"Music is a language that communicates what we cannot always say in words; it assures us of our interconnection." — "The Day the Music Died in Mali," by Sujatha Fernandes
I read this op-ed regarding militants' ban of music in northern Mali first thing this morning, and I haven't been able to stop thinking of it since. Can you imagine a world without music? I certainly can't. As the author wrote, some Malians have described the ban as akin to "banning the air we breathe"—and I can say with utter conviction that I would feel the same way.
The power of music has been on my mind lately, with the release of Kelly Rowland's new song, "Dirty Laundry," a gut-wrenching personal story about the singer's former violent relationship.
Britt Julious wrote a wonderful piece about the song for WBEZ, calling it "one of the most important songs of 2013." I couldn't agree more. As she wrote:
"The statistics for domestic violence are sobering. We assume that because we are not actively talking about it all the time that it is not there. We assume that if it is not in front of us everyday that it can't possibly exist. And yet, the numbers do not lie. The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former partner, says the ABA. As well, only 17% of African-American sexual assault survivors report their assault to the police. The importance of this song and Rowland’s experiences can’t be reiterated enough. Later in the song (and years after her relationship ended), she sings:This song gives me chills with each listen. It's beautifully constructed, with an accompanying piano and beats that match each telling line. The lyrics paint the picture perfectly:
I got my shit down pat/Think I had it good/And they don't know how bad/Fooled everybody/Except myself/Soaking in this hurt/Bathing in the dirt
Like many of her listeners, Rowland kept her experiences a secret. Outside she exuded strength and charisma, but inside she kept a secret. She was shamed herself, never being able to reveal her experiences to the public."
And I was trapped in his house, lyin’ to my mamaHow can we question music's power when we hear a story like this? It again makes me think of the people in Mali, separated from their music. As Sujatha Fernandes wrote in her piece, "A world without music is also a world without stories."
Thought it could get no worse as we maximize the drama
Started to call them people on him
I was battered
He hittin the window like it was me, until it shattered
He pulled me out, he said, “Don’t nobody love you but me
Not your mama, not your daddy and especially not Bey”
He turned me against my sister
I missed ya
These stories, like Kelly Rowland's in "Dirty Laundry," aren't just catchy lyrics. The music is significant. I can't put it any clearer than Britt Julious did in her piece:
"The courage to speak out can be difficult for many. If only one woman listens to Rowland's work and sees in it the courage to speak out that is one life potentially saved."
Let's hope so. And let's also hope the Malians soon get their air back, fully.