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The Importance of Music in the Resistance to Colonial Ideologies

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The importance of music in the resistance to colonial ideologies can be seen through the way in which music, more specifically Grime, is used as a means of exploring and critiquing citizenship. Marshall defined citizenship as “full membership of a community” which reveals that citizenship is tightly linked to self and collective identity. In recent years, due to growing nationalism within Western liberal democracies, the citizenship of an individual is seen as an individual’s primary identity which should be of the country they are a citizen. This runs into conflict with Black-British identity because many Black-British individuals are first- or second-generation migrants who still identify with their mother countries – thus displaying a multiplicity of identities simultaneously being expressed by an individual. This is expressed through Grime and the concept of citizenship is explored displaying how the discourse within Grime is often reflective of injustices within wider society. In Dave’s song Black he explores citizenship and the fragility of it for Black people when he stated “[Black identity is] representing countries that never even existed, while your grandmother was living” . The fragility of citizenship for Black individuals can be seen through the violent regimes of colonialisms and slavery in which Black people were treated like subject-citizens, as well as more recently seen with the Windrush scandal in which Black individual’s British citizenship is being revoked . This displays that the citizenship of Black people with the UK is fragile – it can be taken and revoked because Black people are not seen as equal and as deserving as their white counterparts due to histories of racism that are still relevant today. Thus, displaying the failure of the legal system for Black people.Rose argued that rap appeals to African oral traditions. This argument can be extended and argue that Grime is appealing to a society before the atrocities of colonialism and, to a great extent, is rejecting citizenship as we know it – it is creating counterfactual history through music.

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One of the limitations of Marshall’s definition is that it doesn’t take into account identity and difference. As seen through Black’s lyrics, Britain is not an isolationist state but part of, and has been part of, wider political units such empire, the Commonwealth and the European Union . This revisionist history of Britain having been an isolationist state has allowed for its white citizens, who are portrayed as ‘truly British’, to question and revoke the citizenship of its ethnic minority citizens as seen through the discourse surrounding Brexit. Thus, the importance of Grime has increased in recent years, especially in conceptualising a sense of identity when what is portrayed as British identity remains violent and dangerously perpetuates that Britain is a homogenous society, or at least should be. 

Thus, Grime helps to expose the concept of citizenship as a colonial ideology because citizenship intentionally excludes – Grime is specifically useful in doing this because those rapping are mostly Black-British and therefore, their identity is tied with former colonies. As argued by Said, the popularity of music could detract from the resistance to colonial ideologies as popular culture panders to Western hegemonic structures. Said’s  argument could therefore be extended to argue that the recent popularity of Grime detracts from its resistance to colonial ideologies, including its critique of citizenship. This essay argues that it is not the popularity of Grime that detracts from its resistance to colonial ideologies as hegemonic structures can be resisted whilst working within them, but instead the marginalisation that occurs through Grime, such as the misogyny and homophobia, detracts from its resistance. It is important not to homogenise Grime and assume that this is present in all of it but it is clear that it is ever present within the genre. It detracts from the critique of citizenship because how can one critique citizenship if within this discourse queer individuals and women, amongst others, are treated as second class citizens? Thus, some contradictions within Grime are revealed. Although, it is important to note that the misogyny and homophobia within Grime is a reflection of wider society, with its pervasive patriarchal values, and citizenship cannot be revoked because of this. The contradictions revealed does detract from the resistance to colonial ideologies but does not detract the basic premise of this resistance, Black liberation. This essay also argues the lack of “full membership” treatment for Black-British citizens, seen through the fragility of Black-British citizenship, feeds into the perception of Grime as deviant, and perhaps explains the misguided debate on Grime allowing for illegal activity. Thus, at a time of “postcolonial melancholia” , citizenship remains contentious, especially for Black-British individuals. Grime aids in resisting colonial ideologies through its critique, and to a great extent, rejection of the colonial ideology of citizenship through the conceptualisation of self and collective identity which allows for national consciousness.

In conclusion, Grime is not simply music but positions itself as a spiritual practice that resists to colonial ideologies. This is done through the conceptualisation of self and collective identity which allows for national consciousness to be created which is a central facet to colonial resistance. Colonial resistance is also carried out through narrative building which creates oppositional culture that allows for knowledge to be created within the Black public sphere and discourse surrounding national consciousness to be fully developed . 

As discussed within the essay, Grime also resists to colonial ideologies through its critique and, to a great extent, its rejection of Western citizenship which acts as a colonial ideology. The importance of music, specifically Grime, cannot be understated – it successfully allows for resistance to hegemonic structures whilst working within them and creates liminal spaces for Black-British individuals to make sense of their identities which are constantly under scrutiny by wider society due to institutional racism and histories of racism that are still relevant today. In order to resist to colonial ideologies, national consciousness is key to Black liberation and this is most effectively carried out by the conceptualisation of self and collective identity. This is because Grime cannot sustain itself to form an oppositional culture without, firstly the conceptualisation of self and collective identity . Whilst, narrative building and the critiquing of citizenship still remains important, they are secondary to the conceptualisation of self and collective identity which allow for the development of oppositional culture. Although, Grime positions itself as a means of colonial resistance through the discourse that occurs within the Black public sphere, it is important to note the marginalisation that occurs for Black women and queer individuals, amongst others, which detracts from its message of colonial resistance for all. However, this does not justify the presentation of Grime as deviant with the media and wider society – Grime still holds great importance in resisting to hegemonic structures and thus resisting to colonial ideologies. Thus, music, specifically Grime, holds great importance in the resistance to colonial ideologies and acts as an important feature of Black-British culture and therefore British culture. 

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