Spread this just out track by Fatoumata Diawara and numerous Malian artists including Amadou & Mariam, Vieux Farka Touré , Oumou Sangare, Habib Koité, and Toumani Diabate who at this troubled time in their country are raising the voice of peace. Because of their deep tradition of music as a force for social unity and leadership, some of Mali’s greatest artists were instrumental in launching difrent:’s vision of a leading source for music and culture for social change. Now’s the time to lift high their song. See these videos with Amadou & Mariam and Vieux Farka Touré talking about music and social change, and Malian culture, with difrent: from this past year:
Let Fury Have The Hour is Antonino D’Ambrosio‘s new film following the history of counter-cultural “creative response” from the 1980′s to the present. The film opened this weekend in NYC and will be showing in theaters in 15 cities across the country, after receiving rave reviews at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It retraces the skateboard, punk and hip-hop culture of the Thatcher-Reagan era through interviews with Billy Bragg, Boots Riley, Eve Ensler, Shepard Fairey (who also contributed the collectible poster below), Ian MacKay, VanJones, Antibalas, Eugene Hutz, and a host of others.
D’ambrosio is filled with hope for the post-border generation, and maintains a fertive belief in the capacity of art and music to lead the charge for social change, in any context. He says, ‘there are only two responses to a dominant paradigm – submission, or the search and struggle for alternatives that turn obstacles into opportunities to move forward.’
Today’s global context is very different from the 1980′ or 90′s. In many ways, the idea that a more equitable society is necessary for the sustainability of the planet is now becoming the dominant philosophy, if not yet policy. And, we have more alternatives, more possibilities for reaching more people than ever before. This means that while we may be in an unprecedented crisis needing massive action for change, much of today’s creative response may not conceive of itself as counter-culture, but rather as total-culture, as inclusive as the borderless community it seeks to inspire.
We have an increasing global consciousness and the tools to create art that unites people, not only across nations, but across ideologies as well. We have the ability to use our art not only to advocate for the world we wish to see, but to distribute it through mechanisms that model a more equitable social and economic system.
As Joe Strummer once said to D’Ambrosio, “it’s not about failing or succeeding, but about trying.” The cat is already out of the bag – youth all over the world know another world is possible. All we have to do now is do what artists as agents for social change have ever done. As D’Ambrosio says, “we use the brush, the pen, the camera, the guitar as a vehicle to create a greater community.” Today, that greater community could be as big as our art is inclusive.
Here’s Shepard Fairy’s beautiful poster for the release of Let Fury Have The Hour. Visit the website to see the trailer and find out where you can see the film.
Dave Matthews Band has just released a version of the video to their new single “Mercy” to promote voter registration. Mercy, with it’s lyrics searching for global reprieve and redemption, is the first single from the band’s new album, ‘Away From The World,’ out this September 11. The video for Mercy was crowd sourced from over 14,000 fans and friends, another in a long list of efforts by the group to create awareness and citizen engagement. The album has been topping the Triple A charts, and is the 6th album by DMB to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200. A great article by Air Traffic Control’s Erin Potts in The Huffington Post today talks about musicians lending their voices and work to the effot to geth out the vote. Artists like DMB are proving effective at reaching and registering voters for groups like Headcount, Rock The Vote and other organizations that target youth to utilize their most powerful democratic right.
Over the past couple years, artists, labels, social change movements and development organizations, including governments, have realized the potential of music as a vehicle for empowering, funding, and increasing capacity for initiatives. Reaching a mass audience that’s turned away from the monopolized, cookie cutter music served up by an industry which is falling apart and seems out of step with the global zeitgeist for change, music for social change is becoming ubiquitous.
Since difrent set up its vision anticipating this trend, everyone from The Roots to Lady Gaga, John Legend to Alicia Keys, as well as organizations from Music2Life, MusicUnites, Air Traffic Control, Occupy Musicians and countless other groups and organizations have been ratcheting things up. By celebrating all these individual initiatives, releases, and awareness campaigns, we can create a sustainable, self-funding platform and movement for the global generation, empowering everyone, and giving unprecedented thrust to our joint efforts for a better world. This is difrent:’s vision.
Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, are have now launched the Born This Way Foundation working in collaboration with Harvard’s research team on bullying. Numerous artists are already signed on for a big End Poverty concert in Central Park in September. Ben Harper, Tom Morello, Immortal Technique and others joined Occupiers in Union Square on May Day, joining hundreds of people with guitars and other instruments in a “Guitarmy,” More and more artists across the globe are taking a stand against bigotry and intolerance. Socially conscious artists like Brazilian rapper Emicida, K’naan, and Nigerian rap-tress Nneka are evidence of an increasing trend.
Our individual politics may differ slightly, but one thing we share is the belief that we need systemic change to address the mounting crises in the world, and music has the power to bridge divides to push major change along often long before the political realm is capable. As our top economists and and foreign policy experts from Amartya Sen and Jeff Sachs to Zbigniew Brzezinski are even saying, we need a more equitable world . Together, we can create this shift, whether its in the consciousness that equality and respect for equal rights are the alternative to bullying, or the reason why economic injustice and poverty should be erased from the earth.
Our belief here at difrent: is that by galvanizing these developments we can foster the development of a a new global culture of engagement that stimulates artists, youth, and social change organizations worldwide, so we can transform our world. Bringing the best beats and dance grooves together with innovative ideas from micro-finance to community based, multi-stakeholder development initiatives, a new world in music and culture for global unity is dawning.
difrent: has a clear mission, to be the world’s leading source for music and culture for social change, featuring artists and organizations who are making a better world. Our aim is to help galvanize a positive movement that’s FOR something, not against, one that we can take to scale for the change we need to see with non-violent dignity. We believe that great movement all humankind’s been waiting for is coming together, an international movement for a more equitable society, and we’re here to broadcast its culture, its soundtrack, with a TV show, website, social networking, and events that cross music genres and international borders bringing the changemaker generation together while elevating the voices of youth worlwide! Write us at info at difrent.org to get involved!
Egyptian singer Ramy Essam, known for his role in the Arab Spring at Tahrir Square, is the winner of the 2011 Freemuse Award. The artist will receive the award at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on Monday 21 November 2011. Click on the image to see the video of his new single “Aish Huriyah” (I love freedom). Freemuse, the Forum on Music and Censorship, is the leading global organization working to protect artists who are singing at the frontlines of freedom, many of whom are tortured, censored, imprisoned or otherwise silenced.
After eight years spent trying to break into the music business, it took less than two weeks for Ramy Essam to turn from a struggling artist into a celebrated “Singer of the Revolution”. His song ‘Irhal’ (‘Leave’) became an anthem of the protesters atTahrir Square and he is now working on an album of songs inspired by the events at the beginning of the year.
The Freemuse Award Committee stated: “Ramy Essam played an important role during the Egyptian revolution and suffered severe beatings and torture as a consequence. He personifies the powerful role that music played in the Arab Spring.”
Receiving the news in Cairo, Ramy said: “I was extremely happy when I got the news. I really respect this prize because it calls for freedom of expression in music, protecting musicians and advocating free art that is not subjected to any restrictions. At the same time I was proud because I would be able to achieve something for Egypt.”
Marie Korpe, Freemuse Executive Director, said: “Ramy Essam continues a long tradition of protest singers who have become symbols of civil rights movements and through their music express frustrations and hope in song rather than speech. In 2009 Pete Seeger received the Freemuse Award. Like Seeger, Ramy has shown that one musician with a single instrument can make a difference.”
Ramy will receive the Freemuse Award in Stockholm on 21 November 2011 as part of the international conference and concert ‘Right! Freedom of Music & Speech’ organised by the Swedish Society of Popular Music Composers (SKAP) at Södra Teatern. Read more on skap.se
The Freemuse Award is sponsored by the Björn Afzelius International Culture Foundation (BAIK).
Björn Afzelius, who died in 1999, was a Swedish rock singer who became a passionate spokesman for suppressed people around the world combining his musical career with political activism.
NBC’ Chuck Scarborough sat down with Stephan to discuss difrent: on the International Day of Peace and the vision for lifting the voices of unity worldwide through music.
PRI’s The World interviews Stephan about 9/11 on the 10th anniversary and discussing how the inspiration for creating difrent: and writing Take A Stand both emenated from his desire to bring people together across every conceivable border, from nations to musical styles.