January 19, 2009
By Andrew William Smith, Editor
January 19, 2009
Rhetoric holds power. The primal matter of political meaning fused to my consciousness at a very young age, sitting on the living room carpet in my childhood home in Cleveland, Ohio. My folks had an old vinyl record with the landmark speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and I wore that thing out sitting on that floor, often crying, often memorizing the words as this audio replica of King spoke them.
February 20, 2008
By Tracey Hackett, Contributing Editor
U2 lead singer Bono has described her as â€œone of the heroesâ€ for her response to the African AIDS pandemic.
Agnes Nyamayarwo is the leader of the Mulago Positive Womenâ€™s Network, an organization started in January 2004 to address the special needs of HIV-positive women in Uganda.
February 4, 2008
By Andrew William Smith, Editor
The lights went dark. A song began to fill the room. Even though the music was prerecorded and being piped through the PA system, it conjured the emotions of the opening song at a rock and roll show. Of course, I knew the song poignantly and painfully well. â€œCity of Blinding Lightsâ€ by U2 crammed the airspace and coddled the crowd. Yes, the people went wild as though at a rock show while an idealistic young politician from Illinois took the stage.
The comparisons between Senator Barack Obama and energetic rock stars like Bruce Springsteen and Bono have abounded from the lips of the mainstream pundits during the tumultuous primary contests that have conjured a kind of â€œFebruary Madnessâ€ on the eve of the Super Tuesday contest. No matter what candidate voters ultimately choose, the energy for the primary election this year evokes comparisons to great historical moments of previous epochs. And we have the songs and speeches that seem to keep that spirit alive.
Obamaâ€™s not the first politician to pluck a U2 riff for pre-speech posturing. Anthems in general are the kinds of songs that candidates love for prepping another stump speech. The history of rock anthems is highly commercial and appropriately contaminated by images of fans waving fists to a Queen song like â€œWe Are the Championsâ€ being blared at a sporting event. But for me, I love an anthem that holds a spiritual side and socially conscious kernel. Many think Springsteen and Mellencamp. And in the 1980s, these tunes took a page from U2â€™s playbook and played into the success of bands like The Alarm, Big Country, The Waterboys, and Simple Minds.
Let me be clear: in my journalistâ€™s hat, Iâ€™m in no place to endorse any politician, left or right. Moreover, as Little Steven sang in a tune thatâ€™s been covered by many including Pearl Jam, â€œI believe in one party, and itâ€™s name is freedom.â€ Taking it even further, I believe what the comedian Bill Hicks said, and I am paraphrasing here to keep it clean: â€œAll governments lie.â€ As much as I love the art of rhetoric fused with the possibility of community self-rule, my personal relationship with democracy has always been tenuous, desiring revolution even as I am more than willing to work for and accept reform. These are problematic terms for even more problematic times.
But all that said, I want to keep it real. After eight frightening years of terror and war, I wonder what in the world I can do. We all face the waxing realization that economic meltdown and icecaps melting might end life as we know it. Something entirely different is required to get us inspired and out of the mire. Tomorrow, we vote. Tomorrow, everyone of us gets to choose.
Many people would rather be post-partisan than bi-partisan, and itâ€™s in this paradigm shift that Senator Obamaâ€™s appeal resides. The sincere celebrity comparisons to Kennedy and King percolate online and in print, but these are based in a superficial yet sacred brew, in the sweet rhetorical stance of his speeches and style.
As cynical as some can get about politics, we still have the right to vote, and this is a freedom we can seize. If you have the honor of participating in Super Tuesday, your voice suddenly matters. This election season is unlike any we have experienced, and both the Republican and Democratic primaries have seen unprecedented enthusiasm among the voters. Whether itâ€™s â€˜Barack and rollâ€™ or Hillary, whether itâ€™s claiming McCain or sticking with Huckabee, Romney, or Paul, this election is like none other, and even though that tired assertion sounds like hype, itâ€™s true, and itâ€™s ripe.
August 28, 2006
By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
On Aug. 25, 2005, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida warned its readers about the possible dangers of Tropical Storm Katrina. "While not a hurricane, it is a reminder of how quickly storms can develop and threaten the state," the paper wrote.
Just a few days later, residents in Louisiana and Mississippi learned how quickly storms could develop into a threat when Hurricane Katrina struck. The devastation that followedâ€”caused directly and indirectly by Katrinaâ€”would, according to the Discovery Channel, kill 1,836 people, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hundreds more still remain unaccounted for.
The millions of survivors were left without homes, schools or businesses and were evacuated to locations all across the country. As the pictures and stories flashed across televisions, newspapers and magazines grew more and more grim, many were left to wonder if the region, particularly culture-rich New Orleans, would come back.
"It is a live culture," is how the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. describes the city. Taking its character from the various groups that have settled in the city (including French, Spanish and African), the city has become renown for its music, food and lifestyle.
After Katrina, though, it seemed that those things could be lost forever. In addition to funds being raised to rebuild the physical structure of the city, money was also needed to bring the cultural life back to New Orleans.
"New Orleans is a crucible for great music," The Edge told Rolling Stone last November. "The idea that it would be just a place of history for music is awful to me. Coming from Dublin in the ’70s, when music was something you had to search out, I’d never dreamt that somewhere like New Orleans could exist. Music was coming out of the walls. It seemed not just a form of escapism, but like it was weaved into everybody’s life."
That idea led The Edge to join forces with MusiCares, the charitable arm of The Recording Academy, music producer Bob Ezrin, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and Guitar Center CEO Marty Albertson to create Music Rising, an organization designed to aid musicians impacted by the hurricane.
"My recent visit to New Orleans gave me a first-hand look at the devastation which tragically destroyed the lives of thousands," The Edge said at a press conference unveiling the organization. "The area’s rich and spirited culture must be restored and can be by assisting those musicians affected by the disaster, which in turn will bring back the essence of the regions. Providing replacement instruments through Music Rising will not only help the professional musicians to regain a foothold on their future, but will also ensure that one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest assets, its music, will rise again."
Since its inception, Music Rising has given $1,000 grants to musicians to buy new instruments and equipment at cost. The Edge has been able to hand over the new instruments himself at a variety of Music Rising events, including the reopening of Preservation Hall in April during JazzFest, where he also played with Dave Matthews Band and The New Birth Brass Band.
"While I was walking around at the jazz festival, four or five musicians came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for the new amp, man, it’s got me back on the road,’ or ‘Thanks for the guitar,’" The Edge told The Independent. "It was really inspiring, an amazing feeling, and it showed that this really is making a difference."
The organization is also getting noticed. Music Rising received the Gold Cause Marketing Halo Award for Best Transactional Campaign at the fourth annual Cause Marketing Forum conference in June and will be honored at the Billboard Touring Awards this November with its Humanitarian Award.
Music Rising has raised more that $1 million for musicians in New Orleans the Gulf Coast region through a number initiatives, including the sale of a limited-edition Gibson guitar, painted in Mardi Gras colors and made with woods from the affected areas, that is exclusively sold at the Guitar Center. The Edge signed a handful of the guitars that were later sold for $10,000 each.
The organization also sells a logo T-shirt worn by The Edge at this year’s Grammy Awards. Ticketmaster has established a series of auctions where winning bidders receive four concert tickets and an Epiphone guitar, with net proceeds benefiting Music Rising.
The Edge also hit the pavement to seek out donations, appearing in a public service announcement that ran on channels including VH1, as well as doing numerous interviews. In an interview with CNN, The Edge discussed a documentary he was making about Katrina and Music Rising.
A year after Katrina hit, Music Rising is still working to bring music back to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. Through its website, which includes a blog and bulletin board, the organization takes donations, accepts grant applications from area musicians and shares some of The Edge’s experiences with Music Rising. The organization is also branching out to help schools, churches and community organizations, the places where, Edge once explained, the music really lives.
"Other parts of America have music scenes, but it really is a completely self-sufficient music culture in New Orleans," The Edge told The Independent. "It’s like the city is one giant music academy: everyone is into music, everyone’s learning how to play from other musicians. And with Katrina, that whole system has been completely shattered."
Music Rising is helping to bring that system back together.
For more information on Music Rising, visit its website.
June 12, 2006
By Ali Ficklin
Keep a Child Alive was founded in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 by Leigh Blake after a mother and child walked into the AIDS Research and Family Care Clinic, a center funded by one of Blake’s previous campaigns, seeking anti-retroviral medicine. The mother knew that without such treatment her son would die but, unfortunately, due to the high cost of the medicines, the clinic couldn’t supply the drugs he needed. The mother had no intentions of leaving the facility without treatment for her ailing son.
Blake had compassion for the strong-willed mother and offered to personally pay for her son’s medicines. Word soon spread about Blake’s good deed and her friends and others, including Alicia Keys, wanted to help sponsor children as well. Not long after that, Blake and Maz Kessler co-founded the Keep a Child Alive campaign, allowing anyone to donate a dollar a day to provide the anti-retroviral drugs to the children at the organization’s treatment sites.
On November 3, 2005, Keep a Child Alive held its annual Black Ball fundraiser. Bono joined Keys via satellite to duet on a special rendition of Peter Gabriel’s "Don’t Give Up" called "Don’t Give Up (Africa)." The song was released exclusively on iTunes on World AIDS Day with all proceeds going to benefit Keep a Child Alive and was co-produced by Keys, the charity’s global ambassador, and longtime U2 producer Steve Lillywhite.
Of the song, Blake, who serves as the organization’s president, told U2.com, "It felt like a song meant to be recorded for Africa and I had been thinking about it for years. I knew this duet was going to be something special but true magic happened in that studio when Alicia and Bono came together. It came from their hearts directly to the African people and you can really hear that compassion in the song."
Keys shared her feelings on the song and charity with U2.com, saying, "I love this song. And I love Bono. I really respect what he has done for Africa and how he has used his fame to do good in the world. I hope I can do half as much in my life. Keep a Child Alive is my passion and my heartfelt mission. I believe AIDS is the most important issue we face, because how we treat the poor is a reflection of who we are as a people. I urge everyone to recognize the extreme disaster Africa is facing and step up for the Motherland."
Other musicians such as Dave Matthews, Coldplay, 50 Cent, Simple Plan and Rod Stewart also support the Keep a Child Alive campaign and can be seen on the foundation’s website, as well as voicing their support in the organization’s commercials that can be seen on MTV and various other cable networks.
For more information on Keep a Child Alive, visit the organization’s website.