I’m a big cry baby and a brat. I’m not afraid to say it. When I was younger I’d always run from the doctor, or attack my dentist for pulling out my teeth. And when I didn’t get my way I’d lock myself in my room and blast my Kidz bop to the loudest setting just to annoy my parents. Or once when I was younger and lost a Yu-gi-oh tournament, then cried, I had placed in the top 48 (top 48 was extremely good), but I would just put headphones and cry until I felt better, I always would. Now a days I realize I run to music when I’m at my lowest. But I’ve never been too sad or afraid to sing at the top of my lungs
“I was in this but tournament, but didn’t make it to finals, unfortunately”
Music is what holds this entire world together, this world, the next world, and the old world. It drives us to better ourselves in the worst and best times, it’s about everything we care about, and everything we don’t. It is loved by all. German psychologist Thomas Shafer wrote in his research paper “The Psychological Functions of Music listening” that we listen to music because of 3 reasons.
“1. to regulate arousal and mood,”
“2. to achieve self-awareness,”
“3. as an expression of social relatedness”
Because of these 3 reasons, music has been found by all forms of people in all walks of life. However, some sing louder than others. And those who sing loudest are those who’ve faced the most unshakable atrocity known to man. The slaves. They sang when their lives were almost nothing. But, if one’s life is almost nothing why sing at all?
“This video explains the chemical effects of music”
Let’s look way back into the 19 century. You’re a great slave holder in the southern colonies, you own 1000 acres of land and over 200 slaves. You look out of your great esteemed mansion and you see a hand full of slaves picking cotton. You make sure you don’t pay them for their labor and you were sure to tell your overseer to whip them every few minutes to make sure they don’t begin to start thinking for themselves, and every now and then you starve them.You make sure they’re in the worst conditions to make sure they’re ignorant. Yet every day you hear them sing. They sing their hearts out. They sing the same song everyday. And their songs get louder as they get older. Again why is this?
It’s because music is all they have.
Fredrick Douglass answers my biggest question, in his Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass On why do sing when there is nothing, he wrote that
“Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.” (Douglass)
“This is the first page of Five slave songs they sung”
Published in 1882, but most likely written much much earlier, this excerpt of the song can be sung in less than 30 seconds, yet it encases what slavery is. In the song, the slaves sing about someone named Black Lulu.(Link to the whole song) She was, “Taken away one day never to be seen again” (Douglass). They mourn for their loss of their family, and as a result they sing. They sing to avoid the pain of their livelihood on their plantation. Yet even though painful, they still call their plantation home. It’s tough, it really is. They work for nothing, but they still believe that there’s something more for them in their life. They sing so they wont be sad. In page three of the song the forth singer of bar thirteen sings “He will sing and never be sad”. They still try to be happy. They sing as a result of Shafer’s 3 points: they want to regulate their mood to be happier, they want to fulfill their self desires, and they want to relate to others around them through music. Slaves are people too they want hope and to find some kind of happiness in their life, so they sing.
“Singing and dancing”
I said earlier that slaves only have music to distract them from their hardships. That’s true. But what were their hardships, that make them sing so loudly? That make them refuse to attack their owners. They would never attack their owners because of the pain that the owner could do. Often slaves were “Liable to be taken up and given 39 lashes” (Douglass), from doing anything wrong, or attack any owner. Moreover, slaves didn’t know anything. What if the world around them was worse? How would some slaves move from Baltimore all the way to New York? Or even worse, what if the owners told them to different corners of the south? Slaves were plentiful sometimes there was a ratio of two hundred slaves to one white man. Slaves were conditioned to fear their masters. If they went out of line they would get hurt. Slaves loved their families Douglass said that “Slaves would be taken away one day never to be seen again”, and that would be their biggest fear. Because their families were their biggest hope. That one day they’d be able to live together happily? So what they did to distract themselves from their troubles was to sing, because anything else they did would make their lives feel like they’re worth less than nothing.
“A about the Fugitive Slave law (1850)
Similarly why didn’t slaves just run? That would be because of the compromise of 1850: and in that the Fugitive Slave Act, and plenty of other laws. Which means any black man seen in the north or south could be sent to trial without any consent, and would be placed in front of a judge to determine if he or she was slave, with any accusation. As a result a southern plantation owner could walk in and call someone their slave, and that someone would have to go through the entire trial. Again when faced with this kind of tough reality all they could do was sing.
Well in the 21st century many say that slavery has been abolished, its “2016 baby”, its okay now we have the 13th amendment which states slavery is illegal. And that only applies to North America
“A bill about the 13 amendment”
Although places like America have taken steps to counter slavery, the the institute is still practiced to this very day, especially in places that don’t try to stop it (Even places like America, it is still seen). For instance, there is Ayesha, a modern day, An Indian sex slave. Ayesha was brave enough to share her account in in equality today’s article “Ayesha“. Ayesha was 13 she met her 26 year old lover. He told her that “he could make me (her) into a famous singer one day. I (she) agreed.”, after all she came from a village which called her the “Golden Voice” this is an opportunity of a life time. Her voice is going to propel her into new heights. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. She was instantly sold into prostitution and had to work nearly her whole life to work out the debt. Unlike the 19th century American slaves, she was given no family to lean on, and nothing to live for she had lost all hope, and the one once called “Golden voice” had stopped singing.
She eventually saves her self from this kind of lifestyle. She has 3 children, 2 daughters and one autistic son. She escapes her life style when she realized that she couldn’t support her family in her status. So, she found an organization called Apne app, an organization fighting sex trafficking. She talked to many of the people there, they were able to show her that there was hope, “As I conversed with women who had made new lives for themselves, I felt hopeful for the first time that I could leave (The sex trafficking institute)”. She was able to ask them for help with her family issue, and the organization was able to help her daughters find work, and she was able to care for her son. She had found new hope in her family.
“Because of her (Her Daughters), I sing again.”
Ayesha stopped singing when she gave up hope. She had no one to live for so she stopped singing. When she was younger she sang because of her lover, and when she was older, she was able to sing for her family, but when she was a prostitute, she never once mentioned a time when she sang. Like with the slaves she sang because she has something to look forward to in her life. Slaves looked towards the future where they could be happy with their families, Ayesha looks for a hopeful future with her daughters. As a result, she got her “Golden Voice” back.
When faced with the worst of times, what is there to do? We make music! If there is just the tiniest bit of hope, we’re bound to grab it. Slaves are the best example of this. Slaves sang when they were suffering the most because they had hope that they would be free with their families, and that the present was just so tough. Ayesha gave up hope because she believed she had no future, so she didn’t sing. However, she eventually was able to sing when she saw that her future was in her daughter, although she, herself wasn’t out of the trafficking industry just yet. She learned that in every bad situation there will be hope. There has to be the human brain wants to be self actualized, and regulate its mood into the best it can be. Although it may seem terribly-awful, like there is nothing to hope for, there will be something coming. Even though people like Ayesha didn’t see her hopeful future right in front of her right away, that’s okay, because it did eventually come. Because once she got something, it didn’t have to be much (Her daughters in this case). It could’ve been almost nothing, even if it was almost nothing it was enough to be hopeful, anything could’ve been enough for her to start singing at the top of her lungs. Because anything can cause a huge change, even something close to nothing.