Music in the Time of Walls

By Lucía Muñoz Argueta

It is said that Gabriel García Márquez put the ear before reading in order to create and write. According to Hernán Díaz (2017), “it is no wonder that One Hundred Years of Solitude can be considered a vallenato of 450 pages, The Autumn of the Patriarch a piano concerto by Béla Bartók and Love in the Time of Cholera a bolero about star-crossed lovers.” Thus, the challenge of our generation is to put the heart before walls in order to create and transform, and it is here where music has the power of freedom and solidarity.

In the nineteenth century the Sufi philosopher Baghdad Abu Sulayman al-Darani (cited in Ascenio, 2011) said: “Music and song are ways of evoking what is truly in the heart of everyone; under its influence, the heart reveals all it contains within.” Will the heart, then, be able to beat any politician or social relationship inspired in the notion of divide and conquer?

Walls: there are many and one need not cross borders to see them, as it suffices to look around to realize that there is a great wall that exists between poverty and wealth, between love and hate. Regarding the latter, let’s take the example of social media in a Guatemalan context: comments that are xenophobic, homophobic, confrontational statements of condemnation between common people, and how I once read somewhere “hate has become something normal in the means of social interaction.”

Music helps us to show more our good emotions

In geographic terms, borders are known as boundaries, but in cyberspace boundaries do not exist. Where am I going with all of this? Simply, to show that our generation is prone to losing that which is most valuable: the heart. We read and listen to all kinds of stories, we deal with policies written without love, we work like machines unable to look up at the sky to find a minute of peace. Some live tired, others well-off, perhaps balanced, but in all scenarios, what we hear definitely has some level of control over our minds and feelings. It is here where music can protect the heart and tear down walls, and an appropriate track or piece can lead to the construction of bridges of tolerance, respect, solidarity and brotherhood.

As Susana Ascencio Llamas (2011) wrote: “Politics in music is not the same as music in politics,” making an extensive historical differentiation about the fact that music can either be a mechanism of control, domination and manipulation or one of liberation. In both cases, music, at the social level, develops all types of emotions, and becomes an inexhaustible source saturated with the history and culture of various peoples.

Therefore, in times of politics and walls let us play positive music! Let us be positive and think that people will overcome hate, racism and discrimination, confrontation and prejudices by sensitization to sound, to non-sexist artistic lyrical poetry, but also by means of creation. And what about schools without music education in Guatemala? A people without music will have a limited heart, ideas and development. Facing this, let’s make politics in music in the tune of protest.