Music, Political Messaging, and Nigeria's 2015 Presidential Election

Music, Political Messaging, and Nigeria's 2015 Presidential Election

Stella Amara Aririguzoh (Covenant University, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7295-4.ch014


Music and songs command public attention and generally appeal to a large number of people. During the 2015 Nigerian presidential election, some politicians and their parties virtually took over the musical space to woo voters. The message creators for incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, crafted music-laden television commercials to convey their manifestos. This chapter used a content analytical method to investigate how various pieces of musical compositions were used as communication tools in the television adverts used in the elections. Specifically, it examined the musical genre, words, context, message, and discourse. Overall, most of the political advertisements used in the election were built around music and songs in praise of the candidates or used to tarnish their image.
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Music is an art form that uses harmonious sound or acoustic signals to communicate its messages. Different cultures have different types of music to serve different occasions. Nigeria is the largest multi-ethnic country in Africa, but irrespective of language differences, music plays a big part in the cultures of the different ethnicities that make up the country. During celebrations, people sing and dance.

We may listen to music as individuals or as members of a group while we engage in our daily work. Spender (1972, p. 32) acclaims that “music is the most powerful of idealist drugs except religion.” This probably explains the wide acceptance of music as a universal language and as a popular means of expression. Throughout history, people have used music to send messages that may be difficult to convey by words of mouth or through other means. Chandra (2010) acknowledges that music is a form of entertainment for people’s relaxation and amusement. Nevertheless, Ligeti (1978, p.24) points out that “it is equally true that music in itself does not oppress; neither is it democratic nor anti-democratic. To be sure, certain definite injustices are subject to political criticism in their relation to musical society.” In other words, music on its own is neutral until people apply it to achieve democratic or non-democratic purposes.

Every piece of music is composed within a socio-political and cultural context. Consequently, what may be acceptable in one political context may be rejected in another. More specifically, political music is used to address urgent issues facing a society. It appeals to citizens as well as to people in power and authority. Musicians have used it to stir people to action over the years. But what is in music that makes it a potent channel of communication? Rousseau (1959) proffers an answer. He calls it “music’s energy and the force of its expressions.

It is this energy that appeals widely to people and has attracted some politicians to package messages about themselves or against their opponents in music and songs. Garofalo (1992, p.65) observes that messages embedded in songs can reach places far beyond spaces defined by politics. Music’s direct effect on the political processes may be subtle and very difficult to measure. Yet, various politicians and their supporters have used it to galvanize the electorate to vote for them or at least discourage them from voting for their competitors.

Music and politics are often associated. Street, Hague and Savigny (2008) support this view with their observation that music and politics have long been connected. Onyebadi (2017) affirms that music is a platform for political communication. Political music can be commentaries on political subjects, music appealing to factional sentiments or even those advocating for particular political actions. Some may explicitly address specific political subjects. In their study, Weglarz and Pedelty (2013) found that political activists write lyrics, speak up in public and support political movements, for the purpose of political activism using what they termed political rock as opposed to mindless party rock music.

Although some authors like Goehr (1994, p.101) has queried the relationship between music and society, yet it cannot be denied that music can be used to attain political goals as music in politics has entrenched the democratic trend towards pluralism and tolerance where the foci is not on sameness but on paying constructive attention to differences. Political music may be a parody of a popular song with new lyrics or simple substitution of names and variations of text; an old song assuming new meanings based on current realities that are different from the time it was first composed or changing the tunes of an already existing song. Popular political music allows voters to be involved in the political process, and offers them the platform to appreciate the things happening around them.

Street (2003, p.114) opines in this regard that:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Boko Haram: The terrorist sect that has invaded North Eastern Nigeria since 2009 seeking to establish an Islamic caliphate.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): The body in charge of conducting general elections in Nigeria.

Igbadun: A Yoruba word meaning good enjoyment.

African Pop: A type of music that people sing along as well as dance to.

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