Pop Music Part II: In Socialistic Societies

You can read part I on Pop Music HERE!

Socialism in the modern era is an excellent example of how the state has created a class of people with the same attributes and the same goals while encouraging musical styles which promote this type of thinking.  Popular music under socialism was driven less by consumerism and more by state-run ideologies such as was observed in China in the 1960s during the Cultural Revolution (Manuel 15).  It was produced not to foster a sense of belonging but to stress the categorical identification of the people with their state (Cooper 72).  Music, as with other parts of socialist society, was meant to encourage ‘sameness’, promote patriotism while stifling creativity.  But not even socialism has been able to stop the march of popular music.    The modern world of the twentieth century has no doubt shifted the relationship between ethnic music and cultural identity.  Music that is less connected to traditional ways of thinking cannot but help to foster a lack of connectedness to the group as a whole.  This becomes even more pronounced as mass media has overseen a large shift of attitudes toward music.   Mass media’s control over music has produced a popular music very much homogenized throughout the world.   This has happened to such an extent that certain types of western genres have now become standard fare throughout the world.  Rock, ballads, and perhaps today’s popular hip-hop genre could be seen as nothing more than international styles that are emulated in all corners of the globe (Manuel 20).  This musical diffusion could be regarded as a nature part of musical acculturation, but it may also be seen by some in terms of cultural imperialism – the continued cultural hegemony of former colonial masters on the rest of the world. (Manuel 22).

Music acculturation has not, however, bankrupted world musical styles.  Though Western popular music has played an important role in the evolution of music, in some ways its influence has been muted.  Most societies borrow musical elements in discriminating fashion  often times picking those elements which are most similar or suitable for their culture (Manuel 20).  Some examples of music which have kept their distinctiveness yet have borrowed from outside sources include Chinese pop music using Uighar rhythms and Indian music using Western harmonies in their own unique manner (Manuel 20-21).

As musical elements, such as Western harmonies, diffuse into another culture, it becomes less likely that the local population will even take note of a harmony’s origin, but will in fact consider it their own.  In this way, in spite of how popular musical trends have affected traditional musical styles, community based music will continue to bring people together creating a connectedness and sense of belong of which different ethnic groups can be proud.


Works Cited

Cooper, Frederick. “Identity.” Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History. Berkeley:

University of California, 2005. Print.

Manuel, Peter. “Perspectives on the Study of Non-Western Popular Musics.” Popular Musics of

            the Non-Western World: an Introductory Survey. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.


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