14 Aug 2016

In Conversation with Taye Balogun

Music for Activism

What inspires your work?
My work is inspired by my life’s experience, other people’s life experiences, the good and bad influences through social interaction, critical thinking and cultural values.

What’s the place of art in civic engagement?
Absolutely! Art always gives room to think, create and implement. An art piece will earn an admiration that will always result to questioning. By questioning there is an interaction and through this, art always creates a forum/platform/ambience that changes the narrative of dialogue which eventually leads to a healthy civic engagement. To mobilize any youthful community, we must involve art which ends up as a catalyst towards behavioral change.

Specifically, what’s the role of musicians in civic engagement?
Taye Balogun
Musicians are the best communicators and storytellers. Musicians will share our history, educate us about the present, and predict the future. Knowing our history is appreciating our cultural values while navigating a particular generation through social and economic development.

Tell us more about ‘Music is our Weapon with Sarabi’
Music Is Our Weapon is a feature documentary film highlighting the passion and dedication of a group of young people who rose in the slum yet in a system that has swallowed youth development/empowerment while adopting corruption and greed as they fight for social justice through the power of music creating awareness and change.

What impact has Sarabi had using music for activism?
They have woken up a lot of young people from their slumber therefore empowering them with knowledge while spreading love and the message of peace across the world.

How is music and art intended for activism received in society?
Art is the ONLY means of communication that has no language, cultural, or border barrier. Art is all around us; how can we not receive it? When a particular narrative is challenged or criticized through art, it is easily absorbed with no harm. That’s the only reason why satirical pieces are forever watched and followed. No one listens to naked criticism unless it is well-dressed and package with humor and nice rhythm.

What challenges come with using music to draw attention to social ills?
Human beings are naturally first drawn towards rhythm, melody and good beats then they listen to lyrics. Therefore while creating music as a campaign tool for a particular subject; we must constantly pay more attention to the melody and rhythm in order to draw more attention to it and enable it to be a classic rather than a one-off track. After-all our target are always music lovers.
Also, artists face challenges of getting airplay on Radio or TV. But that has changed with the Internet (Sound cloud, itunes, Youtube and Vimeo) and other social media platforms. It’s getting better with technology.

What should a young person interested in using their artistic skills in activism expect when starting out?
Expect to be broke for a while. It is a humble time to be endured, but it also gathers loyal followers and fans. Also, someone will experience criticism or admiration from everywhere and anyone.

Last words to the young people out there:
Be ready, responsible and real to yourself, your nation and humanity.

Taye Balogun is a Film Director, Producer and a Photographer. A Pan Africanist who has been an active education and socio-economic advocate at the national and continental level, he has been involved in series of youth empowerment workshops and programs and mentors young people across Africa. He is also the founder of STORYTELLERS, www.weuseart.com, A pan African Non–Governmental Organization that uses the power of art to tackle political and socio-economic issues in Africa.   

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