Should songs with violent lyrics be banned?

Whatever happened to freedom! Other than bread and water, music has been the other important food that humanity depends on for survival.
Ivan Mugisha & Rachel Garuka
Ivan Mugisha & Rachel Garuka

Whatever happened to freedom!

Other than bread and water, music has been the other important food that humanity depends on for survival.

 Music has motivated the young and old, it has inspired soldiers to courageously fight on and liberate their countries, as drumbeats thunder in their hind, music has given hope to an ailing old man and most importantly, music has and will always be food for the soul.

Music has the power to change people, change the way they think and behave. It has had such an impact in my life that my hobby genres keep changing daily, according to how I feel on a particular day. I am an ardent fan of rock music, be it heavy metal stuff like System of a Down or the soft like The Perishers or Switchfoot, I like it all. But when I try a country song, like “Need you now” by Lady Antebellum, I feel as though, in that moment, my favorite genre has changed to country.

In Rwanda we have some good music, upcoming rappers, Jay Poli and Riderman hit radio waves with faced-paced tunes that can pass as violent, if one doesn’t understand Kinyarwanda.

The tone in which they rap, one would assume that they are either insulting someone or advocating something violent. But they are far from that, all they rap about is street hustling, women, and night clubs.

They have not yet ventured deeply into other styles of provocative and violent lyrics that the rest of the world has.

I entirely believe that musicians who write violent lyrics, like Dave Mathew’s “Gravedigger” are simply expressing their mind; they are opening up their mind to think of things that are hard to fathom in real life.

We must differentiate between songs that advocate for violence from those that simply contain violent lyrics; for example, there is a big difference between telling your friends, “let’s go rob a bank” from, it is cool to rob a bank.”

In one statement, you are urging them to do something clearly wrong (which I don’t support) and in the other, you’re simply making a remark, an opinion… probably you’re simply a Bonnie and Clyde fan- and that is what music is all about.

Banning music just because it has violent lyrics is an ill advised crackdown on artistry and originality. It’s more like banning action or horror movies just because of their genres.

The world cannot keep singing about love, money, sex and alcohol; that has been the case since the invention of music and truthfully, it has turned out a bore to the bone!

I need to listen to a song like ““La Reina del Sur” where South American band Los Tigres del Norte, sing about a drug trafficking friend, I need to listen to “Black balloon” by The Kills, where they sing about vampire blood lust and so on and so forth.

We should think of music like we would a novel or a movie; just like writing a novel  or directing a movie isn’t tied down to a specific topic, music shouldn’t be limited either.

Music is expression, and it’s not every day that an artiste is feeling all ‘lovey dovey’. If Kitoko wakes up tomorrow and feels like writing about an acute dislike for lights, and in a new hit he says he wants to smash all the lights in the country, don’t jump on him and accuse him of violence. He is an artiste and he has a right to express his mind.

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It is delayed action!

I once complained about some of the lyrics we listen to today and was rudely interrupted by a friend who told me I might as well give up on movies seeing as they too can be violent. Just one question, since when did singing become acting? I thought music came from the heart? I thought music was food for the soul?

Music genres like metallic rock and hip-hop have lyrics violent enough to send chills down a snowman’s spine! “I’m going to chop your arm off so are you ready,” was a line in Severe Punishment, a song by the Wu Tang Clan. Now I hear hip hoppers talking about rap like it’s some kind of poetry – wait a minute- it IS poetry – well according to them.

But with all due respect; there is nothing even remotely inspiring or poetic about wanting to chop my arm off. As a matter of fact, I find it totally irresponsible of the recording industries that release such music.

Some may wonder how kids get exposed to such music. Everyone seems to be more concerned with what children watch than what they hear. And trust me; with the lyrics coming out in songs today, movies are the least of our worries.

Kids don’t even need to wait by the radio to listen to their favorite raps songs, all they need is their big brother’s/sisters’s CDs or even better the internet.  They will download these songs and you won’t even know they have them till one day when you over hear them listening to their iPods, rapping or singing along to a language so awful, your ears will bleed.

To be fair to real music, this ‘display of foul and offensive’ language should not be called music. It is simply the work of very aggressive people expressive themselves in the only way they know how – violently! Many of these songs are brutal and disrespectful – especially to women. The lyrics become more and more violent and sexually explicit.

Now as woman, I cannot explain harder how mad it makes me when I listen to guys refer to their mother’s and wives (and every female creature) as b%*@#! In case you didn’t get that, it’s the B word and you if you don’t know what the B word is then – well, tough –ask a friend! That is just disrespect to the highest level and beyond.

Teenagers are more likely to be affected by these songs because they are the ones facing violence, drugs, suicide, pregnancy, and other aspects of this music the most.  Studies show that the average teenager listens to approximately 40 hours of music in a given week.

Avid music lovers demonstrate that the words sung in these songs are just words and are no different from the poetry printed in literature books. No studies to date have concluded that listening to a song that speaks of death will make a teenager want to go out and do some damage.

So the question remains, do these kinds of lyrics breed today’s children to be killers or to be sexually promiscuous? The answer will be yes or no, depending on whom you ask. I say, this violent music is chocking society. Infamous cult leader Charles Manson masterminded one of the most gruesome multiple murders in history after a line in the Beatle’s song Helter Skelter made him believe he was doing a good thing by slaughtering people including an 8 month old pregnant actress called Sharon Tate.

People are losing focus on what real music is about – the real food to the soul. Anything that does not sound inspiring cannot at all be music or poetry. Shakespeare was one of the greatest poets who ever lived and not once did he have to frighten people with violent words about chopping off someone’s arm!


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