Political possibilities of Sound and Music

Seeing and hearing come before words. We, as children, hear, see, and recognize before we begin to speak. It is seeing and hearing that makes us sense our place in the surrounding world. Hearing and seeing are, therefore, already political. Words are important semantic sounds, but our experience of the world goes beyond words. Often, what we see and hear and what we know are not congruent. When we see the sun set, we know that the earth is moving from the sun. But what we see and know is not really what we see. The same is true about what we hear and what we know.

Ulhas Buyao

This means we have to ask: What makes sound and music political? Can the sound effect change? Can sound be a form of resistance ? In Goa during the Konkani Movement, the sound of ‘ Goychea mhojea Goykara’ sung by Ulhas Buyao used to directly speak to our hearts during the Konkani movement. Some recall how the heat stirring verses of Manohar Sardessai poems like Zaiat Zage and 18 Jun, when recited, still move them to a sense of patriotism. Of course, there are limits to the potentiality of sonic agency. Sound therefore, to a large extent, resonates with the social movements of emancipation. Sound can also marginalize and demotivate people. Sound does enable us to imagine a sonic tomorrow of hope. This is why it is important that we study anthropology, sociology, and the politics of sound.

Manohar Rai Sardesai

Sound in Goa is put to silence by several causes. One of the obvious causes is the law that invites us to stop all loud music after ten. But it is not right to blame the law. The law is on the side of everyone, especially the sick and the old. There are other reasons why we can hear the sound of silence in Goa. Sound in Goa, especially one that accompanies the traditional S T community’s dance, appears to be looked down on, if not crassly humiliated, and exists only in its commercialized avatar in the tourism industry. Though, one can see that the government in Goa has built established Kala Mandirs , some voices in Goa are not getting opportunities to add their sounds to our contemporary archive. This may be because academic studies of the politics of sound are missing in Goa.

Perhaps the Goa sound has a caste and religious colour. It is visible . We can see this sound . We only have one school of western music that is located in the Kala Academy in Panjim. Thus, the geographies of sound renders its politics visible. It challenges us to an ethics of the inaudible. We have the challenge to open our ethical ears to the sonorous inaudible that often remains unthought and sometimes deliberately silenced. This is why we have to articulate the silent sounds so that the sonic archive of Goa is never impoverished. Our articulation then has to produce texts that generate a phonographic field that opens us to the inaudible and that which is rendered inaudible by us.

Sound is indeed political. It defines our belonging. It can also humiliate us and alienate us. We are constantly immersed in sounds. They move us into action as well as freeze us into inaction. The depth of sounds engages us in the simultaneity of the unseen. This is the experience that provokes us. We either belong to the sound that we are immersed in or we feel invalidated by it. Sound, thus, without our knowing, produces lines of politics of identity. This is why we have to critically discern the politics of sounds and ride only those that are animating, life giving, validating, as well as emancipating.

We have to find our critical voice and let all Goan sounds find their voices too. This means the depth of sounds that we can descend should enable us to enter a formless sonorous state so that we can find the lost Goan sounds and give them voice in a non-hierarchical mode. This means we have to be ready to be surprised by sounds that we are not looking for at the moment. The sounds that remain hidden and marginalized may disrupt us. The politics of sound, thus, have this startling side. We have to therefore, introspect our resistance, which is the reality of our openness. The careful introspection will certainly expand our openness. Otherwise, we will remain closed and close ourselves to several sounds that are silenced in our society. Let us embrace the whole Goan sonic archive.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao