Music for the environment

Written by
Dr Ayub Macharia

Music has been with us since time immemorial. Indeed, music is regarded as food for the soul. Both elderly and young people are actively involved in Music development and performance. Most functions where people gather is spiced up with music, and people may participate actively through dancing physically or just listen to the lyrics.
Music is a strong tool for promoting public participation in socioeconomic development and environmental management. Music provide opportunities for people to express their ideas and views about the environment, examine and interpret the environment from an aesthetic perspective. This makes them to become aware of and curious about the environment and acts as motivation to participate actively in resolving environmental problems.
Music is rich in communicative power for environmental messages to billions of people worldwide irrespective of race, religion, income, gender or age. It can assist people in learning many things such as the alphabet, grammar, learning about environmental processes such as natural cycles, ecosystems and environmental changes by examining songs of different ages. Music can be used to help people learn about pollution and recycling through making musical instruments using waste paper, cans and glass. People also express their feelings about various developments in the environment and their future environmental aspirations using music.
Music presents an opportunity to analyse phenomena and represents analytical documents through information provided in lyrics. The lyrics have the potential to be used as a source of geographic and historical evidence.
Music can help in popularising environmental information. The people are involved in writing music on many aspects of the environment as perceived by different cultures. People can also explore songs related to the environment that are still in use or were used by the community and this gives environmental education using Music an interesting historical approach. The prescribed activities look open and can accommodate a variety of ideas depending on learner and educator ingenuity.
Despite its worthiness, music also has negative effects on the environment in terms of being a consumer of rare timbers, a source of pollution (noise) and a weapon of psychological warfare. Forests of indigenous and exotic hardwoods are unable to keep up with the ever-growing demand for this type of wood and the illegal trade of these materials associated with increased demand and supply gap. In this regard, all efforts should be made to minimize these negative aspects of music.
To harness the power of Music in communicating environmental issues, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA – Kenya) has partnered with the National Music Festival of the Ministry of Education to promote development and performance of music with environmental messages. This partnership has now run for two years (2015 and 2016) and learners from basic and tertiary institutions have competed at school, sub-county, county and national level. NEMA sponsors the environmental category and for the last two years have been running a theme on waste management.
NEMA is keen to continue sponsoring this initiative in the coming years since we still have many environmental challenges affecting our country which need to be communicated to Kenyans innovatively.
So far several achievements have been made including the following
1. Composition and performance of music with environmental messages at every corner of Kenya where schools are located.
2. Increased levels of awareness on waste management issues
3. The award winning music pieces have been performed to high level leaders including H.E The President of Kenya and this is high level lobbying for attention on environmental issues.
We hope that the quality of songs with environmental messages will be up scaled and form part of Kenya’s best music hits by our celebrities. The ultimate climax is to have music influencing all of us to participate in delivering and safeguarding a clean and healthy environment as enshrined in Article 42 of the Kenyan Constitution.

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