to James Tully Struggles over Recognition and Distribution (2000) who states there is “no end to the struggle for recognition and distribution.”

In 1986 renown folk singer Bruce Cockburn argued that the “foreign policy of powerful countries is about making a buck” and “not lifting people in poor places out of their misery.”  This poignant remark could continue to serve as a a wake up call to those in power.

Further musical Sounds for Social Justice can be found via following links:







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  1. rl257

    I agree with the statement “Music holds the power to expose inequality, and influence social change”. I think music is one of the biggest influences of my values and morals but there aren’t that many decent rappers out there these days. One song that I’ll always remember is ‘Where is the love?’ by the Black eyed peas. This song mentions: racism, terrorism, war, gang violence, inequality.

  2. nea851

    You’re right about music having the ability to expose inequality and influence social change! I like the uniqueness of your blog! My blog is on refugees and asylum seekers and I have shared Oh Canada by Missy Higgins, a song that powerfully represents the hopes and fears of the Kurdi family when seeking refuge in Canada and of asylum seekers and refugees everywhere. ABC reporter Williamson. B (2016) states Higgins explains to the ABC that she wants to bring the crisis to the attention of governments around the world. This is the power that music has, that you are writing about, it really is inspiring hearing songs like these.

    Reference: OH CANADA – Missy Higgins on youtube;
    And my blog URL;

    • Fiona

      Thank you nea851 for bringing this to my attention! Good on Missy Higgins. It is inspiring when people utilize the ‘strange phenomenon’ of fame to campaign
      for social justice. I can’t think of a greater privilege to have. I’m heading to your blog now!

  3. ktg831

    Hi Fiona
    I think you have hit the nail on the head! Educating people in social justice issues is the best practice and will help to create more understanding. Really what better way to do it though music and art, it really brings out raw emotion.It makes us stop and reflect on what we see and hear. Another example could be food, we usually accept the food before the People, you only have to look at the different types of restaurants we like to dine at.
    Thanks for your amazing work! Kellie

    • Fiona

      Thanks Kellie!
      I agree with your comment it makes us stop and reflect on what we see and hear, in other words music & art can enlighten.
      Yesterday, I asked my son as he passionately sang his favorite song, what was the song about? His reply was “I have no idea”. His response was not completely true. As we talked further he demonstrated quite a reasonable understanding of what James Bay’s lyrics conveyed. This points to how we can get on board with a song without the conscious consideration of the intended message! I am intrigued by how this has/can be used in progressing social justice.
      Yeah food is definitely an interesting phenomenon, good point. Fiona VN

  4. lnlberry

    Great post! What is it about music and its ability to move people ? Maybe because music-making involves rehearsal, rhythm, listening and cooperating and has a powerful emotional effect in our bodies it can transcend boundaries and differences between people. Music evokes a yearning and a liveliness – it invites and enables connections, responsiveness to others and can repair fractured communities- so I agree with you that music can be a practice of social justice.
    I look forward to the next post.

    • Fiona

      Thanks! I like your theory of transcendence. All that you speak of is what fascinates me about using art in social justice practice. The repair of fracture you mention is of particular interest, including the practices workers can use to facilitate the healing process while cultivating a persons belief in their intrinsic value. Fiona VN

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