Revolutionary song


Revolutionary songs are political songs that advocate or praise revolutions. They are used to boost morale, as well as for political propaganda or agitation. Amongst the most well-known revolutionary songs are "La Marseillaise" and "The Internationale". Many protest songs can be considered revolutionary - or later become canonized as revolutionary songs following a successful revolution. On the other hand, once a revolution is established, some of the aspects of protest song may be considered counter-revolutionary.

Revolutionary songs are a notable part of propaganda. The singing of such songs is often considered as a demonstrative or revolutionary action. Such songs have been known to lend solidarity to disjointed political communities. Some revolutionary songs have appeared spontaneously; others have been written by notable authors, such as Bertolt Brecht. Revolutionary songs are frequently targeted at certain governments.

By country

Music was part of the cultural support of the earliest revolutions, and institutionalized as a genre of socialist or workers' music in countries including the Soviet Union, its former Eastern European satellites, China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea, as well as less permanent revolutionary movements in other countries.

French Revolution

During the French Revolution notable songs, beyond La Marseillaise, included Chant du départ, Carmagnole, Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira (1790), Allons Français au Champs de Mars (1790), L'aristocratie en déroute (1790), Aux bons citoyens (1790), Le bonnet de la liberté, and many more.

American Revolution

Songs during the American Revolutionary War with revolutionary lyrics and propaganda purposes include songs such as "Dying Redcoat", "Free America", "Poor Old Tory", and "Jefferson and Liberty".

Greek Revolution

The successful Greek War of Independence between 1821 and 1832, generated not only revolutionary songs in Greece, but wide artistic and musical support from other western nations.

Revolutions of 1848

The Revolutions of 1848 in Europe generated a wide range of revolutionary, nationalist and patriotic popular song. This tapped into earlier support for the Napoleonic revolutions.[1][2][3] The current Romanian national anthem "Deșteaptă-te, române!" is a revolutionary song of 1848.[4]

Russian Revolution

Spanish Civil War

Many revolutionary songs appeared during the Spanish Civil War and subsequent social revolution, especially amongst members of the anarcho-syndicalist trade union, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). The most famous of these, "A Las Barricadas", remains popular for anarchist militants to this day.


In post-World War II Europe, revolutionary songs were taught in schools and sung at celebrations and official functions.[5]


Revolutionary songs were a prominent part of the popular culture of the People's Republic of China during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, and especially during the Cultural Revolution. One of the more popular Chinese revolutionary songs was "Nanniwan", a 1943 song lauding the exploits of the Eighth Route Army in the titular gorge in Shaanxi province near the revolutionary base of Yan'an. Revolutionary songs of Communist China often served to glorify the 1949 revolution and to present an image of unity amongst China's 56 ethnic groups and its various regions. Songs such as "The Sky Above the Liberated Zone" (praising the Communist Party of China and romanticizing life in the CCP-held liberated zones during the wars against Japan and the Kuomintang) and "Osmanthus Flowers Blooming Everywhere in August", a Red Army folk song from the Sichuan province, are among the best-known revolutionary songs from the wartime and Maoist periods in China.

North Korea


Nhạc đỏ, "Red Music," is the common name of the revolutionary music (nhạc cách mạng) genre in Vietnam.[6] Composers during the struggle against the French include Đinh Nhu[7] then songwriters of Vietnamese popular music such as Văn Cao.

Cuba and Latin America

Cuba's national anthem "La Bayamesa (El Himno de Bayamo)" dates to 1868, but many new songs were generated by the revolution. The key focus is on the rural people.[8] "Hasta siempre" (1965) was written when Che Guevara departed Cuba to spread the revolution in Africa. Another well known Latin American song, "El pueblo unido jamás será vencido" (1973), is not a revolutionary song, but a Chilean protest song in support of Salvador Allende. Cuban government sponsored revolutionary Nueva trova is often similar to Nueva canción, Latin American protest songs.

Iranian revolution

Following the Iranian revolution musicians were obliged to create music different from the pre-revolutionary music both in terms of rhythm and content.[9] Iranian revolutionary songs (Persian: سرودهای انقلاب اسلامی‎) are epic ballads, composed during the Islamic Revolution in Iran in support of the revolution and in opposition to the Pahlavi dynasty. Before the success of the revolution, these chants were made by various political supporters- many of them recorded on cassette tapes in underground and home studios. On the anniversary of the revolution, many of the songs were broadcast by Iranian state television. In schools the songs have been sung by students as part of the celebrations Fajr for decades.

Musical genres

Some revolutionary songs intentionally mimic folk (children's) songs to make them palatable in non-political settings. An example of this type of song is a lullaby from Hungary (tentative translation follows), which starts off as a lullaby but shifts into more direct propaganda toward the end:

The bunch of little bears happily sleeping
And the pool sleeps on a soft pillow
The swing sleeps too, and the night will be their good blanket
Dream, my little one, soft dream flies
It flies to your eyes
Be silent, little baby
Our dreams were hushed away by the grim despotism
And only our hunger sung our song.

Another example is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me", which is performed by a young man in the movie Cabaret. It starts off as a sweet folk song about nature, and then it becomes apparent that the young man is a member of the Hitlerjugend. Soon the song changes into a marching song, and the lyrics became a fascist propaganda about "rising up."

Another kind of revolutionary songs are folk songs that become popular or change lyrics during revolutions or civil wars. Typical examples, the Mexican song "La Cucaracha" and the Russian song "Yablochko" (Little Apple) have humorous (often darkly humorous) lyrics that come in easily remembered stanzas and vary highly from singer to singer.


The effect of some revolutionary songs has been compared to a coordinated attack, inspiring individuals to merge themselves into a cohesive body.[10]

See also


  1. ^ James H. Billington -Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith - Page 589 1980 "See the anticipation of this idea in the revolutionary song of the 1830s, "The Devil is Dead": J. Puech, "Chants d'il y a cent ans, autour des Saint- Simoniens," La Revolution de 1848, 1933, Mar-Apr-May, 26-9. 122."
  2. ^ Music and German National Identity - Page 68 Celia Applegate, Pamela Maxine Potter - 2002 "Hymnic moments such as this also occur in the IV Marsche, especially in the lyrical, trio-like sections of the second and fourth pieces. The mixture of martial and religious elements in Schumann's "revolutionary" music is a sounding metaphor ..."
  3. ^ The Athenæum: a journal of literature, science, the fine arts Page 214 James Silk Buckingham, John Sterling, Frederick Denison Maurice - 1882 "Portraits of Kossuth and other heroes of the revolution adorn the parliament house ; revolutionary music is played freely everywhere, and the people are, she says, singularly impressionable to music."
  4. ^ Vera Tolz, Stephenie Booth -Nation and gender in contemporary Europe - Page 85 2005 "Some of the new symbols belonged to nineteenth-century nationalist imagery: the 1848 'revolutionary' song "Desteapta-te romane" (Awaken, Romanians) became the national anthem, while the red-yellow-blue banner was reinstated as the ..."
  5. ^ A rebel in music: selected writings - Page 59 Hanns Eisler - 1978 "The most important requisite of revolutionary music is to divide it into music for practical performance: songs of struggle, satirical songs and so on, and music to be listened to: didactic plays, choral montage and choral pieces with a theoretical..."
  6. ^ Alexander Cannon Reorienting the Voices in Nhạc cách mạng: Constructing Identity in Vietnamese Revolutionary Songs.
  7. ^ Asian music: journal of the Society for Asian Music - Volume 35 Page 75 Society for Asian Music 2004 "Dinh Nhu (1910-1945) assumes an important position in the hagiography of Vietnamese revolutionary music. Captured by the French after participating in the Nghệ Tĩnh Soviet uprising in 1930, he organized cultural events in prison including .."
  8. ^ Music and Marx: ideas, practice, politics - Page 216 Karl Marx, Regula Qureshi - 2002 "The key term or trope in the identity discourse of Central American revolutionary music is el pueblo. Inclusive, positive, respectful, empowering and democratic are all inferential in the music's articulation of "the people." "
  9. ^ Sanam Zahir, The music of the children of revolution Page 9 The University of Arizona. Near Eastern Studies - 2008 "Musicians have been obliged to create Iranian music different from the pre-revolutionary music is terms of rhythm and content, resulting in the growth of Iranian music and emergence of different genres and lyrical content unique to ..."
  10. ^ Page 362 1985 "Like the charge played at football games, or a trumpeted cavalry charge, revolutionary music is inspirational. It helps individuals overcome fear and raises their emotions to a higher pitch, so that they may be united with a larger group."