Politics in Bluegrass

One of our readings this week is a text titled simply “Music and Politics” by John Street. He describes how music, despite being considered one of the purest and powerful forms of free speech and expression, is constantly subjugated to censorship, political pressure, religious bashing and threats, and sometimes outright bans. Every genre of music has encountered these situations at one time or another; rock n’ roll, metal, hip hop and rap, all of these and more were and are constantly trying to be regulated and controlled. Street mentions how radio stations in Mogadishu had to halt music broadcasting due to the Islamic militia. Other incidents included bans on Swedish death metal in the U.S., and the Soviet Unions attempts to filter western music stars during the Cold War.

However, Bluegrass has had a different issue with censorship and politics in its songs and artists. Many people claim that bluegrass holds no political message, that it hasn’t been used for any political¬† or ethical message or platform. It certainly is true that mainstream or more well known bluegrass doesn’t include political issues, but the genre has been used to express distaste or anger over issues.

Bluegrass as a whole has actually made an attempt to separate itself from current issues, politics and conflicts. The factor that draws many people to the music is its sense of nostalgia, of better times, and how things used to be. The music is meant to be an escape from these issues that have become so invasive in our day and age. Bluegrass started out as a source of entertainment, to enjoy after a hard days work, or a friendly gathering on the weekend. Traditional bluegrass festivals were family oriented and designed specifically to offer a day or two of pure joy to the people who enjoy this music.

One of the points that is raised in Music and Politics, is a simple and powerful message that has proven itself countless times. The harder that a group or government tries to censor or block music, the bigger the resistance to them becomes, and the musical community often becomes stronger and more outspoken because of it. People are naturally inspired to express their beliefs and ideas, and no amount of regulation or redtape can stop them.