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Notes, Tones, and Vibes: The Bridge to Collective Purpose

Humans are social creatures. We are herd animals. We function best in groups and communities.

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Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

We are raised in and by communities. We embody values based on traditional, cultural, and communal values. We strive to be accepted by social groups — sometimes this is crucial to our survival. Belonging to communities adds to our personal sense of identity.

When we find our tribes — a group of like-minded people that have the same vision of how we should function and the type of world that we should live in, we develop a deeper sense of purpose.

A purpose that is not solely driven by self-interest of the individual but driven by community-driven missions.

A shared purpose.

“Live for yourself, you will live in vain, live for others, you will live again ~ Bob Marley & The Wailers, Pass it on”

We The Socials

A very important piece in our search for purpose is being clear about what we want to see more of in this world — the improvements that we want to see in our immediate community — the solutions that address the needs of the people in our environment.

Some of these challenges are quite daunting and require unique solutions from the efforts of not one single individual but the collective efforts of a group of people.

So are there things out there that we all want collectively? If so, how do we find them and connect with it to clarify our purpose.

This is a snippet of exploring purpose from my book — PRESS PLAY: Music as a Catalyst for Change

Global Village

The internet and our devices have made the world a smaller place — a global village. Unfortunately, our reliance on these devices have caused a lot of isolation and perhaps too many choices of different communities, making it more challenging to build a community of people that vibe at the same wavelength.

There are various ways of building community and music has always played in the centerstage of our community-building efforts from several millennia now.

Music’s unique capability of combining rhythms for shared synchronicity with melodies that effectively communicate ambigious feelings, and storytelling that bonds people, makes it a supertool for connecting with communities and shared purpose.

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Music brings people together. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

While I worked as a process optimization engineer between 2008 and 2014, I would travel across North America and Europe, spending long hours either in control rooms at factories or hotel rooms in remote towns.

As I gained a lot of valuable experience in the process of converting materials into finished products, I also experienced marginalization.

As the only African in these remote areas, I started getting concerned that I stuck out everywhere my colleagues and I went. I became more self-conscious because there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me walking around.

“I would ignore outright racist comments in the vein of keeping things professional. I would cringe when I could hear the revving up of a question, with the tint of condescension, about whether Africans lived on trees and our familiarity with wild animals.”

I started getting used to the “random” police stops and the extra immigration questioning that hardly randomly happened to my colleagues.


After years on the job, I shied away from exploring new towns out of the fear of being labeled a vandal instead of a tourist. I limited my movements between the hotel, the plant, and one or two restaurants. I started to wonder whether I was on the right path. From undergrad to grad school and then to corporate America, it seemed the further down the path I went the fewer people there were like myself.

I would use music for comfort on this lonely path.

Besides Fela Kuti and Bob Marley, I listened to Nas’ Illmatic a lot. The FugeesNotorious B.I.GThe Roots — their lyrics gave me a sense of empowerment and purpose.

It served as a voice for some of my unvoiced thoughts. This music reinforced what I needed at that time. It reinforced an internal pride, reminding me not to forget my culture and the history of Africans.

It reminded me not to accept the mainstream narratives and perception of dark-skinned people. It provided solace for contemplation.

Listening to Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s independent Black Star album, I would get a reminder of the importance of knowledge of self. The sonic waves generated several layers of introspection.

The words from these artists seemed to unearth new and hidden truths that could only be uncovered when the listener was ready to hear them. Their message connected Africans on the continent and in the diaspora in a shared vision of enhancing ourselves.

Musicians are messengers and these message disrupters use their words, videos, and other platforms to get their message to people, strengthening our purpose in finding mission-driven solutions to reduce inequality in our world. — PRESS PLAY, Chapter 8: Message Connectors

One of the most important ways that music helps us connect with one another is by building empathy.

Empathy amongst other things

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, to completely understand their struggles, point of view, and aspiration.

It is very important for designers and innovators. To build solutions, you have to get in tune with the problem, have an in-depth understanding of it. That’s the only way you can begin creating valuable solutions.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Besides facilitating social cohesion through empathy, music can be used as a form of journalism to keep communities informed, as documentation for the preservation of culture and history, as an educational tool to teach future generations, and as a medium to question the conventional way of doing things.

All these combined make music a very effective tool in the problem-solver’s toolkit for developing new solutions fueled by the purpose of enhancing the overall well-being of the community that they choose to serve and build for.

“Music moves our moods, bodies, and thoughts. Music is a form of entertainment. We enjoy being entertained. That’s one of the default reasons why we gravitate toward music in the first place.”

It is also a medium that gets important messages out to the right audience. The imagery, rhymes, and metaphors used by musicians allow messages to stick in our minds.

When we have the proper access to music, we can connect to issues around the world that give us a collective sense of purpose and allow us to do our best work.

It gives us a space for reflection, introspection, and belonging.

As expert listeners of music that we all are, what role does music have to play in our quest for a more empowered and equitable world?

Building with empathy, networking minds, teamwork, and navigating obscurity are all concepts used by innovators and problem solvers.

“The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers.”

— Roy Ayers

Music in the innovator’s toolkit

As a chemical engineer, I became intrigued by the process of making products and its job-creating benefits. In the process, I also became aware of the environmental damage that comes with the exploitation of our resources in the production of goods we actively seek to consume.

As an entrepreneur, I empathized to build solutions that enhanced the way people felt. The journey also exposed me to the drive to build profitable businesses and access to resources that can either reduce inequality or drastically allow capital to accumulate in fewer pockets.

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Music provides space for introspection and reflection to connect with a shared purpose. Photo by Igor Kasalovic on Unsplash

The struggle continues, but where does the solution lie? Where do we find the balance? How do we engage with local and global problems and innovate solutions that benefit us all? Do we put our lives on the line like the social or environmental activists? Or do we go on our journey and find purpose-driven solutions through our companies and organizations? Or find a cause that makes our family members feel better?

Music drives the innovator within all of us.

It can give us purpose. It allows us to connect with pertinent issues over the years. It gives us auditory authority to explore. It communicates the pain and frustration of others effectively, allowing us to channel that energy to build products that enhance the way people feel. It connects us with like-minded people to strive for collective goals across borders.

Music is a good place to find your strong sense of mission or dedication toward a cause or anything that fires you up internally.

It can help improve self awareness, reduce environmental damage and inequality, deal with personal and collective egos, and deal with issues such as racism and patriarchy.

It can ultimately help us raise our collective awareness — bringing the global community together and building a more equitable world.

Music is a super-tool in connecting with a shared purpose and communal goals such as social and economic equality, justice, peace, and environmental preservation.

It can help us find our tribe and instill in each one of us a sense of what we need more of in our world — a very important piece in assisting in our personal quest for purpose.

Who is Nifemi?

Hey I’m Nifemi of NapoRepublic

I help busy people fit in a creative practice to bring to bring order to their reality and help them live a more meaningful life through writing and reflection.

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Know thyself, build a second brain, and unleash your creativity with writing. All in one journaling, note-taking, and dots-connection method that fits into your busy life.