By Chima Ikenganyia

Common sense suggests that something is utterly amiss in today’s celebrated popular music. Gone are the days when popular music was referred to as the language of the soul. Could it be that pop music is losing its art or that art is losing its essence in pop music? Where has all those deep seated elements in good old music gone to? Could it be that this ‘enlightened’ age is about to snuff off the light of music, or that it does not just see that beauty in good music anymore?

Music is art concerned with combining vocal or instrumental sounds for beauty of form or emotional expression, usually according to cultural standards of rhythm, melody, and, harmony. The Greek term from which the word “music” is derived was a generic one, referring to any art or science practiced under the aegis of the muses, which were considered as the source of knowledge that inspired the creation of arts and literature. From the aforesaid, music demands creativity, an outpour of knowledge that should lean on nature, values and morals, no matter the form of expression it takes. Re-echoing the French theorist, Abraham Moles, music must, as an art, obey rules; the rule of aesthetics which is to enumerate universally valid roles, not to perpetuate the arbitrary or merely traditional or popular culture as opposed to meaning.

From historical accounts, it is evident that the power to influence men has always been attributed to music. Its ecstatic potentials have been recognized in all cultures, the ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, and Persian philosophers have great attribute to music. According to Confucius (551–479 BC), ‘great music should be in harmony with the universe, restoring order to the physical world through that harmony’. He saw music, as a true mirror of character, which makes pretence or deception impossible. Confucius also assigned an important place to music in the service of a well-ordered moral universe. Plato (428–348/347 BC), like Confucius, looked on music as a department of ethics. He saw a correspondence between the character of a man and the music that represents him. Even African traditional cultures which is warmly preserved and exhibited in music through folk songs (moon-light tales and dirges) affirms such proposition by Confucius and Plato.

There is a huge gap between what music has been historically, and what it should be in the contemporary time. A glance at important element of a good music shows not only rhythm, harmony, melody, structure and form but the text/lyrics as well. In recent pop songs undue importance have been placed on the rhythm, harmony, melody, structure and form (which is normally regarded as the ‘beat’ of a song), and this has resulted to the prevalence of plenitude of music with low intellectual, moral, and even decadent lyrics. It is common now, that for any music record to be a success there could be either a vulgar content or an immoral display, which is total deviation from what music should be. Even, live performances, which are the physical expression of music an art, have been turned to a mere tool for promoting a record label.

The most troublesome problem not only for the untutored listener but also for the professional musician has been, in this contemporary times, the loss of the main purpose of art. The principal focus of arts is to imitate the nature of man and the universe, and not merely to depict the unnatural attribute of man. It is an offense to nature to perceive music as only ‘fun’, while in reality it transcends to more noble aspirations of man.

There is a need to revive the real essence of art that is lost in recent pop songs, because this present generation has the responsibility of rejuvenating the sound intellectual, moral, and aesthetic heritage which it acquired in the past and build upon such structure. And posterity will never forgive us if we consciously terminate this nexus that unites us with our past.

Chima Ikenganyia wrote from University of Ibadan Faculty of Law, and can be reached at Chimaobi.ikenganyia@hotmail.com


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