Musicians Helping Those in Need
One can consider musicians the creators of the soundtrack of life. Through the art that musicians create, millions of people can find joy and excitement. However, their influence does not end there. Musicians have consistently played a prominent role in helping people in need around the world. From Jimi Hendrix to Nina Simone, recording artists have been pivotal in bringing awareness to numerous important issues and causes whether it be through their music or the work outside of their music. The philanthropic endeavors of musicians have provided support for countless individuals. The immeasurably popular creations of musicians provide them with opportunities to reach areas others may not be able to and extend much-needed support to the vulnerable and impoverished. Below are a few dedicated musicians helping those in need.

Madonna

People possibly know Madonna the best for her legendary pop hits and iconic fashion style. For decades, people around the world have emulated the pop star’s unforgettable looks. Her dedication to her artistry is undeniable, but another passion for the singer/performer is giving. Raising Malawi, established in 2006, focuses on orphaned and vulnerable Malawian children. Since its foundation, the nonprofit organization has built 10 schools throughout Malawi. Another notable achievement from the Raising Malawi organization is the scholarship and psychosocial program that has provided for the 20 young Malawians featured in the “I Am Because We Are” documentary film.

Madonna’s charitable efforts extend beyond her Raising Malawi organization. The year 1998 saw the beginning of The Ray of Light Foundation, named after the singer’s seventh studio album. The Ray of Light Foundation centers on supporting organizations that are dedicated to promoting peace, equal rights and education for all. The Foundation has been incredibly successful in its many efforts. In Afghanistan, the Ray of Light Foundation has assisted 133,824 patients through health clinics that the Foundation established. In addition, mobile literacy classes that the organization funded educated 335 women, and the nonprofit provided 95,542 patients with health education. With these charitable organizations, Madonna consistently proves her dedication to helping those in need.

Rihanna

Rihanna has attained astronomical success in her nearly two-decade-long career. The Barbadian pop star has attained numerous accolades and awards that have placed her in the same league with musicians far beyond her years. While these achievements are significant, they almost pale in comparison to the incredible impact of the singer/business woman’s philanthropic endeavors. Rihanna’s charitable efforts date back to 2006 with the Believe Foundation which provides financial, medical, educational and emotional support to terminally ill children. Another cause that Rihanna has lent her hand to is the fight against HIV/AIDS in multiple collaborations and campaigns with brands like MAC Cosmetics and H&M.

In 2012, Rihanna launched the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in honor of her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. The CLF supports and provides funding for groundbreaking global education, health and emergency response programs. CLF has made considerable contributions to various causes throughout its history. Since its foundation, CLF has raised more than $24 million and assisted in more than 100 projects. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CLF has allocated more than $36 million to help those the crisis most impacted. The Foundation has also provided immediate COVID-19 assistance to over 14 countries along with providing funds to 45 organizations. Therefore, Rihanna is an exceptional example of the tremendous influence musicians dedicated to helping those in need can have on the world.

Conclusion

Musicians have contributed to the lives of many with their musical talents. However, another area musicians have made a remarkable impact in is assisting those poverty effects. With its resources and talents, musicians can reach places others cannot. This is why the musician’s role in helping those in need is a pivotal one. Not only does it provide crucial support but it also brings awareness to important causes. The artists above are just a few of many musicians dedicated to helping those in need.

– Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Africa’s Music IndustryIn April of 2020, the world’s most popular music streaming platform and one of the world’s biggest independent recording companies inked a new global licensing deal that will allocate more resources to new and existing entertainment markets in Africa. Spotify Music and Warner Music Group are working together to create new opportunities for artists to achieve international success in various countries, but Warner Music group is focusing on elevating the music streaming sector in Africa by investing in Africori, “a leading digital music platform for African artists and record labels.” Investing in Africa’s music industry could potentially contribute to lifting the continent out of poverty.

Warner Music Group Elevates Africa

Spotify has been available in Africa since 2018 in countries like Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia. While the company has hinted at future expansion in more African countries, its current licensing deal with Warner Music Group is working to elevate its global initiatives for Warner Group artists to grow the music industry worldwide.

Warner Music Group’s investment in Africori will make this possible by promoting existing African artists abroad, being able to sign global licensing deals with new artists and tap into a market that can provide opportunities for rising African stars. The main reason for investment will be to make African artists global by marketing their music to a global audience and giving newly signed artists the resources they need to grow their brand over time.

What is Africori?

Africori is an African digital music platform that is involved in almost every method of artist promotion. Its services include marketing, publishing, artist development, video distribution and booking artists around the globe. It was launched in 2009 “in response to the lack of opportunities available for African artists,” who now aim to make Africa a global source of inspiration. Africori already distributes to more than 200 domestic and international platforms because of their unique understanding of the African market.

This investment will transform Africa’s music industry by filling hundreds of job opportunities that are needed to manage global artists.

Investing in Africa’s creative minds has the potential for a big return for Warner Music Group as Africa’s music and entertainment sector is on course to reach 177.2 billion African rands of revenue in 2022, which equals $11.5 billion.

5 Reasons to Invest in Africa’s Creative Minds

With the investment deal being highly publicized, this move can inspire other U.S. or international entertainment groups to invest more in Africa’s music industry and entertainment sector.

  1. Music is a driving factor to economic success. Besides the artists themselves bringing in a high amount of revenue, a booming entertainment sector can create a multitude of jobs from publicists, directors, dancers, managers, set designers and more. Africa’s music sector is currently on the rise compared to many countries that already have established major entertainment deals.

  2.  Artist success leads to other business ventures. This could mean brand deals and sponsoring artists with products. Artists can partner up with African product companies, clothing companies, social media and more, to simultaneously promote themselves and other businesses.

  3. African artists are cultural magnets and trendsetters. Brian Nadra, an African musician labeled “an artist to watch in 2020” was called “an ambassador of East-African pop culture” in a region where there have not been many successful male singers. African artists are already being noticed globally which opens the door for new artists to achieve that same title.

  4. Africa’s music streaming platforms are on the rise. Currently, smartphone usage in Africa is estimated to grow exponentially in the next few years. Widespread smartphone usage will increase revenue per stream, platform subscriptions and music video views.

  5. Alleviating poverty in Africa. Growing the music scene in underdeveloped African countries can give people hope and an opportunity to pull them out of poverty. Many artists do not reach their goals because they lack the proper team or funding to continue to do so. Receiving funding to improve development gives communities a chance to prosper.

Africa’s creative minds have proven to be an untapped source of talent and inspiration. Africa’s music industry has the potential to grow itself and many other areas of the business to support artists for years to come. Warner Music Group’s decision to invest in Africori is just the beginning of supporting Africa’s ability to prosper.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in LiberiaExtreme poverty is a persistent challenge in the West African Nation of Liberia, where people continue to feel the after-effects of a 14-year civil war and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The World Bank estimates that 54% of Liberians live on less than $2 per day and 59% of eligible children attend school. Despite these realities, the future has promise: the growing Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) is working tirelessly to empower children and to target poverty in this country.

The History of LYO

In 2018, Julie McGhee, a musician from Canton, MI, formed the Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) string program. The program runs at Heart of Grace School, in Lower Johnsonville, just outside Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. McGhee recalls that she had traveled to Liberia on three prior mission trips before she visited any schools. When she visited Heart of Grace School in 2016, she discovered there were no developed music programs. McGhee states, “Some schools had choirs, but that really was the extent of music education in Liberia.”

The path to securing the LYO was quite difficult, requiring took two years of planning, securing donations, and overcoming major obstacles. For example, Liberian customs held LYO’s donated string instruments in customs for five months, delaying the start of the program. As a last resort, McGhee emailed Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, a senator who would eventually become Liberia’s vice president. Dr. Howard-Taylor was able to free the trapped shipment from customs, and in November 2018, the LYO officially launched. McGhee traveled to Liberia again and spent six weeks conducting a string orchestra camp at Heart of Grace School. She has continued LYO’s impact by regularly teaching lessons via video call from her home in Michigan, as well as intermittently traveling to Liberia. Meanwhile, McGhee’s teaching assistant, a young Liberian man named McGill Kowula, handles on-the-ground operations.

LYO’S Impact on Children

LYO has quickly become a source of pride in the community, as involvement in the orchestra is helping children learn to read. Literacy is a requirement to enter the LYO, motivating children to study and to work hard to enter the program. In 2020, 12 prospective orchestra members learned to read and obtained acceptance into LYO.

Several of LYO’s 43 string students have experienced other dramatic academic successes after becoming members of LYO, McGhee said. One such student was Mary, who began formal education in 2016 at the age of 11 but failed her first year. She transferred to Heart of Grace School in 2017, where she began playing in the LYO the following year. After involvement in the orchestra, Mary not only became a better student but jumped two grade levels. McGhee interviewed each student at the beginning of the string program and again a year after it started. According to McGhee, “I noticed that by the second interview, Mary told her story in a completely different way. She said, ‘I played my violin in front of the president, and that’s something no one in my family has ever done.’

LYO Needs Sustained Support to End Poverty in Liberia

State schools in Liberia are available at no cost, but many families prefer private schools. Unfortunately, 25% of young Liberian children report sexual abuse by a staff member. Private schools are often thought to be safer. However, the high rate of poverty in Liberia means that many families may struggle to afford private school fees, which are equivalent to about $100 per year. As a result, LYO students often receive sponsorship to stay in school, which may come through private donations or through other means. For example, the Jewels Starfish Foundation (JSF) is a female empowerment organization, run by Vice President Howard-Taylor, that sponsors education for girls grades 7-12. JSF currently pays tuition for 11 girls at Heart of Grace School.

Though McGhee is hopeful that she will be able to start a youth orchestra at another school in Liberia, LYO needs $44 per month per student to cover operational fees, and the current chapter of the orchestra has not received enough funding for the 2020/2021 school year. According to McGhee, LYO can benefit greatly from sustained monthly giving, though any financial gift is appreciated. Donations large and small will help LYO to continue its work and to reduce poverty in Liberia.

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

Global Music Project
It is scientifically proven that music poses many benefits, including improving memory, reducing stress and anxiety and improving heart health. Peter Fosso, a singer, songwriter and founder of Global Music Project, hopes to extend these benefits to the poor.

What is the Global Music Project?

Global Music Project is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 that works to provide musical instruments to adults and children in poverty all across the globe. The Musical Instrument Donation Program of the Global Music Project gives instruments that volunteers and participants donated to impoverished individuals in orphanages, schools and cities. Global Music Project also organizes music concerts and events to raise awareness and support for local artists in communities around the world. Additionally, the organization helps individuals learn about people and music from different cultures through its music discovery site.

How Does Music Help the Poor?

Studies have shown that learning a musical instrument can minimize stress levels, help develop concentration skills and improve confidence. For people living in poverty, music can pose other benefits as well. Music is an outlet to express creativity and unique cultures. It can also create a sustainable income for growing musicians. A sustainable income allows them to feed their families and make a living.

To help support these musicians, go on Global Music Project’s website. There are links to listen to music from growing artists all over the world.

How is This Organization Changing Lives?

Global Music Project donates instruments to a variety of people globally, including both adults and children. To date, the organization has reached many regions around the world: 53% of instruments donated to Brazil, 23% donated to the United States, 8% donated to countries in Africa and 16% donated to other countries. The organization also sponsors and funds events to help local musicians, small communities and charities around the world.

Stories of People Who the Program has Changed

The Global Music Program’s worldwide reach has changed lives in many different ways. One of the people who received help from the program is a young man from Ghana, Africa named Justice Asante. Justice loved to play the trombone, but he could not afford an instrument of his own. The program stepped up and donated one to him. He now takes part in a jazz band and plays music for his friends and family.

The program also assisted a community of musicians in Bahia, Brazil. A woman named Maestrina Elem Silva started a band called Children of Rocinha when she was just 8 years old. She made the instruments out of old cans, jars or whatever scrap material she could find. She later continued to develop the band in her 20s with the goal of helping children and teens escape the rough cycle of poverty, violence and drug activity. Global Music Project helped fund a film about Elem’s work called “Maestrina de Favela” and donated 30 drums to Elem’s band.

Global Music Project is one of the many organizations that exist to close the gap between the wealthy and those in poverty. The difference is it strives to do so by connecting people around the world through music. The organization has provided many with the means to achieve their dreams as aspiring musicians and hopes to continue doing so.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Indie Songs About World Poverty
Indie music is one of the most influential, yet under-recognized modern genres. It provides a space for artists to talk about global issues they have personal connections with, such as global poverty. This article highlights three indie songs about world poverty.

What is Indie Music?

The general public too often thinks of indie in the scope of the way it started in the 1980s. Indie is perceived as fairly underground and too out-of-the-box to reach the mainstream. Today, indie music consistently tops the charts and has for around a decade.

The genre tends to contain more substance than most of the other songs on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits Playlist. Indie music generally contains niche melodic elements and subject matters. These features often drive its artists toward writing lyrics about the causes they believe in. In addition, a hallmark of the genre is that its lyrics often combine large-scale issues with the artist’s personal problems. This tends to make the universal messages within the music especially effective. Artists make connections to political and social messages, making their work relevant to their audience. There is a slew of Indie songs that discuss poverty in great depth; here are three indie songs about world poverty:

“Royals” by Lorde

Lorde’s “Royals” transformed the pop music scene of 2013. The song was on every major radio station and top hits chart. Most surprisingly, a 16-year-old wrote it. Though the song does address the New Zealand-native singer’s qualms through a teenage perspective, her subject matter is quite mature. Her message subverts what teenagers in 2013 most often sang about. For example, on the top charts alongside “Royals” were songs in the vein of Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie,” as well as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Wanz’s “Thrift Shop,” both of which flaunt wealth and expensive items (though “Thrift Shop” does use those items to make a statement about wealth as well, however it is not outright like Lorde’s is).

“Royals” combats the stigma that those in poverty are victims of oppression and seek to have the lives of the rich. Lorde paints herself and her friends as having “cracked the code” about how to live life in this manner. The lyricist accepts the fact that “they’ll never be royals,” thereby acknowledging her role in society and where she stands. Yet, the chorus ends with the lines, “let me be your ruler // you can call me queen bee // and baby I’ll rule // let me live that fantasy.”

Lorde describes her understanding of her current standing in society. However, she still longs to have what those who are more fortunate may. She believes that she can be a “ruler” or “queen bee,” but that it’s only a fantasy without others around her willing to “let” her. Lorde’s proclamation of this somewhat pessimistic attitude toward her situation draws attention to poverty in a new way. Rather than people deserving pity, those in need of aid get a story through Lorde’s music and become relatable, resourceful and headstrong.

“Stunner” by Milky Chance

“Stunner” is a song from the band Milky Chance, a group originating in Kassel, Germany. Milky Chance’s music spans multiple genres, namely alternative rock, folk and indie. This song from the band’s debut album Sadnecessary recounts the story of a girl the singer is romantically interested in, through describing her social “rank” versus his. The opening lines of the song read, “She was a stunner // riding high and I got low // rank and others // couldn’t see what she was worth.” The group uses metaphors that make use of monetary language to sheds light on the divide between social classes. This song explores how stigmas stop those with minimal resources from interacting with those around them that could help.

The hook of the song expounds on this idea: “We end up in the richest poverty.” By pairing the word “poverty” with “richest,” Milky Chance subverts the idea that those in poverty lack the ability to experience the supposed richer parts of life. The group explains that even without resources, there is still a way to make the most of what’s available. If given the same opportunities as the more fortunate, people in poverty could become even more successful.

“We Have Everything” by Young Galaxy

Just like Milky Chance does with “Stunner,” Young Galaxy makes its statement about poverty through the lens of the love song “We Have Everything.” The hook sings “in poverty, my love, we have everything,” explaining that although the couple may not have optimal resources, they can still make the best out of their situation with one another.

However, Young Galaxy goes the extra mile to bring awareness to the experience of being in poverty in the verses of “We Have Everything,” by describing what the experience is like: “We’re swimming and I keep going under // Had enough of the fog, sheets, and thunder // Can’t we begin being bored and breezy? // See our way back into a clearing day.” Though these lyrics can be thought of as metaphors for the course of a relationship, they connect to the idea of “poverty” in the chorus by describing what it is like to be homeless and without shelter. This song makes this theme accessible to the listener by relating it to love, a universally experienced emotion.

These three indie songs about world poverty are excellent examples of how musicians can highlight global issues. Hopefully, these three songs can bring awareness to a subject that so many struggle with around the world.

Ava Roberts
Photo: Flickr

Social Activism by Musicians
Music continues to unite people all around the world despite social distance. With cities urging self-isolation, celebrities are stepping up through charity donations and virtual concert performances. Here are several ways social activism by musicians is making a difference.

Online Concert Streaming

Musician friends Lucius and Courtney Barnett, joined together to raise money for Oxfam’s COVID-19 Relief Fund. Their 4-hour live performance streamed via Instagram was packed with new song debuts and famous cover remixes. Accompanied by individual performances from singers like Sheryl Crow and Lukas Nelson, the event raised more than $38,000.

Through his “Living Room Concert for America,” Elton John joined with musicians such as Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga to raise more than $10 million for Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation. The Lumineers also raised over $600,000 for MusiCares and the Colorado Restaurant Association through their live stream concert on May 8th.

Relief Efforts to Fight COVID-19

Through the Clara Lionel Foundation, Rihanna has given $5 million in grants to organizations such as Direct Relief, the International Rescue Committee and the World Health Organization to help underprivileged communities fight COVID-19. Musician Dierks Bentley has also demonstrated interest in alleviating pain from the vulnerable communities. In 2019, Dierks Bentley performed at a benefit for the Troy Gentry Foundation, which works with families in need. Bentley has also worked with WE Day, Stand Up to Cancer, Amnesty International and the Children’s Miracle Network to raise awareness and provide financial support.

Donations Given to MusiCares

On June 29th, The Weeknd announced a $1,000,000 donation to support relief efforts. The donation will be split in half with $500,000 for MusiCares and the other half for the Scarborough Health Network, which aids front-line healthcare workers.

Dolly Parton, widely recognized for her philanthropic efforts, was named the MusiCares Person of the Year. She founded the Imagination Library in 1995, which gives kids one book per month until they reach kindergarten. To date, more than 100 million books have been provided through her literacy program. In 2016, she put together the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon, which raised more than $13 million to be given to victims of the wildfires in Gatlinburg. Parton continued her strides in 2020, when she gave $1 million to fund research by Vanderbilt University Medical Center on a cure for COVID-19.

Taylor Swift is also known to lend a hand when she can, and in the face of the Coronavirus, she did just that. Swift supported her favorite record shop in Nashville by making a disclosed donation and giving three months of paid health insurance to the staffers. She has also donated to her fans in need and to Feeding America.

Looking Forward

While much still needs to be done in regards to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, social activism by musicians like these is bringing about change by providing relief to organizations and underserved communities. Through music, these musicians are making change by giving hope and comfort to the world in light of the pandemic.

Erica Fealtman
Photo: Flickr

SongAidAs people in the U.S. and around the world try to stay safe during the global pandemic, many are spending more time at home. It is not uncommon for people to spend their time at home utilizing a variety of streaming services. That is why the American media distribution company The Orchard, the global nonprofit WhyHunger and 60 musicians have collaborated to create SongAid. SongAid, a collaborative music streaming process, helps alleviate the negative impact COVID-19 has had on global poverty and hunger.

What Is SongAid?

SongAid is a project that works with major music streaming sites to donate profits made from streaming to the WhyHunger Rapid Response Fund. On May 29, 2020, SongAid released its first playlist. The playlist included a variety of artists from Wilco to Galatic. Listeners can find the SongAid playlists, curated by diverse groups of celebrities, on major music streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Youtube Music. SongAid releases new music every Friday. Every time someone streams a SongAid song or playlist, the proceeds go directly to WhyHunger. Additionally, SongAid will host virtual gaming, music and artists events throughout the summer to promote its partnership with WhyHunger.

What is WhyHunger?

WhyHunger is a global nonprofit organization started by artists Harry Chapin and Bill Ayres in 1975. The musician and DJ started the organization to provide global access to safe, nutritious food. Several strategies of operation guide the organization. These strategies include empowering and supporting grassroots movements, advocating for social justice and uplifting community voices. Additionally the organization also focuses on protecting the right to adequate food and promoting agro-ecology. WhyHunger has raised $13 million through initiatives like Artists Against Hunger & Poverty, where artists band together to raise funds to support the various components of WhyHunger, such as the Global Movement Program, the Find Food Database and the WhyHunger Hotline.

Through its Global Movement Program, WhyHunger supports international movements for greater access to food, land and water. They have supported the World March of Women, La Via Campesina International and the World Forum of Fisher Peoples. Between 2012 and 2017, the organization raised $1.2 million to support more than 100,000 small farmers in 68 countries.

COVID-19, Poverty and Food Insecurity

Organizations like WhyHunger worked to reduce food insecurity and poverty around the world before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, individuals and organizations such as those brought together through SongAid have begun to recognize that the work WhyHunger does is even more crucial during this pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted the global food supply chain by forcing countries to close their borders. Additionally, restricting exports and keeping workers at home also affect the food supply chain.

Estimates show that half a billion people will fall into poverty as a result of disruptions to the global economy. Additionally, food prices continue to rise due to panic buying and increased demand. For example, the cost of wheat has increased by 15% and the value of rice by 12% around the globe. Moreover, less than 20% of already low-income countries do not have systematic support to provide aid to citizens that are facing exacerbated hunger and poverty.

Despite the seemingly hopelessness situation, coalitions like SongAid are fighting to help people around the world get access to the food and resources they need in spite of the global pandemic.

– Tiara Wilson 

Photo: Pixabay

Ndlovu Youth ChoirThe Ndlovu Youth Choir is a group of underprivileged youth from the Ndlovu Care Group in rural Limpopo, South Africa. They received the opportunity to build a unique musical community and have gained international exposure for their talent and mission. In the face of COVID-19, they have been working to educate those in their communities about the disease through song.

The Mission of the Group

Dutch physician Dr. Hugo Tempelman established the Ndlovu Care Group in 1994, aiming to deliver proper childcare, healthcare, education, and community development for all in the local community. Dr. Tempelman later co-founded the Youth Choir in 2009, with Ralf Schmitt as co-founder and musical director. It started primarily as an after-school extracurricular opportunity and transformed into a professional, internationally-recognized choir group. The choir has continued to greatly influence the lives of its members, emphasizing that everyone has the capacity to accomplish whatever they put their mind to regardless of level of education, birthplace, or background. The choir’s positive impact has stretched around the globe. South Africa has one of the worst education systems in the world, but the choir is working to change that in a unique way. The Ndlovu Youth Choir has been working to stretch its impact to children in the most need, providing them with a safe space to both develop their musical talents while also developing strong friendships with their fellow choir members. The goal of the Ndlovu Youth Choir is to “…strive to nurture values such as self-discipline, self-confidence, tolerance, respect and leadership in our choristers.”

International Exposure

The official website of the choir “…promises to deliver an experience of infectious joy, a toe-tapping and energetic South African music…” including “…Afro-Pop classics [and] traditional South African music and original compositions irresistibly combined with mesmerizing choreography.” They have been successful in sharing such “infectious joy.” In 2018, they released a cover of Ed Sheeran’s pop hit “Shape of You” and instantly went viral. Its fame escalated upon auditioning for Season 14 of the reality TV show America’s Got Talent (AGT) and, ultimately, becoming finalists. From performing originals like “My African Dream” for their audition and doing covers of songs like Whitney Houston’s “Higher Love,” the group has consistently delivered performances that caught the attention of a wide range of audiences, from the New York Times to Billboard. Its performance in the show landed it a 2019 record deal offer with AGT judge Simon Cowell and his company Sony Music.

Spreading Awareness

The Youth Choir recently released a song titled “We’ve Got This,” hoping to raise awareness about how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The choir sings the original in both their native language of isiZulu and English and offers useful advice about how to stay safe in the midst of this pandemic. They gleefully sing, “Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands.”

In addition to producing the song, the choir also choreographed its own dance for viewers to follow along with. Its music video was filled with bright South African cultural attire and even brighter smiles. Its song ends on a positive note, with the choir singing, “Don’t panic. Don’t spread rumors. We will beat corona.”

It may be surprising to discover that it took the choir and its managing team less than a day to complete production. Even though the choreography is original and complex and the effort to coordinate production seemingly more time-consuming, the choir has been quick and dedicated to combating COVID-19 through their music. According to Ndlovu Youth Choir’s co-founder and director Ralf Schmitt, misinformation regarding COVID-19 was prevalent in their local community. In producing “We’ve Got This,” the choir was able to spread positivity while relaying accurate advice about how to stay safest and healthiest during these challenging times.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

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