[ mediums for activism ]

Activism through music


Music has become a way for many musicians to speak out. Music can be a powerful medium for motivating change whether lyrical or just instrumental. Through an impressive array of musical genres, artists lure listeners to their music from many parts of the globe. Often you may find yourself singing with them in resonance with their words.

Many artists sing with some of these purposes in mind - to share, to be an activist/social performer, to speak out, to educate, to inspire, to transform, to be the change they wish to see. I find myself very drawn to artists who sing with this intention. Several of my friends are musical activists and all of them write from a personal perspective. I think that is one of the things that make their music so powerful.

Music's ability to spur change can be incredibly varied and unpredictable. Indeed, singing your heart song can be a very energising, aesthetic way of getting a message across in a potent way. But whether it is creating the desired change can vary from person to person and context to context. From a personal perspective, I am incredibly inspired by music and in working towards many of the changes that artists sing about that I am drawn to. In listening to them I feel supported in my own visions and that I am not alone in my dreams.

Ani Difranco

Ani Difranco is one of my favourite activist artists who passionately, openly, wildly, intensely, poetically explores the politics of the interpersonal, social and cultural arenas, as well as her relationship to the world community. She communicates this so powerfully through her music she inspires me to be active in my own explorations and expressions.

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In a similar vein, Saritah's folky, groovy, melodic, soulful, world, gentle rootsy music is infused with uplifting, honest, conscious, positive, passionate lyrics relating to the personal, political and spiritual. In concert she makes the point that she is "motivated by her belief that music is a tool through which positive change can be inspired". Her music definitely has that impact on me and many of my friends.

You can visit her website at

Michael Franti

"The Revolution Will Be Verbalised"

Michael Franti uses his rich hip-hop, rap, soul, reggae, funk, jazz, R&B style of music and spicy lyrics to confront a variety of issues such as the criminal justice system, corporisation of our daily lives, drug addiction, suicide, homosexual rights, AIDS, the death penalty, poverty and peace. He consciously sees himself as a political activist and vales the role music can play in creating change.

"That's what we get out of it and that's what I get out of it; when I hear that music and I think, man, and I really want to start to be virtuous and be strong and be a good person. And so I think that's one way that music does really help to promote changes; it's a catalyst for our lives and it's helps us to deal with our emotions"
(Popmatters, 2002: online)

Franti's goal is clear to me: he wants to make revolution irresistible through his spicy music!

Connect more with Michael Franti's voice at

John Butler

John Butler is another excellent example of an activist musician who uses his music as a means to share his stories and insights. Through some of his songs, he clearly highlights problems and possible solutions, however, John Butler emphasises the point that he is not making music to transform people's minds. In his own words;

"I don't want to be condescending... I write from a personal place, and I think that if I speak my truth, then that's going to resonate more than telling people how to feel about it. It's like, this is what's going on, you should find out about it. If I wrote a song like a politician most people would probably turn off."
From Green Left Weekly, May 19, 2004

Soak up more of John Butler at

Wendy Rule

Wendy Rule brilliantly traverses across the personal, spiritual, activist terrains in her music. Her music and performances are ritualized and clear in their intent - to bring about and inspire change through spiritual awareness and practice. Wendy Rule shows us how music and performance can transform the self, others and the Spiritual Realms.

To experience her auspicious words, music and perspective, go to