music education in developing countries
Around the globe, music education represents an influential force in the fight against poverty. Studies show that learning a musical instrument entails numerous cognitive advantages for children and young adults, improving memory, attention and communication skills. Music also builds confidence and allows students to express their creativity. In addition, the music industry creates space for new economic developments and possibilities. Here are four examples of music education in developing countries and the ways in which it makes a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.

Haiti

Amid political upheaval and the domestic challenges of daily life, music offers impoverished Haitians a source of comfort and strength. Organizations such as BLUME Haiti aim to utilize music as an avenue for education and community building.

After a deadly earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, BLUME Haiti began delivering musical instruments and supplies to help the nation rebuild. Through summer music camps, professional development workshops for Haitian music teachers, music classes in schools and other programs, BLUME Haiti continues to reach talented youth as they learn new skills and imagine broader possibilities for their futures.

In partnership with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, BLUME Haiti unveiled the innovative Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI) in 2017. The program invites top music students from around the country to develop their craft alongside professional musicians. Chosen through a selective audition process, participants join Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer for a full week of rehearsals, sectionals, lessons and a final concert. Each year, HOI affords hundreds of young artists a life-changing experience.

The Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, public schools are often unable to fund enrichment programs that allow students to express their creativity outside the classroom. Without a creative outlet, many students find themselves disengaged from the curriculum and choose to drop out of school.

The DREAM Music Education Program is taking steps to combat this issue. DREAM introduces music programs in public schools to improve students’ educational experience and strengthen their cognitive abilities. Since undertaking these efforts, the organization has found that students who participate in a band or other musical ensemble are seven times more likely to graduate from high school.

In all DREAM programs, students receive training in basic musical skills, work together in a group setting and develop an appreciation for Dominican musical traditions. Performance opportunities and interactive classes throughout the year celebrate all students’ achievements. Meanwhile, hoping to instill in them a sense of identity and belonging, DREAM works particularly hard to reach at-risk youth.

Rwanda

Music education also plays a critical role in Rwanda, where people are still reeling from the trauma of genocide. Two programs have initiated a joint effort to use music as a means of therapy, aid and economic development for the Rwandan people.

Music Road Rwanda sponsors live music events throughout the country that feature both classical and traditional Rwandan music. The organization also raises money for students to train at the Kigali Music School. Generous scholarships, funded by Music Road Rwanda’s “adopt-a-student” model, allow under-resourced youth to prepare for careers as musicians and music therapists.

Musicians Without Borders Rwanda expresses a similar mission of hope and healing through music. Working in concert with its medical partner We-ACTx for Hope, the organization hires local artists to teach singing and songwriting in traumatized communities. In 2012, Musicians Without Borders introduced its Music Leadership Training campaign, encouraging students to embrace music as a vehicle for empathy and social change.

Bangladesh

The Mirpur district of Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the poorest areas in the world: 32% of residents live on less than $2 a day, and 48% of children suffer from malnutrition. Illiteracy rates are also among the world’s highest. Two music teachers from the Playing for Change Foundation are working to make a difference here through music education.

Their free music classes take a unique, interdisciplinary approach to help students develop vocabulary, reading and pronunciation skills as they learn their instruments. The two teachers spend nearly 100 hours each month with their students, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old. All students come from the approximately 950 children receiving education from the poverty-relief organization SpaandanB.

Donors from around the world have contributed funds to purchase keyboards, acoustic guitars and ukuleles for Mirpur music students. Each instrument costs between $80 and $100 and affords students the invaluable gift of cherishing music for a lifetime.

Young musicians worldwide, especially those living in poverty, benefit from the rigor of music education. Music connects people through a language that transcends the bounds of time, space and nation. At the same time, it supports the development of critical life skills. It is imperative that we continue to provide music education in developing countries and foster the innumerable advantages it promises to bring in its train.

Katie Painter 
Photo: U.S. Air Force

5 Ways Music Helps Impoverished Youth
For many cultures, music is a primary form of expression. It serves as an outlet for struggles with identity, relationships, politics and even poverty. Since music encapsulates various elements of a culture, it is essential for heritage preservation and for spreading awareness about the adversity that the respective cultures face. Music is a universal language, capable of reaching out and touching the hearts of any listener. This includes children, who are extremely receptive to music and are capable of learning of its benefits and values. Here are five examples that show how music helps impoverished youth cope with their experiences and spread awareness of the world’s poor.

5 Examples of Music Helping Impoverished Youth

  1. A group of Yazidi girls formed a choir to preserve their cultural identities after suffering through sex slavery. Yazidi was recently overrun by the Islamic State military, resulting in thousands of young girls being sold into slavery. One of these girls was Rainas Elias, who was taken by ISIS at the age of 14. Two years after her kidnapping, Elias is one of the 14 young women who formed a choir that performs traditional Yazidi songs as a means of coping with their past traumatic experiences. In early February, the girls took a trip abroad to perform at the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Since Yazidi music is not traditionally written or recorded, British violinist Michael Bochmann has been working with the choir. They are recording the songs, which are then archived in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. This work helps preserve an important piece of Yazidi culture while simultaneously providing a healing experience to the girls involved.
  2. “Fresh Kid” is an 8-year-old rapper from Uganda who sings about his family’s struggles with poverty. His real name is Patrick Ssenyonjo and he began hearing songs on the radio at a very young age and could immediately memorize and repeat them. Soon, Fresh Kid was performing for his local community, rapping about struggles that he, his friends and his family face. Uganda’s lack of electricity and poor transportation standards are two primary causes behind the nation’s impoverished circumstances. Although the country has seen vast improvements in recent years, there are still many developments to be made. Fresh Kid’s music draws attention to this issue while his success provides hope to impoverished youth across the globe.
  3. Schools in Venezuela are teaching classical music to students as a means of transcending poverty. Venezuelan conductor Jose Antonio Abreu established the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela in 1996. Otherwise known as The System, the program educates students on how to read and perform classical music. The System provides students with an artistic outlet in a professional atmosphere, resulting in the development of discipline and passion that is often unattainable by impoverished youth. Students living in poverty have made up 70 percent of the program’s participants since its creation. The foundation has produced world-renowned talents such as Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and Edicson Ruiz, the youngest bass player to ever perform with the Berlin Philharmonic. Venezuela continues to suffer from a collapsed economy and corrupt politics, with an unemployment rate of 44 percent. The System grants Venezuela’s poorest children the chance to rise above these issues while spreading an appreciation for classical music.
  4. The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) teaches traditional music to students. Half of these students come from poor backgrounds. The school instructs both Western and Afghan classical music as well as basic subjects like math and science. The school prides itself on embracing the education of Afghanistan’s less advantaged youth including girls, orphans and street-working vendors. One significant product of ANIM is Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra. Not only does the school provide a well-rounded curriculum, but its music-oriented focus promotes the resurgence of cultural factors that were once banned by Taliban rule. ANIM demonstrates the influence music has by bringing social change and emotional healing to impoverished youth.
  5. Ghetto Classics is a youth orchestra featuring more than 500 children from Korogocho. The orchestra is a result of the Art of Music Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished youth in Eastern Africa by integrating classical music studies into schools. The director of the Art of Music Foundation, Elizabeth Wamuni Njoroge, founded Ghetto Classics in 2008 after a local Catholic priest requested that the foundation start teaching classical music to the youth. Njoroge states that the community was skeptical of the idea at first, partially because of distrust in NGOs and partly because classical music is quite different than the hip-hop and reggae that locals are accustomed to. However, Korogocho soon warmed up to the idea, and Ghetto Classics is now one of the most valued and successful community projects to exist in Korogocho. Since its foundation, the orchestra has extended to 14 other schools in Eastern Africa. Ghetto Classics and similar programs help students to grasp core life values and provides a fresh outlook on life.

Music has the power to preserve generations of cultural value. It can also spark interest and motivation in the minds of impoverished youth. These stories demonstrate the potential music has to raise awareness for issues such as sex slavery and poverty. Since music is directly tied to heritage and tradition, it can bring about major social change without eliminating the cultural identity of a society. These five examples of how music helps impoverished youth serve as proof that something as simple as the beat of a drum can contribute to the fight against global poverty, one tap at a time.

Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr

musicians who dealt with poverty
Music is an integral part of society as almost every single culture from indigenous tribes to developed societies have some sort of music that binds people together. Today’s musicians are icons in popular culture and while some had an easy path to stardom, others had to walk on a rocky one. These are five musicians who dealt with poverty.

5 Musicians Who Dealt With Poverty

  1. Shania Twain: Regarded as one of the best country singers of all time, Shania Twain had an extremely rough childhood. Twain was born in Ontario, Canada and grew up in the small town of Timmins. Her mother and stepfather worked to make ends meet. Due to financial struggles, Twain and her four siblings often went to school famished. To add on to her struggles, her father was abusive, especially to his wife. In 1987, Twain’s parents both died in a car crash, forcing her to raise her siblings alone. Twain continued to pursue music and Polygram Records eventually signed her. She began her rise to stardom in 1995 after releasing her album, “The Woman in Me.” She went on to release a widely acclaimed album “Come on Over” in 1997, which stood as the number one country album for a total of 50 weeks.
  2. Ringo Starr: The famous drummer for the Beatles, Ringo Starr grew up in unideal circumstances. Born as Richard Starkey in the inner city of Liverpool, Starkey faced many obstacles as a child. His mother worked as a barmaid and housemaid. Poverty and violence plagued Starkey’s neighborhood, but things got worse for him when he contracted peritonitis after an appendectomy and had to live in a children’s hospital for one year. Soon thereafter, he contracted tuberculosis and had to spend two years in a sanatorium. Upon release, he took on menial jobs but still attempted to pursue music. In 1962, Starr officially joined the Beatles. Despite not receiving the same praise as Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Starr was an integral member of the band and serves as a model for drummers across the world.
  3. Nicki Minaj: Minaj, a famous rapper and singer, has the most outlandish wardrobe collection of these five musicians who dealt with poverty. Minaj was born in 1982 in Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost island in the Caribbean. Her father was a violent drug addict and his troubles impaired the family even after they moved to Queens, New York when Minaj was 5-years-old. The family was immersed in a life of poverty and violence. Furthermore, her father attempted to burn the family’s residence down in an attempt to kill Minaj’s mother. Minaj initially signed with Dirty Money Records, which paved the way for her success by associating her with rapper Lil Wayne. The Young Money label later signed Minaj. In 2010, Minaj won the Best Hip Hop Female at the BET awards and her album”Pink Friday” went triple platinum.
  4. Celine Dion: One of the most acclaimed singers of all time, Celine Dion rose from humble beginnings. Dion was the youngest of 14 children in a poor French-Canadian home in the town of Charlemagne in Quebec, Canada. There was not enough room for the entire family, with three to four people sleeping on the same bed. Her mother and father owned a piano bar and took home less than $200 per week. Despite all this, love bound the family and thus they perceived their financial issues as less severe than they were. Dion earned her first recording contract at the age of 12 with help from her mother. Perhaps her most famous song, “My Heart Will Go On,” alludes to her own life and her perseverance against adverse conditions.
  5. Bombino: Bombino, a Nigerien guitar player and singer, is the least well known of these five musicians who dealt with poverty. He was born as a member of the Ifoghas tribe in Niger. In 1984, a severe drought hit the region, killing a significant amount of crops and livestock. In 1990, the first Tuareg rebellion began, forcing Bombino, his father and grandmother to flee to Algeria in fear of retaliation by governmental bodies. This experience exposed Bombino to music and he taught himself how to play the guitar. Bombino wanted to become a successful musician and traveled back and forth between Algeria and Niger to make his dream come true. The second Tuareg rebellion began in 2007 which killed many civilians. Bombino fled to Burkina Faso and recorded his album “Agadez.” Since then, Bombino has enjoyed success all over the world and uses his work to help secure the rights of the Tuareg people.

Music is emblematic of both the artist and culture it comes from. These five musicians who dealt with poverty are prime examples of musicians who did not receive the greatest hand in life but achieved unimaginable feats with dedication. Music creates a bond between people that may otherwise polarize themselves from each other, for as Billy Joel once said, “…music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Music and Poverty
Globally, each culture has a connection to music. Numerous Latin American cultures developed music such as salsa and tango,  energizing types of music with trumpets and bongos. Meanwhile, the Middle East produces songs written in Arabic. This style ranges anywhere from traditional Arabic music filled with violins and percussion instruments to Arabic pop including catchy lyrics set to engaging instrumental tunes. Although different cultures produce different types of music, people often view music as a link between cultures and nations. People often do not put music and poverty together, but the study of music is often beneficial and may allow some the chance to escape the poverty line.

The Link Between Music and Poverty

A study at Northwestern University has proven that music lessons can help alleviate the psychological damages that poverty brings. This study observed how learning to read sheet music affected teenager’s brains, aged 14 and 15. By teaching the children how to read musical scales, Kraus, the leader of the study, believes that the world can decrease the bridge between literacy and low socioeconomic status.

Ways Music Can Lift People Out of Poverty

Studying and playing music has proven to affect more than just literacy skills. Studies have observed that individuals who learn how to play music experience increased self-esteem, they believe that they can achieve things that they never thought possible. Also, by learning and studying new skills, individuals develop a new sense of discipline that they might have been lacking, which, in turn, encourages individuals to try new things, like attending college or developing a career.

Organizations Putting Music to Good Use

  1. Global HeartStrings: Started by Rachel Barton Pine, Global HeartStrings’ goal is to help foster classical musicians in developing countries. To achieve this, Pine provides children in impoverished countries with sheet music, basic supplies and even instruments.

  2. Children International: Based out of Kansas City, Missouri, this organization has developed a program called Music for Development in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. Started in the Dominican Republic in 2014 and Colombia in 2015, the program aims to teach children and teenagers life skills through music. By teaching children music, the organization says that they are giving individuals a road out of poverty, self-confidence and the ability to reject negative influences.

  3. System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela: Started in 2002, this organization focuses on individuals aged 3 through 29, and teaches them how to play and perform with musical instruments. Ran by Nehyda Alas, the organization has benefited around 350,000 individuals who live below the country’s poverty line. In Venezuela, around 70 percent of the country’s 30 million citizens live in extreme poverty. Alas, the organization promotes a healthier and more fulfilled life by providing children with new skills and the discipline to learn them. The United Nations Development Programme supports this program and the program aims to end the country’s extreme poverty and hunger crisis.

  4. El Sistema: Founded in Venezuela in 1975 by José Antonio Abreu, people have credited this music-education program with helping individuals rise above the poverty line. It is a cultural, educational and social program that helps empower children and teenagers through music. The organization has opened music learning centers in areas that are easily accessible to children living in poverty. At these centers, children work on learning how to play instruments or learning and performing choral music. Abreu believes that by teaching children music, they not only learn how to read and play music, but they also develop positive self-esteem, mutual respect and cooperating skills. They can then apply these skills to their daily lives. He is a believer in the link between music and poverty and strives to help his students achieve their best.

Musicians Who Came from Poverty

  1. Pedrito Martinez, Edgar Pantoja-Aleman, Jhair Sala and Sebastian Natal — Cuban Jazz Group: People know this Cuban jazz group for its unique blending of Yoruba folkloric music, contemporary beats, piano, bongos and traditional Cuban music. Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere, and Martinez and Pantoja-Aleman are the only two members of the four-member band that grew up in impoverished areas of the country. Sala is from Peru and grew up in New York City, while Natal is from Uruguay. All four members of the group grew up struggling to make ends meet and they credit music as being both their escape and their success.

  2. Eddie Adams — American Cellist: Adams and his family, his mother and five siblings, lived in a Virginia homeless shelter when he signed up for band class in 10th grade. Although cello was not his first choice of an instrument, Adams grew to enjoy playing and would watch YouTube videos at school to improve his skills. He did not own his own cello, nor could he afford to take formal music lessons. However, after his audition, Adams received a full-tuition scholarship to George Mason University in Virginia where he became the lead cellist.

  3. Rachel Barton Pine — American Violinist: Growing up, Pine lived in a single-income household and, in her own words, her family was always “one missed payment from losing the roof over our heads.” Pine’s family could not afford a house with central heating or cooling. As a result, in order to stay warm in the winter, they used a space heater that they rotated every 10 minutes to keep their house warm. Pine worked her way above the poverty line by playing various shows as often as she could. She started playing as young as 5 years old, and as of today, she travels around the world performing her music and people have regarded her as “one of the most accomplished violinists in the world.”

Music and poverty intertwine more than many have originally thought. Music can greatly benefit individuals living below the poverty line as it provides a sense of culture, a form of education and a means of creative expression. Impoverished individuals who study music greatly benefit from increased literacy skills, along with increased self-esteem and a willingness to learn and develop new skills.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

symphony for peruJuan Diego Flórez is a highly-recognized, award-winning Peruvian tenor, who has sung on the most coveted stages, including Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2011, he started Symphony for Peru. The foundation offers music classes and activities for children in low-income families, giving them a chance to develop their talent, teach them values through the arts and pull them away from at-risk situations.

The Need for Creativity

After struggling in the 80s and 90s with terrorism, hyperinflation and corruption, Peru started recovering and achieving steady economic growth from the beginning of 2005 to 2013. Poverty rates decreased and the stable economy gave Peruvians hope of improving their quality of life. This growth, however, has not been able to translate into proper educational or social development. Although it no longer stands in the last place of the PISA rankings, there is still much work to be done. With this in mind, Flórez stepped in and decided to help in the best way he knew: through music.

Juan Diego Flórez created Symphony for Peru, or Sinfonía por el Perú in Spanish, in 2011 to promote musical education in Peru’s most distant and poorest communities, throughout Coastal, Andean and Amazon regions. Flórez used the structure of the Venezuelan government’s music program as inspiration for Symphony for Peru; José Antonio Abreu created this program, who linked musical skills as a route to improve social and personal development.

Music to Peru’s Ears

Symphony for Peru aims to help children in low-income communities. The organization provides music education not only for children to develop their creative skills, but also to provide a different form of entertainment or hobby, taking them away from the risks of the streets, including drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy, and into the classroom.

As it is spread out throughout the country, the Symphony for Peru created different core groups of around 400 and 600 children who participate in either choirs, orchestras or jazz bands. It also works to have two luthier workshops, where children can practice instrument development by learning how to build and tune their own instruments. Another important aspect of the organization is their main Symphony Orchestra, which performs a couple of times per year and has recently recorded and released its own Christmas album.

Perhaps the most innovative way to show the results of the work Symphony for Peru is doing is by letting the children speak for themselves. Students in the organization can show their improvement and talent with patrons and the general audience in free concerts that Flórez organized. These often happen in July, Peru’s independence month.

An Impact through Music

More than 8,000 children have developed their skills as part of the program, and as a result, perseverance and efficacy at school has improved, as well as their behavior and ability to focus in the classroom. Additionally, the organization has proven to be a useful and more productive way for children to spend their time, and the levels of both psychological and physical abuse in the families of students have drastically decreased.

There is no doubt that Flórez is one of Peru’s most important cultural ambassadors. His talent and work ethic lead him to the top, and music critics compare him to some of the best opera tenors in the world like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. His greatest gift, though, may not be his musical talent, but his selflessness and generosity, as well as his will to give back to his country and share his skills with the people who need it the most.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Flickr

Global Citizen FestivalMusic festivals are growing in number and popularity across the globe. The Global Citizen Festival, however, offers so much more than good old fashioned entertainment. Here’s how this festival is mobilizing its attendees to fight against global poverty.

Who is in Charge?

The organization behind the festival is a nonprofit called the Global Poverty Project. The main goal of the organization is to educate people about global poverty issues and ways they can help. In 2011, the Global Poverty Project launched the Global Citizen Campaign, which has led to a total of 14 million global-poverty-reducing actions by people across the world. The campaign’s ultimate mission is to end extreme poverty by 2030.

The organization is also well-known for launching the first Global Citizen Festival seven years ago. The annual festival is held in New York City’s Central Park and features a slew of well-known performers such as Janet Jackson, Shawn Mendes, Cardi B and The Weeknd. The premise of the festival may sound reminiscent of Live Aid, the 1985 “superconcert” which raised nearly $127 million in famine relief for Africa.

How to Attend

In order to obtain a ticket for the festival, potential concertgoers must watch online videos about global poverty, complete quizzes on these videos and take action by volunteering, or emailing/calling congress members. Those who accomplish these tasks are rewarded with a free ticket to the festival. The event itself is alcohol-free and is loaded with global-poverty related booths that offer games, photo-ops, information, and opportunities to take action. At previous Global Citizen Festivals, world leaders have come on stage intermittently to educate attendees about all that can be done to combat global poverty in their everyday lives following the music festival. In 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among these speakers.

The Festival’s Impact

The actions that the festival incites have led to the creation of programs, policies and funds; the effects of which have been felt by nearly 647 million impoverished people across the globe. For example, after receiving 4,700 tweets from Global Citizens, The Power of Nutrition (a U.K. based team of investors) committed to providing Rwanda with $35 million allocated toward ending malnutrition in the nation. Policies and commitments such as these which have been prompted by Global Citizens equate to more than $37 billion.

The Global Citizen Festival is a prime example of a positive, action-oriented event with the aim of eradicating global poverty. It offers people an affordable way to fight the good fight, while also enjoying the talents of world-famous performers.

– Ryley Bright
Photo: Wikimedia

Civil Rights Songs
Music has an undeniable connection to civil rights movements. As Gregory Harper, a former museum director and archaeologist turned musician says, music has often been used in the service of civil rights and political awareness. Songs were chosen based on the influence in specific civil rights movements, as well as their popularity and legacies. In the text below, the top 10 civil rights songs are presented, but due to their importance and quality, they can be deemed as the top 10 of the best songs ever recorded. They are listed in alphabetical order and there is no importance in their specific ranking.

Top 10 Civil Rights Songs

  1. “Glad to Be Gay”- Tom Robinson Band. Written for a London gay pride parade, “Glad to Be Gay” was banned by the BBC upon its release. It became an anthem for the LGBTQ community in London. Tom Robinson has said that “Glad to Be Gay” was about the non-conforming, from lesbians to transgenders. With this proud song, Tom Robinson gave a voice to the people that might have never had a voice before.
  2. “Free Nelson Mandela”- The Specials. “Free Nelson Mandela” was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom in 1984. The song became an anthem for the anti-apartheid movement for people outside of South Africa and forced the privileged, white populations of the West to become aware of the issues in South Africa. Undoubtedly, this song influenced the citizens of powerful nations to beg their leaders to aid the fight against apartheid in South Africa.
  3. “From Little Things, Big Things Grow”- Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. Written by two Australian artists in the early 1990s, this song tells of the inspiring story of the Gurindji people and their struggle for land rights. The lyrics tell of the 1966 Wave Hill walk-off that was originally focused on poor working conditions and low wages. The walk-off turned into much more since eight years later, Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam gave these people their land back, igniting the Aboriginal land rights movement. Today, this song continues to symbolize the struggle for recognition of natives all over the world.
  4. “Mannenberg”- Abdullah Ibrahim. Released in 1974, “Mannenberg” combined South African-jazz with African-American jazz-rock fusion. The outcome was a song that South African blacks clung to as their own. The influence of this song in South Africa’s fight against apartheid, along with its mixture of cultures, solidifies it as one of the best civil rights songs.
  5. “People Get Ready”- Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions. Released in 1965 during the American Civil Rights Movement after Curtis Mayfield watched the March on Washington, this gospel song turned mainstream hit has been covered countless times by many artists.
  6. “Redemption Song”- Bob Marley. To pick Marley’s best civil rights song is difficult, but “Redemption Song”, that was released on Marley’s last studio album appropriately named “Uprising”, seems fitting. Using words from a 1937 speech of Marcus Garvey’s, Marley tells of physical and mental freedom, the hallmarks of all civil rights movements.
  7. “Strange Fruit”- Billie Holiday. The most popular version of the song is Billie Holiday’s version, a symbolic mosaic of the pain that black people have endured in the United States, selling one million copies in its first year. Originally written by Abel Meeropol in reaction to the infamous photograph of the lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, 1999 Time Magazine named “Strange Fruit” the best song of the century.
  8. “Sunday Bloody Sunday”- U2. As Irish rock band U2 was gaining momentum, soon to become the biggest rock bands of their time, they used their platform to share a perspective on the Bloody Sunday massacre, incident that occured in 1972 in the area of Derry, Northern Ireland. In 2010, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron apologized on behalf of his country for the incident. The progress that was made by the Northern Irish in order to receive such an apology could not have been done without U2’s true-life tale that told those all over the world about the violence that was done to the people of Northern Ireland.
  9. “We Shall Overcome”- Pete Seeger. In 2018, the song’s lyrics became part of the public domain which is appropriate as the lyrics have traced back to the 18th century as slaves would sing similar verses while working. Pete Seeger brought it to mainstream consciousness, after hearing a group of mostly black tobacco workers sing the song during a strike. Joan Baez sang the song during the March on Washington. President Johnson uttered the words “we shall overcome” in his defense of the Voting Rights Act. The song continues to be sung at countless global, civil rights protests.
  10. “Zombie”- Fela Kuti. In a rebuke of the Nigerian military’s violent tactics, Kuti wrote “Zombie”. The Nigerian army acted swiftly, noting the song’s message as well as Kuti’s influence on the poorer populations of Africa. They pillaged Kuti’s commune and threw his elderly mother out of a window, resulting in her death. Kuti did not stop making music, symbolizing the resilience of those he gave a voice to. The legacy of “Zombie”, as well as the direct influence Kuti had in promoting civil rights, make this one of the best civil rights songs.

These songs listed above are masterpieces, but it is the people’s emotional connection to them what makes them even more valuable. They are directly connected to fight for human rights and will be surely used in the future as well.

– Kurt Thiele

Photo: Flickr

Music and Poverty
Robert Browning once said, “Who hears music, feels his solitude peopled at once.” For those living in poverty around the world, being surrounded by others in the same predicament often manifests in a collective loneliness. While the cadence of the day-to-day drones on, music’s tempo sets the pulse of nations. Music and poverty may dance in the shadows at times, but their connection lives beyond subtleties — it is a real and often necessary connection.

Medicine for the Soul

Just how powerful is music? According to eMedExpert, an online informational Web site dedicated to health and medicine, music can:

  • Boost immunity to disease
  • Benefit emotional intelligence, and turn negative thoughts to positive
  • Create stronger literacy skills
  • Increase productivity

The Fajara Cancer Centre in Nairobi, Kenya bears witness to the healing power of music. When Berklee College of Music graduate Cara Smith did research in East Africa for her degree in music therapy, cancer patient Aisha hadn’t spoken all week while undergoing treatments. The two sat down together and wrote a song, creating an avenue for Aisha to express herself despite the verbal challenges from personal trauma.

Inspired, Smith went on to create Umoja Community Music Therapy which now operates in more than 50 schools, hospitals and community centers in Uganda and Kenya.

Smith, along with fellow graduates Brooke Hatfield and Kristina Casale, have also seen former child soldiers climb out of depression and trauma to find joy, and young women become empowered through music. Smith points out the connection of music to East African culture and sees it as an open door ready to be pushed.

“El Sistema”

Passing away earlier this year, Jose Antonio Abreu left a legacy of the profound impact of music. As founder of a music program for Venezuelan children, Abreu understood the relationship between music and poverty. His program, known widely as “El Sistema” (the system), trained musicians across all social classes.

According to Abreu, the system fought poverty at its roots. He explained to 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon, “A child’s physical poverty is overcome by the spiritual richness that comes from music.”

El Sistema helped to create other musical movements in developing countries, such as those implemented by Children International (CI), an organization devoted to breaking the cycle of poverty on the world stage. With programs in the Dominican Republic since 2014 and Columbia since 2015, CI sees first-hand how the method puts an emphasis on peer-to-peer instruction, cultivating leadership and selflessness, and  keeps youth away from gangs and other destructive environments at the same time.

Then, there are the nonquantifiable effects of music. Juan David, a participant in the Columbian program, says “when I’m playing, I feel very peaceful and calm, because I leave my world behind.”

Power and Purpose

While a temporary escape from reality might be welcome, song may wield the power to affect real change in health and development outcomes through their musical passions. Case studies in Africa have shown the utility of songs in networking, fundraising and advocacy.

In 2008, U2’s lead singer and humanitarian, Bono, led his One Campaign, which united over 100 international artists, and put major pressure on G8 summit leaders to create change. More recently, in 2014, One’s Do Agric Campaign sent a message to African leaders to invest in agriculture.

The cornerstone song for that campaign, Cocoa na Chocolate, plainly stated: “like the seeds of light forever, let the Earth provide for her children.” The track, one of the biggest collaborations in Africa’s history, inspired a nation to take initiative and provide for itself.

Music, Poverty and Change

In Africa, songs have been written for political mobilization, as a tool for therapy, as a cry against social injustices and as a show of cultural solidarity.

Music and poverty seem to provide limited evidence of a direct cause/effect correlation (i.e., music decreasing levels of poverty), but music’s inherent emotional value strikes a subliminal chord almost universally. With iconic international musicians like U2 writing charity songs that encourage action, music disseminates information and raises awareness, while encouraging those in poverty that they are not alone.

In every song, there are notes of struggle, relatable and comforting; there are notes of dignity, reminding of a need for hope; there are notes of resistance, pressing people to find relief from stress and the motivation to change their condition.

-Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

Pitch & FlowMC Lyte and DJ D-Nice hosted Pitch & Flow, a competition where rappers and social entrepreneurs join together to win money for their causes.

Pitch & Flow was held on Wednesday, September 13, 2017 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. According to XXL, celebrity guests included Stretch Armstrong, Melissa Bradley, Young Paris and Doug E. Fresh.

The Africa Creative Agency, Unreasonable Group and Lowe’s Innovation Labs paired the rappers and the social entrepreneurs together for the competition. The eight rappers weave the goals of their entrepreneurs into stories that encouraged the audience to vote for them. After three rounds, the winning duo won $7500 for their cause.

The causes championed at Pitch & Flow represented many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Some of the goals illustrated within the causes include uses for solar energy, educating the incarcerated and recyclable material production.

According to CityLab, all of the rappers involved in Pitch & Flow are passionate about social issues themselves. Many of them “double as activists and educators, and are in line with the grassroots vibe of the whole event. One of them even served as a Hip-Hop Cultural Envoy for the U.S. State Department.” The event gives rappers the opportunity to use their skills to promote a good cause.

Pitch & Flow also provides a unique opportunity for the organizations in regards to informing others about what the organization is about. Rap presents the organizations’ values in a creative and concise way that sticks with an audience.

At the end of Pitch & Flow, rapper and Northeastern University math professor Professor Lyrical and Sun Culture entrepreneur Samir Ibrahim won the $7500 prize. Sun Culture is an organization that “provides solar-powered irrigation systems to farmers in East Africa,” according to Essence.

Pitch & Flow illustrates how the creative arts can be used to promote worthwhile global causes.

Cortney Rowe

Photo: Flickr

Glastonbury Live Album
The Glastonbury Festival has been held in Pilton, England every summer since 1970. This year’s festival is exceptionally special as the first-ever Glastonbury live album will be released on July 11.

NME, the British music and entertainment publication reports that all proceeds from the Glastonbury live album, Stand As One, will go toward Oxfam International’s Refugee Crisis Appeal initiative.

Oxfam International is an alliance made up of 18 organizations that began its mission in 1995. According to their website, Oxfam “works to find practical, innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of poverty and thrive.”

Oxfam works globally to fix a number of issues like inequality, fair distribution of natural resources, women’s rights and the growth of sustainable food in developing countries.

The Refugee Crisis Appeal is an emergency campaign to raise money for countries that are overwhelmed by refugees, such as Jordan, Syria, Italy and Greece.

The Oxfam website states that they have already provided 45,000 people with water on the border of Syria and Jordan by constructing a water tank, served 100,000 meals on the Greek island Lesbos and given legal counsel to many refugees in Italy.

Oxfam decided to dedicate the album to the late Jo Cox, a member of Parliament and Labor Party politician. Cox spent 10 years working at Oxfam and was a longtime advocate for refugees across the globe.

“Given Jo’s tireless work to help refugees both at Oxfam and beyond it felt appropriate to dedicate the album to her,” Oxfam’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring said in a press release.

Goldring stated later in the interview that Glastonbury’s live album will be, “bringing the weight of the music world in support of people in desperate need.”

Thousands of people will crowd 900 acres of farmland to see artist like Coldplay, Muse, Sigur Ros, Chvrches, The 1975 and Wolf Alice.

There will be incredible music, beautiful art displays and fields filled with passionate fans, but this year refugees will be represented on one of the largest stages in the world.

Liam Travers

Photo: Radio X