Gandhi and Punk Rock

Were Gandhi alive today, would he be interested in punk rock? Perhaps the music itself would repel him; it isn’t very much like traditional Indian music, and its intensity is not for everyone. However, he would probably be interested by the ideologies put forth by some punk bands. Bands like Minor Threat and Youth of Today sang about being “straight edge”, or forgoing drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex in favor of living a “clean” life. In songs like “Bottled Violence”, Minor Threat speaks of the negative impact of alcohol and violence, which is something shockingly similar to what Gandhi preached. In a different vein, bands such as Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys in California practiced civil disobedience in singing songs against police brutality and the establishment in general. Black Flag was infamous for spray painting their famous bars logo all over the Los Angeles area during the 1980s. These acts of breaking the law without harming anyone are similar to the salt march, which broke a law but was otherwise peaceful. Black Flag and Gandhi were also both aggressive marketers, spreading their name through news sources. Many punk bands were hated by the police, just like Gandhi. Punk bands in the 80s had a D.I.Y. ethic, such as Gandhi’s famous spinning campaign. Gandhi’s influence is not just in political places. A man as great as him can’t help but influence people outside of his work.

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4 Responses to Gandhi and Punk Rock

  1. Lisa Goldsman says:

    Carrigan, this is a really interesting point. The songs you mentioned have a shocking similar message to Ghandi’s protests. Although the messages come across similar, as the punk music and Ghandi both preach non-violence and no drugs and alcohol, I think the tone in which the messages from punk music are portrayed come off as violent. The minor threat song you mentioned has a lot of screaming, which normally signifies violence. But, the message is still very alike to Ghandi’s. It is really interesting to see how Ghandi’s messages could be translated into modern songs, even with a variety of style selection like punk rock. Personally, I think he would like the punk rock music genre.

  2. Josh Chery says:

    Perhaps Gandhi’s interests in music wouldn’t just stop at punk rock because there are musical artists in the hip-hop industry that advocate for change, and speak stories of change attempting to provide a better outlook on current modern day society. I would like to believe that he enjoyed songs that pronounced positivity in society, but we’ll never know what could have possibly been on Gandhi’s iPod unfortunately.

  3. Drew says:

    I really like this connection! Based upon your explanation of the Punk genre, I think that Gandhi probably would condone, or even encourage this Punk. The similar theme of nonviolent protesting would connect the two entities and would make them work well together. I believe the only point at which Gandhi would be ashamed of Punk would be when it gets to be violent. I think then he would condemn it, just as he did his own followers who resorted to violent means of rebellion.

    I think the image of Gandhi jamming to Punk is hilarious and ironic because of his ever-calm nature, but I think it might have been possible if it were around in his time.

  4. Madison says:

    As you mentioned in your final sentences, “Gandhi’s influence is not just in political places. A man as great as him can’t help but influence people outside of his work.” It is quite admirable that Gandhi made such a huge impact on people in all realms of society, as his philosophy and teachings are prevalent in music and literature. I feel that your point, that a great leader’s influence extends beyond their specific field, is not limited to Gandhi. Albert Einstein had a huge impact on the world outside of the area of physics. Among other things, he was greatly influential in politics. Einstein advocated for the creation of Israel, and used his celebrity and influence to help make that happen. He even used his influence to fight for civil rights in the United States and campaigned for the end of nuclear warfare.

    See more here on Einstein:

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