(How) Can Music Still Change The World Today?

WOMEX – the World Music Expo – took place for the first time in 1994 and has developed into one of the largest conferences in the global music scene. As music moves not only analogically but also digitally, WOMEX is for the first time a partner of the re: publica and will accompany us in the re: connecting Europe to Dublin and Thessaloniki. Here, you will learn about the role music plays in the digital age.

The concept of “changing the world through music” may be as old as music itself (historically, music is often believed to be a craft of cosmic influence). The modern form of this idea is mostly associated with popular music – think Chuck Berry and later Elvis Presley, both social revolutionaries for the young in their time. The next thing that comes to mind is the Summer of Love, 1967, followed by the Woodstock festival, or you could think of the mods, punk rock and other subcultures defined by music, leading up to some of the more recent and global phenomena such as hip hop and techno. Music was larger than life in the 20th century. And it definitely was perceived as a factor for social and political change.

Today though, it seems as if music is not at the forefront of social revolution anymore. A new music subculture is hardly considered a real movement anymore, at least not in Western societies. In times of Trump and terrorism, with war and humanitarian crisis seemingly more present than ever, you can wonder whether music still has that past momentum. Can music still change the world?

But what is change anyway?

If you boil down what most people actually mean when they hear or say “change through music”, we think one can safely claim that a serious social issue needs to be tackled using both words and music. Plus, for actual change to occur, a clear and direct impact needs to be conceivable. Something new needs to happen. Personally, I would go as far as saying that neither honourable charity concerts (where music functions solely as a replaceable vehicle) are actual “change through music”, nor are concerts and music events happening solely within a one-sided musical taste bubble. Those can be wonderful and very self-assuring for a certain scene, but – let’s not fool ourselves – this is often ‘preaching to the converted’ for the large part.

So in short, what we are looking for are examples where music doesn’t just support, but where it literally causes a change, be it on a small scale or globally.

And our answer is: Yes! Music can, and does, change the world and we would like to show you how and where.

In the multimedia story linked below, we outline some concrete examples from our daily work at Piranha Arts as well as from our worldwide network of friends and partners. You’ll discover the music of stage heroines such as the Senegalese rapper Sista Fa working against genital mutilation, the work of NGOs who use the creativity of music to provide clean water in third world countries. We will show you PR stunts that really work and community festivals that are absolute bubble antidotes…

We focus especially on examples that initiate a change towards more diversity, since diversity is a future key topic for re:publica, and has been our aim at Piranha Arts for what are now three decades of border-crossing musical projects.

Explore our pageflow story: Can Music Still Change The World?
- A multimedia story of Piranha Arts (WOMEX) for re:publica conference -


Paul Bräuer, Director of Communications Piranha Arts

We are partnering with re:publica on projects in Thessaloniki as well on mutual conference contents. Piranha Arts is the producer of WOMEX, of Berlin's Karneval der Kulturen, global music label and publisher, an event agency and more...

Save the date for WOMEX 2017 from October 25 to 29 in Katowice, Poland.

Photo Credit: Piranha Arts / Jacob Crawfurd