Humanitarian Award Winner _________________________________
Each year the GMA honors a musician with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The award goes to Megan Makeever for her album, Unstoppable. Her songs bravely contain lyrics about personal themes such as body image, unrequited love, gratefulness and self-confidence. She has a broad appeal because she writes from experience about universal themes. Makeeveer is currently a flute performance major at St. Olaf College. LINK
The Unstoppable Megan Makeever
By Yayoi Lena Winfrey
With her bubbly disposition and warm personality, Megan Makeever seems a natural winner for the first annual GMA Humanitarian Award.
Born and raised in Bozeman Montana, she began dreaming of singing at age three. By the time she was five, she was playing piano and later learned flute, guitar and cello.
Currently a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Makeever says her teachers were surprised to learn she had released a CD, featuring songs she wrote and sang, because they are only known her as a flautist enrolled in classical flute performance studies.
At 18, Makeever released her first album titled, Movin On. Two years later, in 2012, came Unstoppable, her second album and the source of her GMA honors.
I have always wanted to be a singer and songwriter who played guitar and piano, she says enthusiastically. Although she has no plans to stop playing the flute, Makeever is setting it aside for now. Rehearsing and practicing the instrument takes six to seven hours a day that could be used for creating her next album.
I spend lots of time in practice and rehearsal rooms, she explains, and, I feel I have not communicating with people the way I want to. Her way of communication is through writing and singing songs. Although she still enjoys classical music, which she describes as musically and harmonically complex, Makeever thinks it does not reach enough people. Classical music is less accessible to a wider range of people, she clarifies. There are no lyrics.
Growing up in a musical family, Makeever developed her skills naturally. Her mother, a flute teacher at Montana State University in Bozeman, is a professional flautist. Makeever's father, a retired trumpet professor at Montana State, plays in the Bozeman Symphony along with her mother who also plays for the Billings Symphony. Makeever's older brother just completed his music education at Montana State.
Although she was heavily influenced by her family, Makeever says they only encouraged and never pushed. Still, she admits, she is kind of the black sheep of the family. Citing her choice to pursue singing and songwriting, she reasons that it is because she wants to relate with everyone she can through singing about her own personal experiences. With a preference for simple lyrics and melodies expressing universal messages, Makeever says most of her songs revolve around body image and self-esteem issues.
There is a lot of angst in post-adolescence women, she explains, What I am singing about is mostly for young people who have been hurt, who have had a tough time. Calling herself a closet philosophy major, Makeever says she is focused on the concept of empathy, because she understands that most people are not much different than her.
Some people think my songs are sad, she confesses, because she sings about unrequited love, being used by men and heartbreaks. However, she also looks for the beauty in those experiences. I am grateful (those guys) broke my heart because some good art came out of that, she laughs.
Her goal, Makeever says, is to connect with as many people as possible by trying to embrace the concept of life. Instead of writing so much about my own experiences, I am trying to create universal concepts, she says. The life we are living as Americans, we are pretty well off compared to the rest of the world. Yet, says Makeever, there are universal feelings everyone shares. We as humans are trained to suppress our emotions, she expounds. A lot of people are afraid to cry in front of one another.
Makeever's sense of humanitarianism is exhibited through her determination to connect to everyone through her music. At a human level, emotions are what relate us to one another, she says. I want to make people feel less alone in their feelings. Listeners of her music, says Makeever, often approach her after a show to tell her, I feel like you just spoke my life. That, she finds gratifying. I want to break down those emotional barriers and genuinely sing about how I feel, she adds. Emotions are the most real thing that I have and the most powerful are through music, whether playing in an orchestra or show.
As for her songwriting process, Makeever says, Ultimately, it is the lyrics. I am not the best piano or guitar player. She says she uses background music as a vehicle for the words she is trying to say and the stories she wants to share. Starting with a concept about what she wants to sing, she usually develops the lyric first. I almost hear the lyric in my head and then the melody, she says. I have an idea of a general concept about what I want to sing and go to the piano. Then, I find a chord progression and the words and music come together.
As for winning the GMA's annual Humanitarian Award, which honors a musician dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues, Makeever is ecstatic. I hope this actually makes me be taken seriously as a songwriter, she says, which is something I have wanted to do for such a long time. In the past, she has feared promoting herself.
It has been kind of hard for me pre-Global Music Awards, she explains, because I want people to listen to my music, but I do not want them to think I am conceited. Makeever says that after winning the award (GMA Award of Merit), an article was published and, suddenly, a lot of people who knew her as a flautist began listening to her music.
They had no idea, she laughs. They just thought I was a ditzy blonde flute player. Makeever's fondest wish is to connect with people on a deeper level and reach a wider audience. This has been a really wonderful thing for me, she says referring to the Humanitarian Award. Now my dreams are coming true, and I realize I have more to offer than what I say with just my flute. LINK
A Collection of Music and Spoken Word
An Album to benefit No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes.
Humanitarian Award Winner
Each year the GMA honors musicians with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The award goes to Robert Neustadt and Chuck Cheesman for their album, Border Songs, A Collection of Music and Spoken Word. This collection brings together a body of music that brings awareness to the struggles of those who attempt to enter the United States without documentation. LINK
by Yayoi L. Winfrey
Undocumented migrants entering America via its southwestern borders are often subjected to aggressive tactics by United States patrols. Forced back towards their own countries, they are compelled to trek in the harsh dessert, sometimes resulting in death. To bring awareness to this multifaceted issue, Robert Neustadt and Chuck Chessman co-produced a two-record 31-track CD called Border Songs, A Collection of Music and Spoken Word.
Global Music Awards interviewed Robert Neustadt. He elaborates:
Q: What drew your attention to the plight of undocumented migrants?
A: I am a professor of Spanish and Director of Latin American Studies at Northern Arizona University. In my first book, I wrote about a performance artist who was part of a collective that did site-specific performances on the San Diego/Tijuana border in the 1980's. I've always had empathy for people who have fewer opportunities, privileges and resources. I realize now, nevertheless, that my early interest, while empathetic, was still fairly academic in comparison to how I feel today.
In 2010, I started taking students on field trips to the Arizona/Mexico border. When you look directly into the eyes of a deported person, and listen to them tell you their story, it changes you. Talking face-to-face, you realize that these are not statistics, nor are they drug dealers or criminals or migrants. They are human beings, mothers and fathers and children, people trying to survive and support their families. They have been dealt a bad hand.
Q: How often are those field trips?
A: I have taken students on similar trips every year since 2010. One year, I took two groups, which was crazy. This November, I will take another group. I have written an article about these field trips that appeared in UTNE Reader: LINK
Q: What is No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes?
A: We spend a segment of the five-day field trips with No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes, a volunteer group that provides humanitarian aid to migrants and to recently deported people on the Mexican side of the border. We hike with No More Deaths and see how they place water on trails in remote desert. We visit places in the desert where migrants have died. To stand at the place in the desert where a 14 year-old girl died, while trying to reach her mother in Los Angeles, is a very emotional experience.
I have watched No More Deaths administer medical aid to migrants in the desert; people who had not eaten for three days, people who had been drinking cow stock-pond water. Their bodies were so compromised that at first they could not even keep down food and water. When you see people suffer like this, it makes you want to help.
Q: Why a compilation album and not your own solo performance?
A: When I came back from my first field trip, I was as moved as my students. It sounds trite, but it is simply a mind-blowing experience to witness raw human suffering. I wrote a song,Voluntary Return, which tells the story of some of the people we met and sang it for my friend, singer-songwriter Chuck Cheesman. Voluntary Return is a kind of deportation; it is the term used by United States Border Patrol when asking an undocumented person to sign a legal form saying that they are voluntarily returning to their country of origin. Chuck already had written a beautiful song, Uphill: American Dream, about an undocumented man living in Chicago who sends money, rolled up in paintings, back to his family. Chuck threw out the idea of producing a compilation and selling it as a benefit for No More Deaths. I thought the idea was brilliant, latched on, and would not let go until he agreed to produce the album with me.
Q: How were artists selected?
A: Initially, the idea was to make an album with local artists, mostly folks from Arizona. We put out a Call for Songs on the internet and invited people to submit songs for consideration. We received some incredible songs from people who are only known in their own communities. Then, fairly early on, I received a call from a musician in Tucson, Ted Warmbrand, who knows Pete Seeger. Ted also has contacts with Guardabarranco, a really well-known Nicaraguan new song group, and Joel Rafael. Shortly thereafter, I received a message from a friend of a friend, Bill Carter, who asked if we would like to have Calexico, Michael Franti, Amos Lee, Sergio Mendoza and Giant Giant Sand on the album. These were all slam dunks, they brought the album into a whole new universe. Once we had this core of internationally known musicians, we took the initiative to contact other well-known artists, including Sweet Honey in the Rock, Tom Russell and Eliza Gilkyson, because we knew they had songs about the border and immigration. Everyone was delighted to be a part of the project!
I had contact with many of the spoken word artists because of my research as a professor and my work as Director of Latin American Studies. Margaret Randall is a really important poet who I had invited to give a reading at my university. Denise Chavez is an award-winning Chicana writer and performer who we also invited to present at the university. I actually recorded her in the hotel after her presentation. I had written about Ra Zurita, a Chilean poet, who has won the National Literary prize of Chile. The line-up on this CD is nothing short of brilliant!
Q: What is Glenn Weyant's song?
A: Glenn Weyant is an experimental artist, a sound sculptor, who attaches contact mics to the border wall and plays it as a musical instrument. I am not sure how they met, but he had taken Margaret Randall to the border and she was inspired by that visit to write the poem, Offended Turf. I met Glenn through my own research and had the idea of blending the sound of him playing the wall into a recording of Margaret reading the poem. Both of them loved the idea. Chuck and I kicked off the project by driving to Albuquerque and recording Margaret Randall. Then, Glenn Weyant sent us an audio file of his song, Droneland Security, and Chuck mixed it in with the poem. Chuck handled all of the audio for the project. He did a fantastic job!
The album is very eclectic. It goes from English to Spanish, from music to spoken word, and it includes an incredible array of musical genres, Blues, Corrido, Cumbia, Folk, Hip Hop, Americana, Mambo, Rock, Reggae, acoustic guitar and wall. It is all held together by a narrative that defends the dignity of human beings no matter where they were born.
Q: How long did production take?
A: It was super fast, too fast really. I think we started in January 2012 and released the CD on Columbus Day, October 12, of the same year. We wanted to take advantage of the symbolism of that date. We also wanted to release the album in the Coconino Center for the Arts, in Flagstaff Arizona, in time to coincide with a multimedia art show, Beyond the Border: The Wall, the People and the Land, so we had to work really fast. It was the most intense project I have taken on in my life!
Q: How has winning the Award of Merit benefited the project?
A: It certainly feels good to have your work recognized! We had three primary goals with this album: To raise awareness about the humanitarian tragedy on the border, to disseminate meaningful music and spoken word, and to raise funds that will work to alleviate human suffering. So far, we have raised over $30,000 and the goal is to reach nearly $100,000. We are grateful to GMA for this award and hopeful that it will help bring further attention to the suffering on the border and to the Border Songs CD.
Q: What is a good way to help?
A: Purchasing Border Songs is a great way to contribute to the cause. We fund-raised the cost to produce the album, so No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes is receiving ALL of the proceeds. Each album purchased provides 29 gallons of water, or the equivalent in medical supplies, food or clothing for migrants and/or recently deported people on the Mexican side of the border. Of course, people can donate directly to No More Deaths as well. LINK If they buy the CD they are donating to the cause and they receive the CD. If people can get to Tucson they can volunteer in the desert. No More Deaths also offers an Alternative Spring Break experience each year for people who want to see first-hand what is going on.
Global Music Awards
Humanitarian Award Winner
Each year Global Music Awards honors a musician with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The award goes to Peter Yarrow for a lifetime spent supporting causes related to social justice, human rights and children's issues. LINK
by Yayoi L. Winfrey
He may have been part of the Grammy-winning folk music trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, but Peter Yarrow has contributed a larger percentage of his life to creating a better world. Known for co-writing and co-singing the 1963 mega hit Puff the Magic Dragon, Yarrow has always been outspoken about humanitarian issues; equally dividing a music career with social activism.
When Peter, Paul & Mary burst into the limelight along with protest songs of the 1960’s, they did more than just make music. They awakened the consciousness of listeners, and Yarrow has never veered from that intention. Besides penning the melody for Puff, Yarrow has written a plethora of songs. In 1996, he was nominated (along with the group) for an Emmy for the Great Performances special LifeLines Live that featured folk music and the musicians and writers who’ve contributed to it. He’s also been nominated for several television specials based on Puff the Magic Dragon.
And, recently, Yarrow added another award to his lengthy list of accomplishments: the Global Music Awards Humanitarian Award. Honored for his outstanding lifetime contribution to peace, social justice and children’s issues, he was acknowledged for his many achievements including Operation Respect, a non-profit organization he founded. According to Yarrow, it’s “focused on making sure that children grow up in a caring, accepting, peaceful environment that’s free of bullying, mean-spiritedness and ridicule.”
Yarrow’s sense of outrage against acts of exclusion that starts in elementary school can be traced back to his early years.
“I went to a public school that was primarily Jewish,” he recalls. “One student’s name was Alfred and he was not Jewish. He just had a different point of view and kids didn’t want to play with him. So I said, ‘come on’ and I had him eat lunch with me.”
He adds, “That kind of sensitivity extends to when you’re an adult, for instance to people who are oppressed like blacks in our country.”
“It’s about the gift of being able to help. Or cure, or heal,” he says. “It’s extraordinarily rewarding, much more so than getting certain material things.”
Yarrow suggests that instead of feeling helpless about injustice, people should try to do something about it.
“That’s been inherent in my life,” he explains, “because Peter Paul & Mary” had the platform to spread the gospel about concern about one’s fellow human beings and to act on it so that there was a change that occurred.”
Whether it’s marching for Civil Rights, protesting war, or highlighting women’s or environmental issues, Yarrow has always been involved, especially as an organizer.
Since 1999, Operation Respect has provided curriculum to educators to help children become socially responsible. Nationally, some 22,000 schools follow it as well as do many schools outside the U.S., like Israel, Ukraine and Croatia. A program called Don’t Laugh at Me was developed for 2nd to 5th graders, and 6th to 8th graders, based on a song that Yarrow first heard at a folk festival.
“In such an environment, children not only can grow emotionally and socially, as well as academically, and in ways that allows them to become mature, productive and involved citizens, but it also provides an environment that they can focus on learning,” says Yarrow.
Citing the epidemic of “ridicule” and “cyberbullying” prevalent in today’s youth culture, he adds that it factors into the statistics on depression and child suicide that are “frightening”.
“We want children not only to be groomed to be as ostensibly able to make the economic and strength of the country something we’re proud of, but we also want them to be good human beings,” he says. “The current focus on academics to the exclusion of the growth of the social, emotional, and creative skills of the child is, to my mind, misplaced.”
Further, he adds, “The problem of being mean-spirited is not confined to children. When you look at reality television, you see adults attacking each other and becoming famous. If we can reach kids before they buy into that kind of mean-spiritedness, we can have a next generation of kids who are loving and nonviolent, and think in terms of building peace instead of trying to overwhelm and injure their opponents.”
Yarrow has also been nurturing a project for two years that will feature a groundbreaking concert this spring on both sides of a wall separating Israel and Palestine. His plans include having two international stars perform, an Israeli on one side and a Palestinian on the other, on two separate days. Ideally, he says, they should be able to play together, but that will have to wait until normalization of the two countries. However, his intent is not to make the show a “high production value”, but more like a peace march or amnesty concert.
“No Gaga or Madonna,” he chuckles.
With the recent passing of legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, Yarrow penned a poignant New York Times piece chronicling his visit on the day his “role model, mentor and father figure” died. Seeger’s signature tune, This Land is Your Land, over the years grew to represent American identity. For Yarrow, there are also songs he considers a part of his own legacy, such as: The Great Mandala (The Wheel of Life), an anti-war anthem; Day is Done, which was written in the context of the anti-war movement; Sweet Survivor; and, Walk to Freedom, which links Nelson Mandela to Martin Luther King, Jr.
“When I met Mandela,” says Yarrow, “he said he heard it in jail when he was at Robben Island.”
And, of course, Puff the Magic Dragon, which was rumored to be about smoking marijuana, is on the list.
“When something becomes really popular,” Yarrow explains, “it becomes its own trajectory and you have no control of what happens to it.”
Insisting that the lyrics (written by his college roommate, Leonard Lipton) are only about the innocence of childhood lost, Yarrows says the boy named Jackie Paper is not code for rolling papers nor does a dragon named Puff mean puffing on weed. “And, it was not written about the place in Hawai’i (Hanalei),” he adds.
As someone who uses music to initiate change, Yarrow is philosophical about why so little protest music is heard today and why more musicians don’t use music to fight injustice.
“There are many musicians that are dedicated to the perspective,” he says. “But they’re not going to be the kind of musicians that are being promoted by the record business which is all about profits that promotes entertainment.” Still, he believes there are many conscious musicians still performing. “There are probably ten times as many as the time of 1960’s, but you’re not going to hear from them,” he declares. “Nobody is going to sign them to a contract. If Bob Dylan were emerging now, he would not get a record deal. Neither would Peter, Paul & Mary.”
Having had a long and successful musical career, Yarrow is undeniably famous.
Asked for advice to young musicians about avoiding the abyss of fame, he laughs. “The abyss has six legs and 24 eyes and has slimy tentacles. Oh my god, there’s an abyss crawling into the room!”
Proclaiming that financial success should never be the impetus for making art, he says, “I think that as a painter or a dancer you have to know that it will be satisfying not because you make money with it, but because what you have to say as an artist is being said. If you chase the winds of popular taste and style, and let that consideration dominate your art, you will violate the very thing inside you that makes you an artist and you won’t be happy.”
Even with so many accomplishments, Yarrow is hard pressed to name his most important legacies.
“With Peter, Paul & Mary”, it was clearly igniting the conscience of those people who are embedded in our music and not their appreciation of us as singers and performers,” he offers. “The music created a sense of community and created a corresponding sensitivity among people who heard it and sang it together.”
His legacy, he thinks, is as a solo performer now and Operation Respect.
“My hope is that the legacy will be that we focus on children’s growth as good human beings if not more than their growth as good scholars and competent leaders in the marketplace,” he says.
And, he adds, “The way you can help is by being loving to one another.”
Malek Jandali, world-renowned composer and pianist, receives Global Music Awards Humanitarian Award
Humanitarian Award Winner
Each year Global Music Awards honors a musician with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The award goes to Malek Jandali for his contribution to peace and justice for the Syrian people.
Jandali's album Syrian Symphony was released during his Carnegie Hall performance in New York City where he premiered the latest chamber works for piano, cello and oud. It has been described by Thomas Ludwig of the London Symphony Orchestra as a “new symphonic mastery that was clearly not brought about only by a reaction to contemporary events, but also by sustained contact with the well-springs of polyphonic elegant music.” His causes go beyond those of humanitarian activism, as he is regularly recognized by and invited to speak to key academic audiences at Harvard University, Duke University and the United Nations headquarters.
Mr. Jandali was the recipient of the 2011 Freedom of Expression Award in Los Angeles and was recognized in New York City with the 2012 Arab-American Cultural Achievement Award. He was honored with the 2013 GUSI Peace Prize for his dedication to the peace and humanitarian causes featured in his 2013-2014 world tour The Voice of the Free Syrian Children.
Global Music Awards asked Mr. Jandali about his work.
Q: We know you are dedicated to assisting the Syrian people during this very difficult time. What goes through your mind when you think of the Syrian people?
A: When I think of the Syrian people, especially the children, I think of the bravery, honor and dignity they are portraying in the face of unspeakable cruelty. Their resilience over the last four years is a lesson to all of us that freedom is never free. The Syrian people are paying the ultimate price for their freedom and I can only hope that my music is worthy of their sacrifices.
Q: You acted as one of the first Syrian artists abroad to speak out publicly against the Syrian regime. You earned a Freedom of Expression award from the Council on American Islamic Relations for your message of peace and human rights. Tell us more of the background story behind receiving this singular honor?
A: As an artist, I feel it is my duty and obligation to be a voice for the people, and attempt to tell their stories so the world will know the suffering of the Syrian children. Living in Syria under dictatorship and oppression, there is no such thing as freedom of expression for any citizen, much less an artist. The Freedom of Expression Award was a great honor and inspired me to continue to use my freedom as an American artist to speak for truth and justice.
Q: After you received the honor from the Council on American Islamic Relations your parents were attacked and severely beaten at their home in Homs, Syria. If it is not too painful, please tell us about that shameful event and how it affected you willingness to continue your humanitarian efforts?
A: Actually, the Freedom of Expression Award came after the horrific attack on my parents. In July 2011, I participated in a peaceful rally in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. I was proud to attend and voice my support for the Syrian people and their peaceful revolution for freedom, democracy and human rights. Less than 72 hours later, three regime thugs broke into my parents’ home in Homs, thousands of miles away, and they were savagely beaten. The thugs made it very clear that the beating was in retaliation for me standing with the people against the brutal dictatorship. We are very blessed that my parents survived and we were able to bring them to safety here the US, where they currently reside. They were in attendance when I received the Freedom of Expression Award and that made the event so much more meaningful.
Q: Tell us about your international benefit tour, The Voice of the Free Syrian Children. We know the tour was to bolster aid to Syrian children. Was talking about children a smart way to tell the story of the tragedy in Syria and bypass talk of politics and religion?
A: Absolutely. I decided to visit the children in the refugee camps after attending the funeral of American journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed by the Assad dictatorship. The Voice of the Free Syrian Children world tour was inspired by the children and their quest for peace. We launched the tour in Detroit and it reached Vienna, Stockholm, Kuwait, Frankfurt, Paris, London and we had the honor of having the H.M. Queen Sofia of Spain in attendance at the National Auditorium in Madrid. I believe that everyone can agree, no matter their politics or religion, that the killing or suffering of even just one child is one too many. If we support the children, we are supporting hope for the future. As I mentioned, the resilience of these children is humbling. They want nothing more than to go back to their homes, schools and friends. In short, they want peace. They know nothing of politics or strategy. This is the human side of the Syrian revolution and one with which everyone can relate. No one can dispute that there is nothing more immoral and inhumane that harming a child.
Q: You are a frequent guest on NPR, CNN, BBC and PBS. How do you balance talk about music and the situation in Syria during interviews and guest performances?
A: As an artist and humanitarian, my discussions are always filtered through the lens of art and humanity. I was blessed to have a strong career in music before the Syrian revolution, and then I was able to utilize my music to be the voice of the people and present their story in an accessible and meaningful way. The music I have composed over the last four years has been a reflection of the events on the ground in Syria. From “Emessa – Homs” LINK to the release of “Syrian Symphony” LINK at Carnegie Hall, my music has been inspired by and dedicated to the brave people of Syria. I focus on the humanitarian aspects of the war launched against the Syrian people and how I can use my music to affect change and spread their message of justice and peace.
Q: Your work has been described as mission to preserve, protect and present the rich Syrian musical heritage in new and unique ways. Tell us some of the highlights of the Syrian musical heritage.
A: Syrian musical heritage dates back thousands of years! One of the most important contributions to music in history came from the ancient city of Ugarit, Syria, where the oldest music notation in the world was discovered. My 2008 album “Echoes from Ugarit” was my attempt to bring this historical fact to life and I was honored to be the first composer to arrange this melody for piano and orchestra. LINK My latest album Syrian SymphonyLINK features Variations for Piano and Orchestra, which is based on an ancient Syrian theme dating back thousands of years, Lama Bada Yatathana, an intriguing 10/8 melody which I transformed to the western 5/4 rhythmic meter. LINK I was also inspired by Sheikh Ali Darwish, who was a Syrian scholar and composer in ancient Aleppo. To this day, his themes remain captivating and brilliant, a perfect representation of Syrians’ love for the beauty of music. He is proof that art and music are not at odds with faith, but rather an integral part in the celebration of the beauty and truth that unites us all together.
Q: You wrote and perform a song titled, Syria, Anthem of the Free. Tell us about your “anthem by the people, for the people.” Is there a YouTube link to the Anthem?
A: Syria, Anthem of the Free is another orchestral composition that was inspired by the people of Syria. When the children of Syria started the revolution and the dictatorship began their horrific assault on innocent civilians, I thought about the current Syrian anthem Humat Al Diyar or To Protect the Homeland. It quickly became obvious that this anthem did not represent the people, as the regime was doing everything but protecting the homeland. They were instigating an all-out assault on their own people. The Syrian anthem did not even contain the word “Syria”! I felt it was time for an anthem, one to which the people could relate, one that is worthy of the sacrifices they are making for their country, hopefully inspire them and above all show the true face of the Syrian people: our history, traditions, inclusiveness and brotherhood. Syria, Syria! Homeland of the free and land of freedom! The anthem was recorded in Moscow with the Russian Philharmonic and the Arabic lyrics were recorded with members of the Cairo Opera House Choir in Egypt. This shows the soft power of music and its amazing ability to unite people. LINK
Q: You have said in the past that dictators are fearful of art and music. Why?
A: Art and music are about beauty and truth. Dictatorship is against beauty and fears truth. Music cannot be controlled; there are no barriers our boundaries. You don’t need a visa to share your music around the world. To use the adage “music is a universal language” is so true. It can spread powerful ideas and inspire people. You cannot touch, see or taste music, yet it still strikes fear in the heart of dictators because they know that art is powerful, when it is true art. The horrific attack on my parents is a perfect example: I performed music and thousands of miles away, a dictator became afraid; afraid of the message of peace, harmony and justice. This is why it is so important for all artists to be true to who we are and use our art for the betterment of our fellow man; we can use the soft power of music and be ambassadors for positive change in the world.
Q: Are you hopeful? What do you think the outcomes will be for every-day Syrians given the dual challenge of the Assad regime and now ISIS?
A: Every day I am hopeful. The revolution continues and the Syrian people have remained steadfast in their quest for freedom, justice and human rights despite insurmountable odds. As long as the children dream of going back to school and their friends, I remain hopeful. Despite the catastrophic humanitarian crisis, the Syrian people are free and the Syrian people are united, despite the heartbreaking difficulties. I am hopeful that we will achieve a new, peaceful, free Syria for all Syrians. Amal – Hope was a piece I composed to relay that message and to tell the people that they are not alone, we stand with them. LINK
Q: Kelsey Thibdeau, Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology at the University of Colorado Boulder, said of you, “Malek is giving voice to the voiceless and showing us that music can be a really powerful tool in the fight against oppression and promote freedom and human rights.” What advice and suggestions do you have for musicians who want to use their music to fight injustice?
A: The key word is love. If you love what you do and do what you love, everything will be ok. Be a voice not an echo. Be true to yourselves and your ideals. Music has this special ability to unite and inspire people. Do not allow the detractors to sway you from your message. The journey for searching for beauty and truth can be a difficult and challenging. But it is never lonely because you will be surrounded by friends of music who believe in your message. Your music will be a voice for many, so use it wisely and appreciate the vast responsibility that you carry. You will never know how many people are relying on you for hope and inspiration, but they are there and they should be your inspiration. I admire every artist who stands for a cause and wish them tremendous success. All of us working together, like a symphony, to support each other will undoubtedly lead to betterment for our fellow man. Music is very powerful and can change the world!
For more information on composer and pianist Malek Jandali visit LINK
Stephen Emmer, independent Dutch artist and composer receives Global Music Awards Humanitarian Award
Each year Global Music Awards honors a musician with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The award goes to Stephen Emmer for his contribution to peace and justice for displaced people from around the world.
Global Music Awards asked Mr. Emmer about his work.
Q: We know you are concerned about the conflicts and division in the world. What goes through your mind when you think of the wars and all the displaced people?
A: I have ambivalent thoughts about this, as this has been going on for centuries by now, and that is no reason for direct optimism. Yet, I am hopeful that slowly, through various developments in the fields of information technology, media distribution and new human insights, changes might help accelerate some sort of universal insight that we can only run this planet together.
Q: Your album, Home Ground, gives voice to all of us worried about the world and proves that music can be a powerful tool in the fight against oppression. It reminds us of our common humanity and promotes freedom and human rights. Tell us about your album. Why this selection of lyrics and artists?
A: In the Obama years of not so long ago, the general social climate was perhaps more steering towards a more emancipated, liberated society, at least in the United States. But I was slightly surprised to notice that around that time there was not that much urgent music around with socially engaged lyrics. That made me wonder why not act on this myself? I started conceptualizing. Meanwhile, I saw the world changing fast: America got a new president, the Middle East situation escalated even further, and in Europe the refugee situation became rather urgent. So suddenly I realized that my lyrical content should try to address or incorporate those issues. I started to think about what artists I could invite to collaborate; great artistical talent but also who had a certain social consciousness. I started searching and I was lucky to find them. It took almost a year to be able to make the full line up for the album.
Q: What do you think is the common thread among the artists on your album?
A: the common thread among the artists is, I think, their musical passion first and foremost. Also, they engage themselves in projects where a certain concern about the world can be expressed. Each of them has engaged in past projects and has a proven track record of their involvement in society.
Q: Why do you think this high-powered group of musicians decided to join you in this project. How much do you think they were influenced by the humanitarian aspects and that you are donating a very substantial amount of profits from sales of the album to support the charity, War Child? LINK
A: The beauty of this line up of artists is that it goes across generations and beyond being famous and less famous. There is a huge consensus amongst them all to get involved with projects like Home Ground; to keep their integrity intact because of the very nature of this project. I it has to do with artistic integrity and much less with commercial motives. In fact, I can point to their vocal contributions, in all of which you can clearly hear a sincere message in their voices and musical interpretations. The intensity and emotional interpretations on Home Ground show they didn’t treat this project as a mere run of the mill kind of musical exercise but gave it that much needed artistical extra to try and create maximum impact to the listeners.
Q: Do you have a background involving humanitarian projects, perhaps in your youth or upbringing? What have been your other charitable activities in the past?
A: I lived in Europe, the Far East and in South America in my youth. Later, as an adult, I have lived in America, England and on the European continent. These experiences helped me develop a clearer and perhaps broader then average viewpoint on human society because I saw with my own eyes the huge differences between peoples. But I also what connects them through universal human values, hopes, wishes and opinions. I also believe, in hindsight, that all of this added up to the way I see the world and how I can translate or channel this into artist activities. So yes, I did make an earlier album called, Recitement, where I cross-promoted literature to people of different nationalities by making a soundtrack in various musical genres of world literature in seven different languages. Through this effort I helped fund the writers or their foundations and helped get new audiences globally for foreign literature with an existentialist theme with common threads by setting it to music, the universal language. Then, I did a project to focus on forgotten and hidden poverty amongst elderly people in the United Kingdom by a so called social Christmas song in collaboration with Julian Lennon, the son of John, and donated the proceeds to his White Feather Foundation which is an international humanitarian NGO. LINK By carefully choosing projects in the future I think I will almost certainly do a musical project where the proceeds will be donated to medical research for certain diseases that still have no cure or medical solution. There is still so much work to be done!
Q: Which socially engaged artists throughout the years inspired you?
A: I always felt attracted to those socially engaged artists that believed in packaging an iron fist in a velvet glove. In other words, don't shout your message as the aggression because that will diminish the power of your words So, my own taste were people like Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, and Stevie Wonder. Their tone of voice, reached out to larger audiences instead of only preaching to the already converted. You’ve got to reach out and cross over to achieve, is my guess.
Q: Do you feel there is something in the air about social consciousness today? Do you see a clear need in the future for protest music?
A: Protest music because of current day developments, especially in the United States, is more relevant than ever. I already see more outings of this then say two years ago when I started my project; which is a good thing I think. I would say that it can even have a bigger impact now than in the past because of faster media distribution on a global scale. Imagine if a meaningful social message hit YouTube in the same way as Luis Fonsi’ Despacito ft. Daddy Yankee, for example? LINK I believe this is all still about to happen!
Q: What are your hopes and fears for the world? Are there any specific themes you feel are more urgent in the world today then others?
A: I feel that we all, if in any way do-able and possible at all, should always try to transcend our own personal situation and try to see how we are collectively doing. Through doing this I think we can try to dismantle the further tribalization of humanity. There are so many different groups opposing to each other that it almost seems that that is the most important thing to do in life, whereas there are some very central themes that probably need to be solved first. I would personally plea for a more open mind from everyone towards the bigger picture first. Self-interest isn’t equal to dignity. Allow me to quote a lyric excerpt by Paul McCartney, “The love you get is equal to the love you give.
Q: What advice and suggestions do you have for musicians who want to use their music to fight injustice and foster peace? What are some down-to-earth, practical actions musicians can take to assist a troubled world?
A: I think there are many ways, but it all starts with making a clear choice for a subject, topic, theme first that channels well in today’s concerns. Artists have a way of seeing things earlier sometimes. Select something you are concerned about in the future, so you will be able to let this theme reflect in your lyrics. Your next point of action would be to not merely make music for it, but to make that music really resonate what you are trying to express lyrically. Often, in older protest music, I felt that the music merely served as only a vehicle or carrier for the meaning of the lyrics. I feel both lyrics and music should have a far more intrinsic relationship. You can also choose to make intense instrumental music and in that more abstract way find response from people who have difficulties expressing themselves. There are many ways, but as I said I believe in the velvet glove approach most. Next, look for new ways to bring it across by teaming up with socially involved parties, organizations and people. Ask others to join forces to bring the communal message across through, for example, the collective social media channels. There is much to be gained in this by looking further then the artistry alone, you see.
Q: When you want to support good causes through your music, would you also be prepared to do tasks outside of music creation?
A: Well, yes, I would. I somehow think it must stay linked to the music in whatever form, as then I can offer my best self; but sure, when needed I can step out of the comfort zone and start being helping there.
Q: Talk about the lyrics in your album. Once you are moved by an idea or emotion, what is your work method to bring the lyrics to fruition? How do you test your lyrics?
A: I think, I read, I wonder, I ponder, I exchange and then sometimes it comes out real fast and sometimes it takes longer. For the Home Ground project, I also collaborated lyrically with Glenn Gregory from England, who always had a keen eye for social injustice as a musician over there. We tested some of the lyrical ideas amongst ourselves and intuitively came to the same likings of them. In the case of the song called Soil, I cowrote the lyric with the performer Ursula Rucker, who is a very eloquent spoken word artist. I came up with the ideas and the words and she made it into the beautiful rhyme it has become. It’s worth noting that you always need to leave room for improvement through working with others.
Q: Let’s talk about your career. You have certainly had a remarkable career. How did that come about? What have been your most important musical influences?
A: My earliest influences came via my mother who was a ballet and dance teacher. Through her I was influenced at an early age by what music she used for her lessons. It was an eclectic choice where she combined Stravinsky with Dave Brubeck and Carlos Santana. She is 87 now and she and I go to a concert of Middle Eastern music with a Western orchestra. Later, I felt too restricted to stick with one musical genre and started playing in pop, rock, electro, experimental jazz bands in my adulthood. While doing media music I learned to create all kinds of music. But I tend to go back to my original idea of creating a certain music, namely that music needs to reach people on different levels. Music must be accessible for the listener who prefers only one sort of music, and it also needs hidden layers for people who look for that in music. Some of my most important musical influences are: Ennio Morricone, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Jimi Hendrix, Debussy, Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson, David Bowie, Ravel, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Scott Walker, Federico Mompou, Milton Nascimento and Heitor Villa Lobos.
Q: If you hadn’t chosen music as a career, what do you think you would do right now?
A: I would have liked to be a foreign correspondent for a newspaper or magazine; a writer who observes the way of the world or perhaps be a maker of documentaries about human life.
Q: Will you try to include humanitarian in all your future projects?
A: Yes, I certainly will, as I feel it’s my duty and mission on earth to do so. I have also plans already in the making. Next to that I would also like to help further develop music therapy, which at present, is still in its relative infancy, but could work wonders for people in the future. That’s probably where I’ll be heading later.
Q: Are you encouraged or discouraged about the future after having created Home Ground?
A: Ambivalent, as earlier stated, but willing to take the Buddhist stance in this: play it by ear and simply go onwards and upward!