A reader send me this great blog featuring lyrics and videos of songs about Barack Obama created by musicians with roots around the world—Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean and beyond.
Some of these artists vote in the U.S., some cannot. Why do musicians beyond our own borders care so much about one of the candidates in our presidential primary? Much of the music seems to express a complicated feeling: a critique of U.S. policies, to be sure, and the fervent hope that President Obama will be able to correct them. But these songs also express something quite sweet and touching, the hope from within and outside our borders that the United States will re-enter the world family on a different basis, the desire to look with pleasure (rather than fear, shock and awe) toward this nation and those who symbolize it.
My favorite video in World Music Obamarama is from India, sent by another friend. All my googling has not turned up an English version of the lyrics, so I have only the vaguest idea of what it actually says. (If any of you can enlighten me, please do.) What I love about it, besides the infectious music, is the way Obama himself has been drafted into Bollywood as a performer. Nearly everyone, it seems, wants to declare a feeling of connection to the candidate.
Some of my friends are super-wary of charisma. Every time I launch another paean to Obama, they warn me that one man can do only so much, that I am inflating his capabilities, falling for the hype. But honestly, I’m not. Obama, as they say, puts on his pants one leg at a time. I am sure that as an individual he comes with the full complement of character flaws and weaknesses, as do we all. I am sure he will take actions I oppose (but not nearly so many as the other candidates). I see that there are plenty of reasons to mistrust personal charisma, which like the rain falls equally on all, the demagogue as well as the deliverer.
But what these friends may underestimate is the powerful way that one individual can be a galvanizing symbol for many, inspiring them to dig deep for their own qualities of ethical leadership, their own hope grounded in reality. Around the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, many people told the story of the sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis—how Dr. King was tired on the evening that workers rallied at the Mason Temple, how he stayed home until colleagues urged him to speak because it would mean so much to the workers. Around the world, in shanties and schoolrooms, you see pictures of Martin Luther King. The people who posted them are inspired by the fact that one ordinary human being could stand so courageously for justice and love. And now the image of Barack Obama is coming to stand for the redemption of the United States, a nation of enormous potential, wasted for so long. I can’t find anything wrong with that.
If you’re interested to hear more, here’s another piece about Obama’s music, with links at the bottom to clips.