Minstrels and messengers : narrative, song and the power of persuasion

Document Type


Publication details

Conway-Herron, J & Carriage, L 2003, 'Minstrels and messengers : narrative, song and the power of persuasion', paper presented to Local and global voices : Activating Human Rights and Diversity Conference, Byron Bay, NSW, 1-4 July.


In this paper we will look at the place of song in culture and the way narrative in song has been used to express the plights of oppressed people the world over and give voice to their stories. The power of song has been used throughout history to educate and bring about change. The earliest minstrels used their song writing craft to spread the news of particular local situations while contemporary singer/songwriters write and sing about global as well as local events from a world stage. Songs have been a way to spread the news of particular events, to rally people and also simply to express the sadness and horror of these situations. Through performance, recordings and discussion we will show the way in which the threads of song, narrative and culture have intertwined historically as a way of giving voice to the unspoken, often forbidden stories of human suffering and been used as a vehicle for their expression the world over. Through the narratives in these songs we will show how various songwriters have left a legacy of musical history throughout the world and have called for agency and action in regards to human rights.