Popular music has always been a central feature of culture and daily life in Asia. That continent as vast and diverse as it is has witnessed a multiplicity of civic and social manifestations for many kinds of different reasons.
Asian history is old and intricate and most recently full of domestic and international conflicts ranging from disputes provoke by the colonial era to military intervention and self-proclamation of authoritarian regimes.
Particularly intense in the proliferation of popular mobilizations were the 60s, 70s, and 80s when the world as a whole and nations individually were still reconfiguring and reforming many of its international and national institutions, political systems, and social fabrics and dynamics.
In India for example, music played an important role as a means to protest against the British rule and colonization of that country. Songs like Vande Mataram by Hemant Kumar were considered at a time an anthem against the colonial powers and during the Freedom Movement, the Bengali poem/song was used to rally anti-English feelings and contribute to the other forms of protest happening in the country.
Another great but less known example of how music played an active role in the destiny of a country is the Little southeast Asian island of East Timor. When the Portuguese withdrew from East Timor in 1975, the colony was quickly invaded and annexed the following year by Indonesia. In its 24-years of struggle under Indonesian rule, the East Timore people used music as a powerful force to express their anger, anguish, and support for separatists hiding in the jungles and the mountains.
Music bands such as Cinco de Oriente became musical héroes within the resistance movement of that country.
Most recently, we have seen the protagonism of music in the political protests in Hong Kong, during the 2014 pro-democracy movement consisted predominantly of high school and college students, who were participating in street demonstrations for the first time.
Demonstrations there came back in 2018 and now we all can witness how songs inspired by politics can help spread a message or simply vent rage. The current situation was sparked by the now-scrapped extradition bill and have used music in a way that shows the unity of protesters.
While protesters were quick to adapt and repurpose existing anthems such as the 1970s Hong Kong classic Below the Lion Rock, a number of local bands have been composing original songs and recording music videos (like One Voice HK) that express their feelings about the unrest.
Music of sociopolitical commentary, criticism, and protest has played an important role in the popular culture of many developing societies over the past several decades, and Asia and Southeast Asia are no exception.
This, of course, happened in part due to the broader process by which the mass media expanded in reach and complexity over the past half-century.
But despite the contributions of media and technology, music has always been part of all people's way of expression and many are the recorded and no recorded contributions of music in the political, social, and cultural destinies of many nations.
Once more, by looking just at very few examples in Asia one can see how in times of hardship, music is a binding and uplifting force.