Rock and Roll and Ancient and Modern Religious Festivals: Common Roots or Music of the Gods?

Primal Religion and Rock and Roll

Rock and roll festivals have been a part of many people’s culture for a very long time. Music festivals are often seen as a break from the mundane by people who enjoy that style of music. I have attended several rock festivals and have witnessed many things that are relatable to religious festivals in both primal and modern times. The bands’ performances, how the people act, and the sacred bonding that happens at rock festivals could all be seen as nearly religious experiences. The seemingly secular festivals have many similarities to religious festivals of many cultures.

Music and Religion

Music of any type and festivals seem to go hand in hand. So it seems very natural for bands to be playing at both a rock festival and at religious festivals. Nearly every Christian religious gathering has both a choir and the congregation singing during their services. These band gatherings could be interpreted as a call back to earlier times. Just like with religious festivals, people attend modern rock festivals to become a bit more in touch with their primal ancestors. Those people want to listen to rock as a group as they might have listened to celebration drums around a campfire two thousand years before, and the bands want to bring that experience for them. Many bands will also use pyrotechnics and fire during their shows to excite the people. This is similar to fire altars and bonfires for religious celebration used in ancient times in Hinduism and other religions (Shattuck 23-24).

The Time of Festivals

During festivals, religious or rock and roll, participants want to enjoy their time and maybe learn more about their views of the world. These festivals are a time to gather and reflect on what brought you there. The people who participate in rock and roll festivals are on separate time than what they are in during their normal lives. They may have had to take time off work or find a baby sitter to get away from the kids. It could almost be seen as sacred time. This is very similar to religious festivals in that the time spent during it is sacred and separate from time spent during daily life (Eliade 85). People at rock and roll concerts also participate in many acts that could be seen as primal. One of these acts, the mosh-pit, is a mix of chaos and order, violence and joy. These traits also seem to constantly repeat themselves in many aspects of religion, such as sacrifices, destruction, and the sacred itself (Eliade 29). Many religions have also used intoxication via drugs for spiritual purposes. At many rock festivals I have attended, I have seen many people using different drugs as a means to enhance their experience or to enjoy the festival more fully. I believe that these two different uses for narcotics could be seen as similar experiences. The final part of the traditional rock festival is the food. During many religious festivals food plays an important role. In rock festivals the food is plentiful and usually pretty primitive. At many rock festivals I have seen giant turkey legs, sausages on sticks, and other early styles of food. It is easy to eat and generates little trash. It is almost a replica of primitive festivals, similarly to how many religious festivals operate.

Festival Bonding

The final piece that really makes a festival a festival is the bonding. With many religious festivals, the group separates itself from others while participating in the festival; Eliade describes this as being “completely immersed in the dream time” (Eliade 86). This bonding at a rock festival is similar. Everyone there has at least, and a lot of times only, one thing in common -- their taste in music. This bond is similar to the religious bond. One group of religious people may have only one thing in common between them: their religion. So it seems to follow that these two very different situations at least have a similar type of bond between their participants. When you attend a rock festival, you can look at and talk to the other people almost as family. You feel a strong, unspoken, almost sacred connection with nearly everyone at a rock festival. This bond is potentially the strongest connection between a profane rock concert and a sacred religious festival.

Conclusion

The final piece that really makes a festival a festival is the bonding. With many religious festivals, the group separates itself from others while participating in the festival; Eliade describes this as being “completely immersed in the dream time” (Eliade 86). This bonding at a rock festival is similar. Everyone there has at least, and a lot of times only, one thing in common -- their taste in music. This bond is similar to the religious bond. One group of religious people may have only one thing in common between them: their religion. So it seems to follow that these two very different situations at least have a similar type of bond between their participants. When you attend a rock festival, you can look at and talk to the other people almost as family. You feel a strong, unspoken, almost sacred connection with nearly everyone at a rock festival. This bond is potentially the strongest connection between a profane rock concert and a sacred religious festival.

Sources

The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion
The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion

Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred And The Profane, The Nature Of Religion. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1959. Print.

 
Religions of the World Series: Hinduism
Religions of the World Series: Hinduism

Shattuck, Cybelle. Religions of the World: Hinduism. 1st. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Inc., 1999. Print.

 

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