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

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