1968 in Europe, the making of musical identities
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As said on our introduction page we define European pop music (or europopmusic) by the unique social-cultural elements present in each European country. Language is the main focus but sometimes these elements can also be found in the instruments or arrangements that are being used. In describing the individual music scenes we also found that the political situations in a country were often of influence on the development of a musical identity. Like a match held to a can of gasoline. Especially one year seems to form a turning point, even a starting point for many countries to develop a local pop/rock scène. It was a year that Europe burned with riots and student protests. That year was 1968.

In a series of articles to come we’d like to investigate the hypothesis that the events that happened around 1968 were crucial for the making of individual musical identities. A big help for this series is the book ‘1968 in Europe - A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-77’ by Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth that gives a good retrospective on the political situations in the individual countries. 1968 saw protest movements in Prague, Paris, Berlin, Rome and many other places across Europe transgressing the ideological fronts of the Cold War. This “magical year” can be viewed as the climax of various developments that had been set in motion by the immense speed of the social and economic transformations after the Second World War: demographic changes and dramatic increase in university enrollment, a globalization of communication channels, an unprecedented economic prosperity that brought the arrival of consumer society, and a generational gap expressed in differing expectations and hopes for the future.

On the rise of pop culture Klimke / Scharloth say the following: “The rise of alternative lifestyles and countercultures as additional forms of dissent was another truly transnational aspect of the protest movements in the late 1960s and 1970s. A global popular culture, inspired by new aesthetics emerging in art, music, film, architecture, graphic design, and fashion, joined with hippie ideologies and lifestyles and melted into a set of symbolic forms, which became an infinite resource of mobilization in both the East and the West… The synaesthetic nature of rock music served as the colorful display and global transmitter of these new symbolic forms of living and communication.” This seems to underline our idea of the importance of the events of 1968 on the initiation of local popmusic.

However, the paragraph about musical culture focuses on the Anglo-American aspect of the musical spectrum. Although the influence of the Anglo-American pop culture is vital in terms of forming the initial spark it is what each individual country did with it that makes the difference. Singing in the native tongue became a form of protest in itself in several countries. Sometimes because the use of local culture / language wasn’t openly supported (like in most former USSR countries) or discriminated upon (like in Belgium). Sometimes because the knowledge of the English language was limited and protest songs were made in the local language to have more impact (France). Or sometimes because of “the concerts by the Rolling Stones or Jimmie Hendrix that ended in outbreaks of violence” that international acts had difficulty being booked to perform, fuelling a local rockscene (Italy). Even under the dictatorial regimes of Spain, Greece and Portugal musical artist sought of a way to seek the edges of the allowed folk-music and see if they could mix it with popular music. Also here the music may have been traditional, the use of words wasn’t.

The coming articles we are going to focus on the individual countries, look at what happened in the local music scène and also look at localized protest singers and songs. And in doing so laying the foundations of a each individual local identity adding to the diversity which is Europopmusic nowadays.


The book "1968 in Europe - A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-77" by Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth was released in the Palgrave Series in Transnational History
$28.95 / £16.99 Paperback (0-230-60620-2)
$74.95 / £42.50 Hardcover (0-230-60619-9)
Also look on www.1968ineurope.com











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1968 in Hunagry