Poverty

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Grant, Catherine
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Sturman, Janet

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2019
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Abstract

The relationship between music and poverty is multifaceted. Musicians of certain genres or styles have long been associated with poverty, and in some societies, the very occupation of ‘musician’ is linked with low socioeconomic status. On the other hand, music can directly or indirectly alleviate poverty, for example by building skills that enable people to secure employment (as musicians or in other fields). By driving social and political agendas, music can also be a powerful tool in advocacy and activism against poverty. Approaches to addressing poverty through music are diverse. They include strategies that empower and give voice to people living in poverty; that aim to break down the social exclusion and marginalization that often accompany poverty; and that build skills and capacity which enable individuals and communities to generate income or otherwise improve their wellbeing. Partly propelled by the international focus placed on the United Nations’ post-2015 sustainable development agenda, governments, policy-makers and others working at the intersection of music, culture, and society have lately focused attention on ways in which music and the arts may address human rights concerns, including poverty eradication. Until relatively recently, studies on the interconnection between music and poverty have been ad hoc. Recent research has generated stronger theoretical foundations for understanding the link. Site-specific ethnomusicological studies, such as those by Samuel Araújo on poverty and social participation in Rio De Janiero (Brazil), James Burns on the socioeconomic challenges confronting Ewe musicians in Ghana, and Klisala Harrison on urban poverty in Canada, underscore and help unravel the complexities of poverty (and music) in specific contexts. The 2013 Yearbook of the International Council for Traditional Music, themed “Music and Poverty”, represented a significant advance in theoretical and applied scholarship on the issue.

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SAGE Encyclopaedia of Music and Culture

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Musicology and ethnomusicology

Music

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Grant, C, Poverty, SAGE Encyclopaedia of Music and Culture, 2019, pp. 1735-1738

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