Acting in Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action

Acting in Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action

Acting in Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action

Acting in Concert: Music, Community, and Political Action


In this lively account of politics and popular music, Mark Mattern develops the concept of "acting in concert," a metaphor for community-based political action through music. Through three detailed case studies of Chilean, Cajun, and American Indian popular music, Mattern explores the way popular muisicians forge community and lead members of their communities in several distinct kinds of political action that would be difficult or impossible among individuals who are not linked by communal ties.

More than just entertainment, Mattern argues that popular music can serve as a social glue for bringing together a multitude of voices that might otherwise remain silent, and that political action through music can increase the potential for relatively marginalized people to choose and determine their own fate.


July 1989. On Paseo Ahumado, a crowded pedestrian street in downtown Santiago, Chile, twenty men work on the side of a building, several stories above the ground. A group of four musicians begins to play below them, and a small crowd of about thirty people quickly gathers. After a brief introduction extolling the virtues of Santiago's working- class population and decrying its many problems, the musicians begin a song called "Hacen falta muchas cosas para conseguir la paz" [there remains much to do in order to achieve peace], which tells how the people must work against injustice with the tools that they have, including songs and guitars.

In my country there will be no peace,
so long as there is exploitation
of men by men, creating inequality.
Nothing can be achieved without revolution.
The singer is always ready to defend the country,
with the voice and the guitar against rifles and guns.

The construction workers stop to listen, and the musicians encourage the crowd to clap and sing along. But they ask everyone to avoid blocking the sidewalk to reduce the likelihood that the military, who seized power in 1973 in a bloody coup and whose presence in 1989 remains ubiquitous, will intervene. One of the musicians introduces the . . .

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