The conditions of an oppressed group’s lived experience are directly connected to the kind of resistance songs that the members of that group will produce. For example, “La Marseillaise” became the anthem of French revolutionaries in the late eighteenth century at about the same time as revolutionary Haitian slaves were gathering in the hills above Port-au-Prince to play their instruments and invoke the spirits of their ancestors.
Music in itself is of little direct political value to progressive forces. It organizes no one. It is poor defense against bullets and truncheons.
However, it does affect what people talk about. What’s your favourite anti-war protest song? Anthemic songs (like Ralph Chaplin’s “Solidarity Forever,” or “Red River Valley” during the Spanish Civil War) can help activists remember that we started out to drain the swamp. Even celebrity can have momentary political value, as the vocal responses of Celine Dion and Kanye West to the recent neglect of New Orleans testify. At the very least, the content of popular music is a weather vane of social concern and the state of ideological hegemony.