Posts in the Music and Ethics: Blog Dilemmas series
This is another in the series of posts I asked my Music and Ethics students to consider and comment on. Thought I’d toss it out to the wolves here as well:
Ayana and the Sacred Song
Ayana grew up the daughter of an international trade lawyer, and is an accomplished singer. Ayana moved around the world with her parents when she was young, and along the way learned several songs that were indigenous to the cultures she was living in. One particular song she remembered from a year spent in Australia, called YALKERI MURA MURA.
As her professional career advanced, Ayana often sang solo concerts, and used an arrangement of YALKERI MURA MURA as her encore. The melody was haunting and beautiful; people frequently approached her afterward and commented on how moving that particular song had been.
After one concert, Ayana is approached by a young Aboriginal Australian man, who confronts Ayana over her use of the song YALKERI MURA MURA. The young man informs Ayana that the song is a “naming song”, used by an artist when he creates a churinga, a sacred stone painting. The soul of the artist is imparted to the painting, and both the churinga and the song are considered sacred. The song is only to be sung while creating the churinga, and afterward only when handling it.
The young man tells Ayana that it would be considered highly offensive, even sacrilegious, among Aboriginal Australians to hear the song used to entertain listeners in a concert, instead of its intended ceremonial use. He asks Ayana to stop using YALKERI MURA MURA in her concerts.
What should Ayana do? Does the original cultural setting of the song have any moral weight in how she ought to use it?
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