Musical ecologies of grief: breathing and environmental justice in Love Ssega’s “Our World (Fight for Air)”
Keywords:ecological grief, air pollution, breathing, popular music, political ecology, environmental justice
This paper will consider how ecological grief is managed in “Our World (Fight for Air)”, a single released in 2021 by British-Ugandan musician Love Ssega, which addresses the deadly consequences of air pollution on the South Circular road in London. In light of sparse musicological engagement with ecological grief and air, I bring together the concepts of a “political ecology of air-and-breathing-bodies” (Allen 2020) and “weathering” (Neimanis and Walker 2014) to illustrate that, in Ssega’s work, (safe) breathing becomes political, traversed by vectors of race and class. Paying attention to air and breathing facilitates an understanding of how Ssega’s music can help us grieve well, on scales attuned to both individual tragedy and the enormous, distributed nature of environmental pollution. I argue that this music shapes “ecologies of grief” which are communal and therefore can help us engage with loss, not merely as mourners, but as makers of safer futures.
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