You can't let yourself be pushed around. You can't live in fear. That's no way to live your life. - Bernhard Goetz
On November 20, 2015 at the Radison Blu in Bamako, Mali, a headline we've seen far too often played across the ticker: 21 people were killed at the hands of extremists. On this particular occasion, an al-Qaeda affiliate claimed responsibility. Just one week earlier, the entire world bore witness to the same story, played out in the streets of Paris.
The Eagles of Death Metal returned to the scene of the atrocity, proudly stating "the bad guys never take a day off, and therefore we rock 'n rollers cannot either." In a similar spirit, Festival Acoustik, located in Bamako, Mali headlined by Damon Albarn of Blur/Gorillaz fame, played on despite Mali being under a state of emergency set to expire on March 31, 2016.
Music serves a lot of purposes: it unites those without any other common link, distracts us from the harsh realities of every day life, or, in this case, as articulated by one of the artists performing at Festival Acoustik: "for us, it was a way of resisting." People much smarter than me have been writing scholarly articles about the depths of music as a form of rebellion, but I don't think anyone is shocked to find out that it reaches far into the annals of history.
What I think is telling in this instance is that music is being used to rebel against fear. Recently, the fear that is marketed to the masses is borderline irrational. I think the first irrationally marketed form of fear I remember was Y2K (#1 song on December 31, 1999 was Smooth by Carlos Santana featuring Rob Thomas). These days, we're being peddled irrational fear in the form of the ebola crisis, which has recently morphed into the recent Zika virus emergency. The gusto coming out of the GOP would have you believe that terrorism is a clear and present danger, when almost anything else you can think of (including being crushed by household furniture) is more likely to kill you than a terrorist.
Which is what makes Festival Acoustik and Eagles of Death Metal's decisions to play on worth talking about. Their rebellion isn't against terrorism or extremism. It is against fear. It is against letting fear change who they are or what they stand for. It is against letting fear dominate the conversation about anything. And it is a rallying cry to those who refuse to be scared to join them in their rebellion against being afraid to sing and dance.
There's always going to be a boogeyman and we all know the boogeyman only comes out in the dark. But sometimes, the dark isn't so scary ...