It is important to realize that music is much more than entertainment.  Music says something about our heritage, our culture, and the kinds of people we strive to be.  Also important to note, music exists with a wide variation throughout the world.  Sure, the British invasion was one great example America witnessed. But let’s take a look at some contemporary acts you may not be familiar with.  In the spirit of representing the diversity of cultures and heritages that meet in Africa, here are five notable African musicians that you should be adding to your iPod.

1. P-Square

If you are in the mood for some R&B, check out Nigerian duo P-Square.  Peter and Paul Okoye are identical twins, hence the name P-Square.  With six albums (including a greatest hits compilation), and a record deal with famous Senegalese-American rapper/singer Akon, P-Square has quite the resume.

2. Koffi Olomide

Hailing from the Congo, Olomide is known for combining traditionally Latin grooves with African dance music.  In particular, Olomide’s style is considered to be soukous, which has its roots in rumba.  His lyricism and vocals have been highly praised by music critics across the globe.

3. D’banj

D’banj’s blend of Afro-Beats with electronic music caught the eye of hip-hop virtuoso Kanye West.  In 2011, D’banj signed with West’s GOODMusic label.  He is also well known for his humanitarian efforts as Nigeria’s Youth Ambassador for Peace to the United Nations.

4. Jose Chameleone

Jose Chameleone is a Ugandan musician known for mixing folk music with reggae and Latin influences.  Singing in English, Swahili, and Luganda (the major language of Uganda), Chameleone shows how he can “blend in” with multiple cultures.

5. Yvonne Chaka Chaka

A South African singer of the Mbaqanga genre, Chaka Chaka is both a musician and a scholar who teaches literature at the University of South Africa.  Mbaqanga is a style sometimes considered to be like jazz, but has roots in traditional Zulu music.  Chaka Chaka has been active in the South African music scene since 1985, and has a tremendous catalog.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: All Africa, The African Economist
Photo: LifeStyle

Music is a powerful medium that spreads messages cross borders, cultures, and language barriers. Music is something people absolutely love and over which they get passionate. In addition to music’s utility of the auditory sense, live music provides for engagement of all the senses. What better environment to raise consciousness about an important cause, than when the audience is voluntarily, and ultimately thoroughly, engaged in the message being sent to them?

The cause to which I am referring is Global Poverty Project, an international education and advocacy humanitarian organization working to end global poverty. The Global Poverty Project is an Australian-based organization led by Hugh Evans–a man who has become a significant voice for the movement.

Global Citizen is an awareness raising online platform, which allows users to earn points by sharing information. In turn, users earn points, and can use their points to bid on live entertainment events, such as Global Citizen Festival.

The Global Citizen Festival takes place in Central Park in New York City. The 2nd Global Citizen Festival took place on September 28, 2013. The Global Citizens Tickets initiative motivated most of the concertgoers to earn their tickets by raising awareness about global poverty.

The concert is presented by Cotton on Foundation, an organization which has notably built the best performing schools in Uganda and has contributed significantly to educational needs in Africa.

According to the Global Citizen Festival website, more progress has been made over the past thirteen years than ever before. Amazingly, the end of poverty is within reach. The Global Poverty Project is based on four main goals: education, health, women’s equality, and global partnerships. The project understands change can only occur if world leaders are notified and asked to support these goals.

According to the site, 57 million children are denied basic schooling services. The goal is to provide schooling by 2015. In the health sector, the main goal is to have 1 million quality community health workers by 2015. The project’s women equality goal is to recognize women’s and girls’ equality as a priority and take measures to support that equality. Goals involving global partnership emphasize gathering support from public and private organizations in a commitment to end global poverty by 2030.

The 2nd annual Global Citizen Festival was a success. Well-known artists John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Alicia Keys, and Stevie Wonder headlined the five-and-a-half hour concert. Notably, this year, the project campaigned for policy changes in the core areas of education, women’s equality, and reproductive health.

– Laura Reinacher

Sources: Global Citizen, New York Times, Forbes
Photo: NY Daily News

The long line of musicians joining the fight against global poverty has added a few more names to the roster. More than 70 artists, including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Pearl Jam, and Bruce Springsteen, have teamed up with the Global Poverty Project to turn their fans into advocates for global poverty.

The Global Citizen Tickets Initiative is the innovative way the Global Poverty Project has been using to further their cause. Artists have donated two tickets from each of their shows, totaling over 20,000 tickets to be won by their fans. To win the tickets, fans must earn points by signing petitions, pledging volunteer hours, writing to elected leaders, or donating money to aid organizations. The points they earn can either be used to enter a lottery, or, with enough points, redeemed for tickets directly.

Hugh Evans, the CEO and co-founder of the Global Poverty Project, told the New York Times, “It provides us with an opportunity to get really powerful activism worldwide.” Over the last year, Evans has collaborated with the two largest concert promoters, three major talent agencies, and dozens of band and festival managers to acquire the tickets.

The Global Poverty Project is no stranger to the music scene. The organization  has hosted the Global Citizen Festival twice in Central Park, featuring artists such as Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, the Foo Fighters, and Kings of Leon.

The initiative was created shortly after the first Global Citizen Festival, when Evans asked Kelly Curtis, the manager for Pearl Jam, to play at the festival. The concept caught on quickly with artists due to the small sacrifice, and lack of controversy about the cause.

The Global Poverty Project focuses on educating and advocating for those living in extreme poverty, as well as raising funds for their partners. Along with The End of Polio campaign, they have raised over $118 million in pledges towards the eradication of polio.

– David Smith

Sources: New York Times, Global Poverty Project
Photo: The Roosevelts

One Campaign Celebrities Support Global Development International Aid
Some of the United Kingdom’s most popular musicians — the boy band, One Direction, and the solo heartthrob, Ed Sheeran — have joined the fight against global poverty. Both recorded sessions in support of the ONE campaign, an initiative that is striving to eliminate all significant fiscal inequities by 2030.

Although they just recently joined the ONE initiative, One Direction is not unfamiliar with charity and advocacy. Earlier this year, the band toured Ghana to record a single and raise money for the annual British philanthropic event “Red Nose Day.” Moreover, the band has offered to pledge over $319,000 from their upcoming tour in order to support cancer research. Tellingly, ONE’s collaboration with One Direction seems to be fitting not only in namesake, but also in the capacity of goals and hopes.

In the contemporary developing world, ONE has enacted major positive change on a global scale. The organization, comprised of over three million employees, campaigners, and advocates, has been working relentlessly to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable disease in Africa. Co-founded by Bono, the organization raises political awareness about critical illnesses like AIDS, whilst also investing significantly in nutritional and agricultural programs.

Due to the success of ONE’s programs, over 7.5 million people have been given access to life-saving medication in Africa, a prodigious increase from just 50,000 recipients in 2002. Instances of malaria have seen a 75 percent reduction since 2000. Furthermore, in the past 13 years, 51 million more children have access to primary school across sub-Saharan Africa, an increase that is unprecedented in the continent’s history.

Furthermore, ONE has collaborated with a wide-range of African activists and policymakers in order to shape an auspicious future. In working closely with these African leaders, the organization attempts to effectively eliminate corruption and aid misuse, helping to form a democratic and just society in which all, regardless of class or racial backgrounds, are protected and secure.

In light of its successes, ONE is not a grant-making organization and does not receive government or public donations. The organization maintains its funding through select philanthropists and organizations. Thus, advocacy, rather than fundraising, is key—ONE strives to educate the public of the fatal repercussions of rampant global poverty, inspiring a new generation of change.

With some of pop music’s most recognized faces leading the campaign, ONE is sure to receive an influx of attention in the coming weeks, which could, in turn, change the face of Africa.

– Anna Purcell 

Sources: ONE, AND POP
Photo: Daily Billboard Blog

‘The world sends us garbage. We send back music,” said Favio Chávez, the conductor of the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra.

The Cateura Dump, in the Bañado Sur area along the Paraguay River, is surrounded by seven neighborhoods. 2,500 families live in these neighborhoods, and the majority rely on the landfill to survive, sorting through the 1,500 tons of waste delivered daily and reusing whatever can be found. Poverty has forced many children to work with their families instead of attending school, resulting in inadequate education and a low level of literacy. The area also faces frequent flooding, as well as problems with sanitation and clean drinking water. It is from these troubled beginnings that the Landfill Harmonic originated.

Whilst working in the area, Favio Chávez, an ecological technician decided to teach music to some of the children. Chávez had previously trained as a musician and initially used his own instruments to give lessons. But he soon had too many students and not enough instruments. It was then that the idea to create instruments from recycled materials first struck him. The result was “Los Reciclados” (the Recycled Orchestra) was born using oil cans and scavenged wood, forks and kitchen utensils to create orchestral instruments.

Since its beginnings, the Recycled Orchestra has toured the world, performing in Argentina, Brazil, and Germany, and will be the subject of an upcoming documentary, “Landfill Harmonic.” And while the orchestra may have been created to “educate the world and raise awareness,” as Chávez says, the profound impact on individual lives is very apparent. Chavez continues, “…even though these students are in extreme poverty, they can also contribute to society. They deserve an opportunity.”

One of the orchestral members stated, “My life would be worthless without music.” For children living in poverty, and in an environment where the potential for education and advancement is slim, being given the opportunity to study music and travel the world can be invaluable.

“People realize that we shouldn’t throw away trash carelessly,” Chávez says. “Well, we shouldn’t throw away people either.”

– David Wilson 

Sources: Time, Notes on the Road, UNICEF
Photo: MSNBC Media

Pussy Riot Picture
Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk-rock group that stages anonymous political anti-establishment performances in controversial places throughout Russia, is a band that is introducing political art in a way that most Russians are unfamiliar with. Until now, much of Russian art was either propagandistic or entirely apolitical; now, Pussy Riot and street art groups like it are introducing art with the purpose of political change.

Pussy Riot became famous in February 2012, when they staged a performance in their typical garb (brightly colored dresses and balaclavas) at the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The performance lasted less than one minute before three of the seven participants were dragged off the altar and arrested for “hooliganism” (similar to disorderly conduct).

The group’s performance wouldn’t have made nearly as much of an impact if it weren’t for many important factors:

  1. The ardent devotion of the Russian Orthodox Church. The church that the girls performed in is one of the oldest in Russian history. The church was destroyed in the 1930s and was not rebuilt until the 1990s. Because many Russians, particularly of the older generation, worship very devoutly because of the disallowance of religion during the Soviet Union, the performance was seen as a vulgar act motivated by “religious hatred”.
  2. The recent reelection of Vladimir Putin. The punk rock group (and other acts like it, including controversial Russian political art group VOINA, which is best known for its publicity stunt of having group sex in a biology museum) openly opposes the Russian government and accuses it for not being open, or practicing glasnost, enough. Pussy Riot asserts in many of their songs that Putin is a sexist dictator and must be forced out of government.
  3. Russia not having moved away completely from Communism. In Russia, capitalism and governmental transparency have been distant concepts for many decades. The transition from communism to capitalism and democracy in Russia is not complete. Therefore, to many citizens in Russia, governmental opposition is still not welcome, as the last time there was governmental opposition in the form of protesting in Russia, the Bolsheviks took power.

Pussy Riot’s trial gained media attention in Russia because of the enormous political and social implications of both their actions and the resulting trial. However, the leftist political group Pussy Riot is doing more than just fighting Putin’s government.

The general public in Russia is conservative leaning. Vladimir Putin, current president of Russia, is sponsored by the political party United Russia, which is Russia’s leading conservative political party. United Russia supports the neoclassical economic model, meaning it focuses on the economic activities of production, distribution and consumption. Neoclassical economics exclude all non-market activities, which is the financial antithesis of feminist economics, which shows that including non-market activities removes substantial gender biases from social order.

Excluding non-market activities from GDP analyses literally devalues the work done disproportionately by women, and when an entire half of the population’s financial contributions are significantly devalued, less money is available for social programs. This is a contributing factor as to why poverty rates generally increase in places that don’t provide equal social and professional opportunities for men and women (for example, based on Hofstede’s Power Distance Index, Bangladesh is extremely hierarchical, and over 70% of the population lives on less than $2/day. In contrast, Denmark is one of the most egalitarian nations in the world, and only 13% of that population lives below the poverty line).

Of course, with such a divisive performance, Pussy Riot turned off an abundance of people in Russia. However, what Pussy Riot is doing is slowly gaining supporters for left-leaning economic policies. When non-market activities are included in the calculations of Russia’s GDP, the numbers will be notably more accurate, meaning more money will appear, and there will be more money available to the public. This will be a long process, but undoubtedly one that will bring many in Russia out of poverty.

– Lindsey Rubinstein

Sources: Tufts University, GQ, The Guardian, The Economist, Library of Economics, Volunteer Alberta, BBC, Index Mundi

SCREAM to End Child Labor
An estimated 215 million children are involved in labor worldwide. Over half of these children are forced into the dark side of child slavery, drug trafficking, prostitution, and armed conflict. Labor of any kind deprives children of their right to adequate education, leisure, health and other basic freedoms, and forces them into a world of endless work and subjugation.

June 12 marks the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) annual call for a global commitment to end the harmful practice of child labor. Since 2002, the ILO has used this day to highlight the plight of children around the world who face this reality every day. It is the hope of the organization that the day will serve as a “catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labor.”

A number of efforts exist aimed at promoting support for and awareness of the cause led by the ILO and other organizations. The ILO’s chief effort is the campaign “Supporting Children’s Rights through Education, the Arts and the Media,” SCREAM for short.

SCREAM is based around the idea that every child has the right “to play, to go to school and to dream. Adults bear the responsibility, as guardians of childhood, for making that possible.” This sentiment is supported by community actors and organizations, all of which also believe in the promotion of social justice and the universal recognition of children’s rights.

Through education, the vicious cycle of child labor and poverty can be broken. In the same way that poverty leads to child labor, child labor also leads to further poverty. Education gives children the opportunity to remove themselves from this perpetual condition to realize their full potential.

The arts can act as a powerful tool in the empowerment of children. Through learning to express themselves, children can develop confidence, memory, self-discipline, and self-esteem.  One initiative,“Music against Child Labor Initiative”, asks orchestras, choirs and musicians across all genres to dedicate one concert to the struggle against child labor. Conductors Claudio Abbado, José-Antonio Abreu, Daniel Barenboim, the Mozart Orchestra, the International Federation of Musicians, and el Fundación Musical Simon Bolivar El Sistema are among the top supporters.

The initiative’s manifesto states that “music – in all forms – is a universal language. Although we sing in every tongue, it also expresses emotions we cannot say in worlds. It links us all. Together, the world of music can raise its voice and instruments against child labor.”

Finally, at a time when global communication is at an all-time high, the integration of media provides an important opportunity to bring an end to child labor. With the help of media attention, the SCREAM program has been carried out in 65 countries and is available in 19 languages.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: International Labor OrganizationSCREAM

Photo: World Vision

What can bring together music stars ranging from Tony Bennett to Black Sabbath to Tim McGraw? Global Citizen can.

Global Citizen is an organization that encourages people to become social activists and fight against extreme global poverty. The Global Citizen Ticket Initiative was conceived by Pearl Jam’s manager Kelly Curtis and Global Poverty Project’s chief executive Hugh Evans. The program allows fans of music superstars to earn the chance to win free concert tickets by promoting awareness about global poverty. People can earn one point by sharing a video on Facebook that deals with global poverty and twenty points by raising twenty dollars or more for a charity participating in the program. The people who earn between ten and twenty points can choose to enter those points into a ticket lottery to win two tickets for their favorite star’s concert.

Curtis and Evans came up with the idea when they were planning last year’s Global Citizen Festival which raised $1.3 billion for the world’s poor. The Pearl Jam manager realized that the Global Citizen Ticket Initiative was a great way to spread activism in a way that was familiar and would attract millions of people. Evans who was already a veteran at planning and executing social activist programs helped organize the plan saying that “it just shows the natural link between music and social activism to create change.”

Katie Brockman
Source: Rolling Stone
Photo: Global Citizen

Ever imagine combining a love for music with a passion for social activism?  That is exactly what the Global Poverty Project did with the Global Citizen Ticket Initiative. This innovative initiative seeks to reward social activism with something music lovers seek: concert tickets! Social activists can now use their passion for changing the world to earn music tickets. The initiative builds off the Global Poverty Project’s highly successful Global Citizen Festival which was held in New York City in 2012. 60,000 people earned free tickets to that event by participating in social activist activities.

The initiative is supported by musicians such as Pearl Jam and music industry professionals who want to see engagement around global poverty and make the eradication of global poverty a reality.  Musicians can inspire and motivate individuals to action; their support is extremely important to the cause. The goal is to rally thousands around causes such as polio, malaria, women’s empowerment, and education.  By adding incentives, the Global Poverty Project hopes to reach a larger number of individuals and spread the message even farther.

Global Citizen tickets are earned based off of a point reward system.  The points are linked to levels of involvement in social activism. For example, posting a link on Facebook earns one point whereas calling your senator will earn five points. The points can be redeemed for local concerts as well as passes to major music fests like Bonnaroo. It’s a way of rewarding people for their actions and providing an alternative to purchasing concert tickets. Several artists who have signed on to participate include John Mayer, Kayne West, Rihanna, Tim McGraw, and the Dixie Chicks. A complete list of artists and festivals is available on the website.

Music fans and activists alike are invited to participate in the Global Citizen Ticket initiative.  Their is an innovative online platform as well as mobile application to make participation easy. To get involved, register at and get started raising awareness and earning rewards today.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: JamBase

Heartbeat, a non-profit organization which unites Palestinian and Israeli youth musicians, will visit the State Department this week for a musical performance and discussion. Aaron Shneyer leads the group and is a former Fulbright-mtvU Scholar, and has continued to lead Heartbeat since his grant ended in 2008.

The group, based in Jerusalem, is meant to “build trust among Israeli and Palestinian youth through the power of music in what they call a sustained music-based dialogue.” The group practices and plays songs in French, Hebrew, Arabic, and English. The group has an EP available for download, and they blend both modern and classic instruments in their music which features jazz, hip hop, folk, and rock.

The Fulbright-mtvU program provides U.S. scholars with a year grant to spend going abroad and working with music as a way of encouraging a global understanding and respect. Although the partnership between the Fulbright program and mtvU is a public-private one, these collaborations provide U.S. students with unique opportunities around the world.

Since its inception, the Fulbright Program has provided funding for over 318,000 scholars to “study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: U.S. State Department
Photo: Art Fuse