Music in Nation Building

A vigorous activity by educational institutions and business will save import costs and indeed provide avenues for exports.

BySanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Updated 2 Oct 2022, 7:48 pm

Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)
Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)

Many generations grew up singing the songs. Many more generations have grown up having music float around them, pass through their lives, feature in their events, taught in their schools and used in their products. And yet, more generations cannot define music. They recognize music when they see it, but ask them what it is; they are caught up in the same dilemma as the little girl who was asked, what is food? And she stared at her teacher and thought that her teacher had gone mad. "Food", she answered, "food is food".

And so, many people will still say today that music is music for they recognize it, they use it and they perform it. Music is the most widely practiced and accessible of all the arts. It is so easily available and associated with entertainment and relaxation that some people hardly pause to ponder its implication in the social and economic development of a country.

And yet, there are countries, which earn a lot of revenue through cultural nationalism and musical tourism. Modern technologies have also simplified the export of good quality music so that wider markets are created and the artists and their countries earn more.

Technically, what is music? It doesn't have a single answer. Music has been defined as a universal language because everybody in every culture recognizes music when he/she sees one or needs it. Another thing is that music is culture-bound.

Every culture decides on what music is. Many of us have had the experience of putting on music of other cultures and a congregation of people from an in-culture, that is the indigenous culture and they will continue talking away because they didn't recognize that as music. But, when any music from their own culture was put on, they all said, ‘‘this is music’. It is culture that gives music its definition.

The framework for deciding what music today is, has been laid by many people but Blacking's (1973) appears to be very appealing. He defined music as "humanly organized sound". That means that in our universe we have music everywhere; you can even recognize music in the sound of the dawn chorus; sometimes in the bleating of sheep. Sometimes you recognize music in the cow horns. But, it is only when the sounds have been organized by man so as to achieve certain effects or express certain ideas or emotions that we call that music.

Expression of certain ideas or emotion is very important in the definition of music because man must have an objective for organizing the sound in the first place. Then he begins to organize according to rules. We say it is culture-bound and therefore he organizes it for understanding by his own immediate culture.

Development has been defined as the movements of the whole social system upwards. And so we will take it back to the first principles in which a human group or a community finds itself in an environment and decides to tackle the problems of the environment and to devise means of mastering the environment so that they can enhance their life in it. This is what we now call culture. So, culture is the product of maps in an environment. And, if we look at it, so too is development.


Any development, today, which must be meaningful to the people, must be based on their culture. That has generally been recognised. Cultural imposition or importation has its own implied problems, for the social side of development has to adjust to fit, perhaps, the technological side, for the social side has to adjust to the new importation. Nation, country and culture are therefore human institutions with the aggregate objective of enhancing the life of man in his environment.

When this is taken into account, it becomes therefore necessary to examine development closely to see if the objective fits the method - if the methodology leads to the desired goal. There are two sides to any development programme, the human side, which is the social side and the economic side, which in the end is really meant to support the life of man. And therefore separating social development and economic development is a fallacy in development planning.

Culture is a word that we often take for granted. Most of the meanings given to culture are imprecise. Therefore, we are in the danger of taking the part to be a whole. Man cannot do without culture for it is the basis of his survival, and culture cannot do without man because it exists in no other environment but a human environment.

Music can claim to be the expression or art that is most accessible to human beings in any situation in their lives - crisis or calm, work and worship, play or war, recreation or reflection. Music is implicated in life, and people go all out to use music to communicate, to move, to express emotions and ideas, and to mobilize people or rally them to solidarity.

The national music of any people is a rallying point, a marshaling point for expression of solidarity. It takes place not only in the larger countries which have national anthems but also in the smaller communities of schools with their school songs, churches with their characteristic hymns, occupational groups with their occupational music, age groups with their personality music, and communities that have certain music and dances for which they are known and which express their personality and identity.

Whenever the music typical of that group sounds, people rally round it for it expresses their solidarity. When a community abandons its own music in favour of another's, it is in danger of thinking, behaving, feeling and eventually being like the community that is parent to its adopted music. It is one reason why music is taken seriously in religious communities, social groups, occupational groups, the military and the disciplined forces, and in national development.

Economically, the entertainment industry, of which music is a very strong element, is one of the most vital, viable, and rich in the world. Musicians are among the high earners all over the world. They are able to circulate money in the society and music provides plentiful opportunities for the young to engage in self-management. Even when they don't get employment, a good record release in the market will pay its dividends. And then, it goes on building other things in the society in which money is really generated and not merely circulated.

Let us examine a few ways in which music has been used and can be used by countries or nations to mould or to engineer their societies. One of these is through the entertainment industries, which implies the type of music that are actually 'sound analgesics' rather than chemical analgesics entertainment meant to take away the mind from the tedium of the society or just means of relaxation, to provide holiday and happiness, not often sheer hedonism.

Entertainment is very much recognized as the value of music in any society. Music tends to set the mind free from problems. Countries and nations have their dances. Some countries make up most of their money through tourism. A country like ours with so many ethnic groups and with much cultural diversity, the spirit manifestation theater, the social control theater, the rituals and the traditional festivals dot every calendar. All these filings have music.


We lose a great opportunity if we don't harness them into creating a viable national theatre that will be of international repute and attract tourists from all countries of the world. Not to develop and harness the musical theatre, which will include, of course, the dance theatre in the country, the spirit manifestation theatre and some of the rituals and festivals into nation building is to miss a great opportunity. In the same way, music is still affecting the development of society in the modern world. It is very well known that music can affect the society, even influence the whole of society.

That is why it has to be carefully worked into the process of building the society and of engineering the society. Music features in festivals and in ceremonies which are ancient in origin. As long as music is used in those ceremonies, the whole old ceremonies are passed down from one generation to another. And so, music becomes a vital instrument of the transmission and continuity of the culture. Music provides its own hypnosis in the teaching of very big lessons. It removes the pains while strengthening the hones and the flesh of the lessons.

The national music of a country is often the source of great pride and joy, even prestige. This does not mean that the national music must always be performed in its traditional form. Skillful performers and composers have been known to cast their national music into other idioms so that they gain not only popularity but also recognition outside their own countries.

When many of us hear the national songs of our comminutes, especially if they are associated with festivals, we think of the shortest way to get home. It is not only that, national music goes on to support other national arts like dress or costumes. Transmission of Knowledge Education is a veritable instrument of social change and music is a very good tool of education for the short cuts to education or the difficult lessons in education can always be cast in the form of music.

We all have mnemonics for remembering many mathematical and music formulae, mnemonics for remembering the colours of the rainbow, mnemonics that deal with health matters 'you must wash your hands always. The country has a big number of traditional festivals which feature music, dance theatre, dance drama and other events which promote local tourism.

In addition, specific music festivals should be organized and held at specific times and places in the country. The prestige of these festivals will make them pilgrimage centers for musicians and dancers in the specific festival. It is suggested that there should be tax incentives as encouragement for the musicians to perform and lower their cost of production.

Traditional music has depended on local crafts for the supply of its musical instruments. Popular music and classical music are both dependent on imports. A vigorous activity by educational institutions and business will save import costs and indeed provide avenues for exports. In addition, traditional crafts will be upgraded and sometimes modernized so that some instruments of our origin will find markets abroad, especially in the Indian Diaspora.



First published:



Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

Assistant Professor, JCRE Global College, Babupara, Imphal. The writer can be reached at sjugeshwor7@gmail.com


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