‘Just keep making noise’: music and identity

I mean it when I say music saved my life. In the darkest hours of my past, the wire of my headphones became my only lifeline. Music is often able to do something that words can’t, and though we don’t quite understand why, it has become a form of relief, self-expression and therapy in many communities. There is debate around this so-called “power of music”, and whether music itself has any power outside its context. Nevertheless, music has become something I completely embody: every breath, movement and word is entwined with melodies and rhythms, and for once in my life, I have found something that makes me happy. This is an insight into how music showed me the meaning of my life, and how through the terrors of coming to terms with my identity, it became the light at the end of my tunnel. 

I was a late bloomer as a musician, so I was always one step behind everyone else. All these people had been practising since they could barely walk, and here I was with a cheap keyboard and some shoddy skills. Things got tough and I came close to quitting altogether, but this little part of me kept me in the game and I’ve been grateful for that ever since. My childhood was very unstable, and I’ve gone through my life having loved and lost a lot of people. But music never betrayed me. The perfect song was always there for me whenever I needed it: it would quieten the noise in my head and make the pain go away just for a little bit. It was that little bit of relief that kept me afloat. 

Identity is such a complex thing, and I think it can cover a range of topics that we may not initially realise. My identity is quite complex: I’m brown, working class, queer and have struggled with depression and anxiety. But throughout my life, I think music has become a part of my identity too. It has acted as a way for me to communicate my struggles and cope with them when nothing else seemed to work. In some ways my musical identity is separate from my actual identity, but in other ways they can overlap. Sometimes we neglect parts of our identity because we think they’re not as important as others, but it’s essential to celebrate all aspects of your identity and cling to what you love. Having things to enjoy and places to escape to is really important for wellbeing, so sometimes it’s good to take a step back and think about what makes you truly happy. For me, that happened to be music – for you, it could be anything you want it to be.

Image credit: Anton March

Image description: a mechanical pencil on top of sheet music