10 Artists who raised their voice through Protest Songs

These artists have shown how music can intertwine music and politics and how the protests can be affected by it.
grayscale photo of people holding square board
Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash

In today’s article, we take a sneak peek at some of the music artists who have lent their voices against inhumane activities all around the world.

There have been protests all around the world. Social injustice and political movements have influenced music artists to cross the bridge-gap of politics and music. Even though the politically-fueled art has received mixed opinions, it has been compelling in the way it has brought attention to the wrongs from eyes all over the world.

One such instance that I would like to mention is the band The 1975’s self-titled track from the album “Notes On A Conditional Form” which featured a monologue from the well-known Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. She emphasizes the need to call climate change what it is and accept that we are still learning what exactly is happening. As of now, the music video put out a month ago has around 175k views on Youtube.

Recently, the death of George Floyd has invoked a Black Lives Matter movement globally, moreover, the pride month has made a lot of LGBTQ artists come out to share their tragic experiences.

These artists have shown how music can intertwine music and politics and how the protests can be affected by it. We’ll talk about that in detail below.

1 – Childish Gambino“This Is America”

Famous Hollywood actor and singer Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) put out a trackback in 2018 named “This Is America”. With its music video turning a lot of heads, Donald, through its catchy lyrics, puts the police brutality and racism against the black community in perspective.

What is so remarkable about the way in which Glover used the form of the music video as a politicized event is in the layered and nuanced content with a direct message.

With the George Floyd incident, this song has again come into the light of people, with them using it as a backtrack for protest videos which went viral on TikTok.

“This Is America” leapt to as high as second most-streamed on US Spotify charts amassing 1.117 million streams. Glover has been off from social media which his manager explained was a sign of protest.

2 – Beyonce – “Black Parade”

Just like Glover, Beyonce has been vocal not only about the Black Lives Matter movement but also about the sexism in the music industry. The singer, in the neoteric past, released a track called Black Parade in support of the ongoing anti-racism movements. The stand-alone single was released on June 19 which is marked as Juneteenth day. 

Prior to recent protests, the singer has always used her platform to raise her voice against racial inequality. The song received critical acclaim upon release. 

Several music artists have praised the song calling it a tour-de-force of references: to black history, to African traditions, to her own family and past” and describing Beyoncé as “the queen of a generation providing guidance and assembling her listeners with black solidarity. Black Parade has over 16 million streams on Spotify.

3 – Ankur Tewari – “Woh Hum Nahin”

Ankur Tewari is a Hindi-indie singer, songwriter who is famous for his indie hits like Aainda and Dhuaan Dhuaan. He is basically a storyteller. His latest single “Woh Hum Nahin” received praise from all around India, with “The Hindu” newspaper labeling it as an anthem of peace. 

The song speaks out against the hate politics spreading in the country. 

The singer showed support to the Anti-CAA protests and police brutality against students by saying, ”Darte Honge Buzdil Tere Daraane Se, Sailaabon Se , Aandhiyon Se, Toofano Se, Jo Aag Bujh Jaaye Bas Hawaon Se Wo Hum Nahi, Wo Hum Nahi” which translates to “Cowards have fear of getting afraid of you, by the floods, by the storms, The fire that can be extinguished simply by the winds, that’s not us, that’s not us.” The song has over 23k streams on Spotify.

4 – H.E.R – “I Can’t Breathe”

Contemporary R&B artist H.E.R (Having Everything Revealed) released a song “I Can’t Breathe” in response to the police brutality and killings of innocent black people. 

In reference to the recent George Floyd incident, the music video is compiled footage of past police brutalities and racism incidents from all around the world.

She sings, ”Praying for change ’cause the pain makes you tender. All of the names you refuse to remember/Was somebody’s brother, friend/Or a son to a mother that’s crying, saying/’I can’t breathe, you’re taking my life from me.” H.E.R ‘s Instagram Live series “Girls With Guitars” aired a special Black Music Month where she invited a lot of guests to sing for the cause.

5 – Lady Gaga – “Born This Way”

Lady Gaga is an American songwriter, an actress who is known for reinventing herself throughout her career and for her versatility in numerous areas of the entertainment industry. Being bisexual, Gaga actively supports the LGBTQ community worldwide. 

She has a lot of respect for the gay community and she credits her success to them stating, ”The turning point for me was the gay community.” In 2018, a leaked memo from Trump’s office revealed that his administration wanted to change the legal definition of sex in order to exclude transgender Americans. Gaga was one of the many celebrities to call him out and spread the #WontBeErased campaign to her 77 million Twitter followers. Her music is vibrant just like the colors in an LGBT rainbow flag. 

She is currently 7th on Spotify in terms of followers which reflects her success in the industry.

6 – Thomas Dgx Yhl “Glory To Hong Kong

The given name is a pseudonym for a 20-year-old musician from Hong Kong who released his song “Glory To Hong Kong” on LIHKG, considered as a Hong Kong version of Reddit. The song released in August last year is now considered as the new Hong Kong national anthem by the locals amid the ongoing protest against the extradition bill. According to which, China would have a greater influence on Hong Kong and they would have legal permission to detain citizens of Hong Kong and extradite them to China.

The song emerges as an appeal for the fundamental rights to be given to them, of which they have been deprived of. The song ends with hope for the future and excitement. Many artists have covered the song and gained millions of views on Youtube, including one by “Black Orchestra,” which was posted on September 11, 2019, on YouTube and had almost 4 million views in January this year.

7 – MILCK – “Quiet”

Music artist and activist MILCK, known as Connie Lim, released a song named “Quiet” which is ironic as it echoed and created a lot of buzz in the industry.

The video itself will make it rain all over your face — it’s a series of vignettes telling stories that are familiar to all of us. A trans girl who longs for her family to accept her truth. A woman who deals with an abusive relationship.

And finally, everything comes together with MILCK’s thundering voice, backed by an orchestral band of women-identifying musicians. Spiced up by the lyrics like, ”Shut up and smile/Don’t spread your legs, I can’t keep quiet, no/I can’t keep quiet, no/I can’t keep quiet for anyone/not anymore.” The track now has over 2.2 million streams on Spotify. She, after covering it with the DC women’s march, said,” I’ve seen this song help survivors speak out after the Women’s March, and I believe that the new version has the power to encourage and empower all those thinking of coming forward at this time. It’s my gesture of support and encouragement to all the survivors rising. It’s my musical #METOO.”

8 – Indian Ocean – “Chitu”

The Indian Ocean is a rock fusion band from India, who are known for their rhythms integrated with shlokas, environmentalism, Sufism, mythology, and revolution. Rahul Ram, vocalist, and guitarist, has a longstanding relationship with activism for years, having been an ardent supporter of Narmada Bachao Andolan back in the early ’90s, something that he says has influenced his music immensely. Their song “Chitu” was one of their first and prominent songs, a tribal anthem that Ram had come across over the course of being involved in the Narmada Movement.

Since then, protest songs have been a given on Indian Ocean albums. With over 85k followers on Spotify, they are surely one of the most “impactful” music creators of the country. Another beauty from them, “Bandeh”, which was picturized on the 1993 Mumbai Blasts, draws heart-warming attention with lyrics like, “Arre mandir yeh chup hai, arre masjid yeh gum sum/ ibaadat thak padegi” which translates to ”The temples are silent, the mosques are empty/prayers will have no meaning anymore.”

9 – Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

Back in 2015, hip-hop icon, Kendrick Lamar released a track named “Alright” from his third studio album “To Pimp A Butterfly”. The song talks about Kendrick’s personal struggles and how being black is considered as a sin even in today’s modern society. 

The song had four nominations at the 58th Grammy Awards: Song of the year, Best rap performance, Best rap song, winning the latter two. 

Lamar ends the song with hope for the future with lyrics like, ”I keep my head up high”. The song has recently been associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, which is on the rise in America, with some of the publications calling “Alright” as the “unifying soundtrack” of the movement. 

The song has amassed over 237 million streams on spotify.

10 – Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture

In the wake of recent George Floyd killings, American rapper Lil Baby put out a song in the protest called “The Bigger Picture”. The song, released on 12 June this year, talks about the injustice and police brutality the black community had to face over the years. In the song, Lil shows solidarity with the people who are out on the streets protesting against the wrong. Prior to the release, he himself was seen marching down the streets of his hometown Atalanta. 

According to Wikipedia, Miki Hellerbach of Euphoria magazine opined that “while Kendrick Lamar’s voice was the sound of the Mike Brown/Eric Garner/Freddie Gray protests with his song “Alright”, it seems clear why Lil Baby is the sound of now”. 

The song topped both the US and the global Apple Music charts while reaching number three on US Spotify. “The Bigger Picture” has amassed over 37 million streams on Spotify. 

These artists have shown how music intertwines music and politics and how the protests against the injustices can be affected by it. Siachen Studios continues to bring out articles on topics that are touchy and relevant. Follow Siachen Studios on media platforms for more crisp music news and content. Subscribe to our newsletter for more latest updates.