Mainstream Music – does it matter?

Masha and Nadya from Pussy Riot at Amnesty International's "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert
Masha and Nadya from Pussy Riot at Amnesty International’s “Bringing Human Rights Home” concert

Amnesty International hosted a concert in Brooklyn, New York, USA, yesterday. I had read about the line up a few weeks ago and thought to myself “WOW”, which was quickly followed by a teeny wee bit of jealousy, as I work for the local NZ flavour of Amnesty, and we are just too far away to attract the awesomely famous acts that our US colleagues can.

So it was with great interest that I read the Foreign Policy take on the concert. According to the article (sorry I don’t read Russian, and the link was to a Russian blog site!! d’oh) the remaining members of Pussy Riot had expelled Nadya and Masha from the group for appearing at this concert. The premise being that Pussy Riot only stage ‘illegal performances in unexpected public places’ and a completely legal concert in a rather large venue in the US was quite against their principles.

I don’t pretend to be any kind of music snob at all. In fact, I proudly state that I listen to a vast range of music – I’m currently going through a bit of a Country and Western phase – and in fact am that person that most of my friends cringe to be near, and have often found it hard to go to concerts with friends! (for example, 18 year old me at the Gerry and the Pacemakers concert) However, I’ve often wondered about this concept of certain underground bands being discarded because they are now “mainstream”. Obviously, this is not the case of Pussy Riot, they are not a band, they are an art collective making a political statement. However, the author of the blog post then describes a series of conversations they had with various celebrities who seemed to range from very knowledgeable (Isaac Slade of The Fray) to unsure about what human rights are (Colbie Caillat).

I’ve had this argument discussion with friends/colleagues/strangers before. Why do we consider someone like Bono or Geldof “lame” (if we do) because they are using their celebrity to do some good in the world. Even if their motivation is not as it seems (the cynical punter would say that it is merely to increase their sales yada yada yada) Does it matter?

In the same way, as Amnesty goes out on the street talking about vast rates of family violence and sign ordinary kiwis up as members, deep down, these people surely know that doing “just a little bit” is disproportionately about feeling good about charity rather than helping the cause, but does it matter?

If everyone thought like that, we’d not have members, and no money to do any work at all! If Bono and Geldof didn’t do what they did, then there’d have not been awareness in such a large scale.

I say, who cares if the punters at the concert (or even Colbie Caillat) don’t know who/what Pussy Riot or Amnesty or even Human  Rights are… they are there. They paid their money to watch the concert, and even if they texted through the speeches, surely some of it sunk in!

Would welcome your thoughts on this.

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