Sound & Politics

Sound & Politics

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This is a clip of the ezan, which is the main subject I have been studying as it relates to language politics and the interplay between religion and secularism in Turkey. The fact that the call to prayer is in Arabic unites the “Muslim World” as the liturgical language is commonly understood, regardless of the native tongue of the worshipper. Performing the ezan in a different language would imply a sort of separation and ethnic division, where the practitioner is placing their own tradition above the language of the Qur’an (Arabic). The common liturgical language shows respect for the religion and worshippers everywhere, even if the Arabic required must be learned as a second language. Thus the use of Turkish language in the ezan for around 30 years represents a significant shift in political thought.

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This is a sound clip of İstiklâl Marşı, which is the national anthem of Turkey and was adopted in 1921. The song is a reflection of the essence of nationalistic sentiment; the lyrics celebrate and affection for the Turkish homeland and was written to help raise the spirits of the military, as with most national anthems. This sound clip is important to the understanding of Turkish secularism, as a framed copy of this anthem resides in each classroom, along with a picture of Atatürk and an image of the Turkish flag. This display represents the devotion to the state and the support of a secular government–while God is mentioned in the lyrics of the anthem, the idea of God is used as a secondary support as a reason to fight for the State. Kemalist ideas of secularism by no means exclude religion, but rather place more value upon national identity than religious identity and separate the government from religious ideas, which may inform—but not dictate—the law of the land.

This last section is a recording of Atatürk’s speech to Turkish youth fighting in the War for Independence. The first thing he says is “Birinci vazifen, Türk istiklâlini, Türk Cumhuriyetini, ilelebet, muhafaza ve müdafaa etmektir.” This can be translated to mean, “Your first duty is to preserve and to defend Turkish Independence and the Turkish Republic forever.” This statement is critical to understand the essence of Kemalism, which resists typical American politicizations like “conservative” or “liberal”—in a sense, Kemalism is an extremely “right-wing” sort of ideology, where the state and the idea of “the people” are revered; however, Kemalism is also—particularly in the context of its time—an extremely “liberal” ideology in its radical break from the Caliphate model of government and the increase in modernizations that departed from the traditional customs of Turkey (such as dress, architecture, etc.). The purpose of the political speech is to rouse a feeling of “togetherness” for something bigger than the self; the rhetoric embodied the desire for a new and better order after the decline of the Ottoman Empire.


Ezan – Fair Use (through Wikipedia commons)

İstiklâl Marşı – Public Domain (through Wikipedia commons)

Manisa Turkish. John Guise, n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

Confucius and Politics

Politics is common to all cultures; every section of the world has some semblance to a political system. Like many other civilizations at the time, ancient China was ruled feudally. Through Confucius’s large role in Chinese society, his doctrines greatly influenced kings, as Confucians believe that a strong sense of virtue through benevolence and li are of utmost importance to rule. Furthermore, a ruler must adhere to the proper way and make decisions based on the rites (Dongfang et al). Thus, kings were strongly bound to music. To be benevolent, one must enjoy music both for its own beauty and its coexistence with ceremony, the most important part of li (Analects). These doctrines can easily be compared to largely individualistic America. Though we certainly have societal norms, it is much more difficult to pinpoint guidelines followed strictly by political figures. Confucian China and America thus create an interesting dichotomy.


Kongzi Duyi:

Guqin played for a Chinese TV station

Both of these songs are played on the guqin, a seven-string instrument related to the zither. In ancient China, this was referred to as just the “qin”, and it is mentioned a few times throughout the Analects. The first song is called “Kongzi Duyi”, and is traditionally associated with Confucius (Confucius’s real name is Kongzi). Music like this would traditionally be played at a ceremony or in a temple to help orchestrate the proceedings; without the sounds, the ceremony would not be complete. This could also be played for enjoyment, as Confucius deems both ceremonial music and music for entertainment important.

Bian zhong: Bells used in temples and for ceremonies

Bian zhong



Confucius, and D. C. Lau. The Analects (Lun Yü). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.

Dongfang, Shou, Hongcheng Ling, and Deyuan Huang. “Separation of Politics and Morality: A Commentary on “Analects of Confucius”” Frontiers of Philosophy in China (2006): 401-17. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. .

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Politics of Feminism and Sound

The political changes that have occurred in America during the last 100 years are intimately tied to music, the complex soundscape of our culture reflecting political upheaval and social change . As Jacques Attali said, “music is prophecy” (36), the mechanism through which a society’s fears, angers, and joys are refracted as sonic creation. One incident of music giving voice to a political movement was the connection between late 20th century feminists and the rising girl-rock scene blossoming in the punk underground. These women “made audible the new world” (36) that they wished to live in, a world where women are not only powerful, furious, and strong but understood and accepted as equal emotional and psychological beings. This research embodies the relationship between politics and sound because as a comparative study of the music and theories of feminists in the late 20th century, it illuminates the effect of an evolving sonic community on a crucial political movement.

This Clip of Bikini Kill Live is a prime example of how girl rockers of the punk underground were pioneering the political agenda of third wave feminists of the 80’s and 90’s. You can hear Kathleen Hanna, the band’s lead singer, shout “this is cellulite, this is what it look like…it’s real…you don’t see this on MTV!” before launching into “Don’t Need You”, a song about female autonomy. With words like “we don’t need your protection…does it scare you boys that we don’t need you?”  these women used music, a passionate and direct wire to raw emotion, to empower themselves as free-thinking, radically independent individuals.

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Research Proposal

In Noise: The Political Economy of Music Jacques Attali discusses music in its relation to politics. This idea that music is both influencing and exposing of modern political themes, as well as providing of a prophetic lens to the future, is intriguing and astute. To gain a deeper understanding of the music of politics, and how it affects a wide variety of subcultures and individual demographics, I chose to focus on the pertinent political messages imparted on society through the lens of a subject that I was familiar with: hip hop and rap music and culture.

Hip hop culture and rap music specifically have always interested me, and as I contemplated where to focus my research I found a reccurring theme in my musical taste. No matter what style, flow, geographical location, beat, or lyrical ability, the rappers and tracks that I enjoyed the most musically were those that directly addressed certain political topics, issues, or positions. While Attali may not have been addressing musicians who explicitly state political based content throughout their music, his theories and ideas can be applied to such content just the same. These rap artists have varying levels of impact on the present socio-political landscape. They also have a prophetic and progressive tendency that Attali theorizes about. In order to focus my research further, I chose three individual artists to research and profile as a chronological profile of politics in hip hop. These artists have discographies that cover ranges of political talking points. Each artist in juxtaposition with one another will reveal broad overarching themes concerning political hip hop as a sound community in relation to Jacques Attali’s theories.

The paper will progress chronologically, beginning with a general introduction to political hip hop. As the lens narrows, the paper will move chronologically, addressing first Tupac Shakur, then Immortal Technique, and lastly Macklemore. These three artists represent different forms of political hip hop, as well as different eras, not only in political hip hop but also hip hop as a culture. Throughout this chronological profile, I will include numerous lyrics, song titles, and album names. From tracks like “Dear Mama” by Tupac Shakur, a ballad dedicated to the love a son has for his mother that simultaneously addresses the issues a young black child has to deal with growing up in the poverty stricken areas of the United States, to Immortal Technique’s “Peruvian Cocaine” a creatively produced track that opens with dialogue from “Scarface” and proceeds with a beat that incorporates one of the tracks off the soundtrack of the same movie. Immortal Technique then begins to rap in the first person from the perspective of all of the individuals involved in the drug business. From the field worker to the paid off government employee, this song leaves the listener with a distinct message. Lastly, I chose to include Macklemore in my triad of political hip hop artists. While I may not be a fan of his music as much, I do recognize that he has a very intent message with each of his tracks. Also, as he is less developed as an artist as either Tupac Shakur or Immortal Technique, his work will provide an interesting contrast. A song like “Wings” for example, which is an intense commentary on consumerism in America, would mesh perfectly with the themes from the song “Rich Man’s World” by Immortal Technique, another twisted perspective on the United States corporations and consumerisms implications. However, a song like “Obnoxious” by Technique or “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” by Tupac would contradict the message Macklemore is trying to convey in “Othersiders”, a violin laced minor key song which discusses addiction and its impact on individuals.

After a close examination of the profiles of these three artists, off and on the microphone, my paper will culminate in a summarization of the common themes within this community of political hip hop. Those themes generally being concerned with the struggles of African Americans and minorities in poverty, the corruption of the government at home and abroad, the nature of corporations, especially record labels and the music industry as a whole, etc. I hope to mirror some of the methodology in Veal’s “DUB” in my research paper. The author profiles prominent figures in dub music, and in this research paper surrounding a musical sonic community similar in nature to that of dub music in Jamaica as dub is a subset of reggae just as political hip hop is a subset of hip hop as a whole, I want to emulate Veal in my profile of prominent artists in political hip hop.



Immortal Technique: ‘I’m seen as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop’. (2012, October               25). Europe Intelligence Wire. Retrieved from


While this is not a scholarly reviewed article, this article is still pertinent to the topic of politics in hip hop. The subject, a multi-racial rapper Immortal Technique is an activist and a revolutionist. He is not signed to a major record company, and his songs are full of politically charged content. This rapper is a perfect example of the political component of the hip hop culture. Through an analysis of this biographical text will help build a broader profile of the political undertones in hip hop.



Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Team With You Can Play Against Homophobia. (2013, February 27). PR             Newswire. Retrieved from                               w=w

This article looks at the contemporary musician Macklemore and his efforts to enact change in the political sphere of America. Similar to Immortal Technique, Macklemore is also unsigned. Although his specific political message is in many ways different from that of Immortal Techniques, at least his views on the record industry and the role it plays in musical composition are in line with that of Immortal Techniques. These two artists operate in a strange middle ground, with their music popular enough to be well known across large geographical areas without the encroachment of record labels into their art form. This affords them immense flexibility and influence over at lease hip hop subculture and arguably the broader culture of America.


*Malone, C., & Martinez, G. (2010). The Organic Globalizer: The Political Development of Hip-Hop and the Prospects for Global Transformation. New Political Science, 32(4), 531-545. doi:10.1080/07393148.2010.520439

This article is a detailed analysis of hip hop as a whole to provide my project with a contextual background and reference source. It is a peer reviewed scholarly source that will be able to provide me with any information I need during my research of politics in hip hop.


*Sanford, K. L. (2011). Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur. Journal                                of Black Studies, 42(1), 3-22.

doi: 10.1177/0021934709355122


This peer reviewed source is the third source to feature an individual as the subject. These three individuals will serve as reference points to certain forms of political hip hop as well as different time periods of the culture as a whole. There is a distinct chronological evolution of Hip Hop that it is necessary to understand before analyzing the political aspect of that evolution. An analysis of Tupac, Immortal Technique, and Macklemore as individuals will help to give a theme to the overall analysis of the sound community that is political hip hop artists.

*Stapleton, K. R. (1998). From the margins to mainstream: the political power of hip-hop. Media Culture & Society, 20(2), 219-234.

doi: 10.1177/016344398020002004


In this article, the author outlines the political power of the culture of hip hop as a whole, an important consideration in the examination of the culture of hip hop concerned with politics. These two topics are closely intertwined and spoken about and pointed to by many artists including some of the above mentioned.


*peer reviewed



Language & Identity

The use of language in many countries is not merely a personal custom, but a political statement. In Turkey, the government purged the Turkish language of Arabic and Persian elements in the 1920s and 30s. This language program supported the nationalistic and secular philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1950 with the election of a new government party, the adhan (Turkish: ezan) reverted back to being preformed in Arabic, which signaled an increasing political connection to the Arab world and conservative Islam. Though Turkey remains a secular nation, an anti-Kemalist faction has risen in recent years in tandem with economic downturns. The use of the Turkish language in any form is closely tied with nationalistic sentiment, and the language of the adhan is a political marker for the political atmosphere.

Language has long been a source of national identity. In the Indian subcontinent, for example, the languages Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible but classified distinctly based on the religion of the speaker: whether or not someone claims to speak Hindi or Urdu shows a kind of political and religious affiliation. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, whose honorary title means ‘father of the Turks’, recognized this political component of language. The language of the Ottoman Empire was a mixture of Turkish, Arabic, and Persian words for the elite classes of society, while the lower classes used dialectal forms of Turkish. Atatürk saw the Arabic and Persian words as foreign: something that contaminated the more desirable Pure Turkish (öz Türkçe). In order to purify the language from these undesirable influences, Atatürk appointed a team of scholars to replace the foreign words with new Turkish words, some of which were artificially created. The use of these new words was mandated by the government, to the extreme that newspapers printed sections explaining the new words used in their articles. The teaching of Arabic in school was stopped, and the youth absorbed this new language. Atatürk instituted these reforms to unite the people under a common language, and build a nationalistic pride in the new, secular, and modernizing Turkish state.

A more controversial move was the decree that the call to prayer would be done in Turkish. Traditionally, the adhan had been done in Arabic, as that is the language of the Qur’an. This change signified the most dramatic language oriented reform, because it trespassed into the religious sphere. This idea lay at the heart of Atatürk’s secularism: while Islam was an integral part of national identity, it was subservient to the State. Atatürk also abolished the traditional Caliphate, and made clear that Sharia would not be the law of the land. While Islam was deeply intertwined with the government and the citizens, Atatürk’s vision of modernization placed it in a sphere beneath—crucially, not synonymous with—the national government. This idea is what Atatürk meant by secularism. The forced elevation of the Turkish language by the government in such a religious important context signified a break from the rest of the Arab world and a strengthening of ties with the West. Significantly, Atatürk eliminated the Arab script, proclaiming it insufficient for the sounds of the Turkish language, and replaced it with an expanded version of the Latin script. Atatürk associated the Arabic and the Persian cultures as part of a failed Ottoman past, and pushed for modern advancements, which he associated with the Global West.

The adhan would not remain in Turkish, however: the Kemalist ideal lost ground to traditional Islamic practices and the Arabic version reappeared nationwide in 1950. This shift of a more conservative government signified a shift in attitudes and realignment with the Arab world. In the modern day, there are still power struggles over language in Turkey, frequently involving the sizeable Kurdish minority. Some Kurdish Muslims have requested to preform the adhan in Kurdish, but this request has been denied. The idea of preforming the call to prayer in a language other than Arabic is criticized as being divisive, as all Muslims can understand the Arabic version while other languages would exclude non-speakers. The use of Arabic in this fashion is seen as a connection to the entire Arab world—a way to unite all Muslims uniformly, and thus the use of language is a political statement.

The linguistic state of the performance of the adhan is a marker for the political sentiment of the Turkish country. The politics of language are complex and often abstract, but illustrate very real conditions and philosophies in the countries affected. The interplay between government and religion in Turkey is complicated and multifaceted, as is that relationship in many other nominally secular nations; the back-and-forth between Islam and the State is perhaps most succinctly shown in language policies. This dynamic interplay is both extremely personal and has international ramifications politically as Turkey marches forward as an example of successful modernization in the Muslim world.

Annotated Bibliography

Language Policy and Official Ideology in Early Republican Turkey. Yilmaz Çolak. Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 40, No. 6 (Nov., 2004), pp. 67-91. Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

The author shows how language worked as a political force in the 1920s and ‘30s in Turkey. The Kemalist approach to language purity (öz Türkçe) to define national identity embraced Western modernizations and shunned Arabic and Persian influences. The enforcement of pure Turkish illustrated the commitment to secularism and nationalism, which was promised to bring Turkey back to its rightful place of glory after years of struggle in the old Ottoman Empire. The new, pure language was meant to unite the Turkish people in an egalitarian way and foster a strong national identity. 

Muhammad Iqbāl and Atatürk’s Reforms. Fazlur Rahman. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1984), pp. 157-162. Published by: The University of Chicago Press.

With Turkey’s independence from the Arab world, a distinct kind of Islam arose. With Atatürk’s policies of nationalistic secularism, the Caliphate was abolished in Turkey, distinguishing it from the rest of the Muslim world. The Turkish language policies removed Arabic from being taught in schools and the students were forced to learn the new national language. The reforms sought to liberate Turkey from the past and distance the new nation from the Ottoman Empire.

Islam and Ideology: Towards a Typology. William E. Shepard. International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Aug., 1987), pp. 307-335. Published by: Cambridge University Press.

This paper shows Turkey’s elevation of the nation-state over religion. While Islam is an essential part of the national identity, it is subordinate to the entity of the Turkish nation itself, and this is what is meant by secularism. The removal of Islam as a national religion from its constitution in 1928 illustrates this secularism. The use of Turkish as an official language and the replacement of Arabic influences, even replacing the adhan, traditionally recited in Arabic, with a Turkish substitution, shows this superiority of state and binding national identity over religious tradition.

Nationalism and the Rise of Muslim Sentiment in Turkey. Jeremy Salt. Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 13-27. Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

Salt illustrates how the fluctuation of political Islam has affected government policies. The 1950 revocation of the Turkish ezan and replacement with the Arabic adhan shows an increase in conservative policies in the government. These policies seek to align Turkey with the rest of the Arab world, and are thus political in nature. The linguistic alteration came with a small series of other reforms that show Islam’s increasing relevance to governmental politics.

Turkey’s Religious Affairs Authority Criticizes Recitation of Adhan in Kurdish. Today’s Zaman. N.p., 7 June 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2013. .

This newspaper article illustrates the contemporary conflict between Turkish and Kurdish factions in Turkey. The Kurdish factions wish to be able to recite the call to prayer in their own language, while the Turkish government insists that it be done in the traditional Arabic. This article shows that the battle over linguistic dominance is ongoing.