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Music to blame?


With the second anniversary of the horrific and tragic deaths of six innocent princesses, the hot topic is now what has caused the disaffection so clearly seen among a worrying number of youths.

Inevitably, the question of the music “these young people listen to”, has arisen. Some have gone as far as to lay some blame on the music of artistes such as Vybz Kartel for the senseless and gratuitous violence that weekly leaves families in mourning.

Does this music drive young people to commit acts beyond the social pale? Does it engender in them a callousness in regard to human life? Songs which casually speak of blowing out someone’s marrow clearly do nothing to uplift the sanctity of human life.

Even local acts such as Crimeson have been producing songs which speak of “getting me gun”, apparently with little regard for the mayhem weaker minds may be induced to create.

Look, talk whatever we like and acknowledging that young people are often highly influenced by surroundings and peer pressure, we have got to admit that music does create certain moods. If you are often exposed to high-volume songs which show no respect for human life, the step towards actually committing a violent act must be easier to take, as it now takes place within an environment which is in a sense enabling. After all, these are songs that are well known and which receive approval from many of the youngsters’ peers.

So what do we do? As much as some would probably welcome it, we can’t just ban the music. First of all it will only make it more popular, the forbidden fruit argument. Secondly, and no less importantly, to take this approach is much too heavy-handed and someone’s rights will be abused.

I believe we can try to turn this situation around by using the same “weapon” of music. Far-fetched as it might seem, I believe it can work.

Now check this. We have come to the point where radio DJs have taken the role of opinion-leaders, and indeed even heroes to many of the youth. It serves no real purpose to lament the fact; that is the reality. I think it was Richard Carter, who did an extensive study of the youth, who said recently that any strategy in turning back the tide of violence which started “we must get back to…” was doomed to failure. He also noted that the traditional opinion-leaders such as church, school and family had failed and were basically no longer of great relevance to the youth.

I think he’s right and so, accepting that there are now different people to whom the youth look for leadership, what we need to do is set those new leaders straight. I recently heard a radio jock going on and on stressing what he thought was the correctness of the message of a song which proclaimed that bling was the thing and that the means of getting it wasn’t all that important.

Now of a group of say ten young people that may influence three but that is all it takes. All the young people aren’t bad and lost; it’s probably about that same ratio – three in ten. Mark you, this is just my personal observation, not based on any poll or study.

Now suppose that same DJ had been saying positive things, encouraging listeners to stay on the right path. Shouldn’t that have some positive effect? Some DJs do say positive things but I’m not talking about a throwaway line here or there, followed by more mindless songs.

I’m talking about a whole programme, perhaps with a few words from some who have experienced the results of the bad boy life, followed by positive songs. MADD’s Last Saturday Night, for example, should be played every Friday and Saturday without fail. I do not think our young people have become so unreachable that they would not be influenced by things such as this.

What this calls for, of course, is maturity on the part of DJs, who would have to realise that there is more to their job than popularity. It also involves a lot of responsibility, particularly when the audience is so young and impressionable.

This is nothing less, then, than a complete turnaround of the values promoted too often on radio. It would call for DJs to recognise their national responsibility and accept their role in nation-building. Is this too much to ask? I don’t think so and I also believe that the time is ripe for radio station managers to realise what role they must play too.

It can’t be just a matter of anything goes and a fight to see who is more popular than whom. The DJs aren’t broadcasting to ducks but to impressionable children. If station managers can’t make them see that and act accordingly, it’s time to play hardball.

We simply cannot sit idly by and see a generation corrupted by callous people whose only aim is to become popular, regardless of the trampled values and mores that lie in their wake.

They have the minds of the people’s children, an awesome responsibility. It’s time they start acting like they know this and are intent on saving our young generation.

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