Songs for sustainable peace and development

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This project, in collaboration with Liberian musicians who are current or former refugees, centers on using music to foster sustainable development and peace. Songs are intangible and relatively inexpensive to produce, when compared with infrastructural development projects like building roads, schools, and hospitals, that work physical transformations. Yet songs, circulating rapidly through multiple media networks -- Internet, radio, TV, mobile phone -- and combining musical sound and evocative topical lyrics, can serve as powerful tools to work social and cultural transformations by educating and raising awareness. Such songs are composed in typical popular musical styles, drawing listeners in and raising emotional receptivity. Lyrics, however, are written to carry specific messages to audiences. A song cannot bring clean drinking water, but can call attention to the dangerous diseases unpurified water can bring. A song cannot rebuild a community rent by war, but can call for tolerance and understanding. A song may not teach reading, but can remind of its importance. In this way, music can work towards public health, ethnic and religious tolerance, and a better educational system. Music videos can raise awareness also through a visual dimension.

We've been working with Liberian refugee musicians in Ghana (e.g. on who know very well how to craft popular music -- from reggae to rap -- that's widely appreciated among their peers. We're now focussing on sponsoring production of songs to disseminate messages promoting positive social change.

Because songs are short, they're relatively inexpensive to produce. About $2000 suffices to produce a song and pay musicians, composer, lyricist. These artists will agree to be paid a modest honorarium in advance, signing a license enabling free distribution under a Creative Commons attribution nocommercial license

<a rel="license" href=""><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="" /></a>
This work is licensed under a <a rel="license" href="">Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License</a>.

We seek to link So in the wake of our visa defeat, I spoke to Shadow about producing songs as a kind of public service announcement on a variety of topics - public health, education, domestic violence, etc… The idea would be to link a sponsor here with a song theme of interest to the sponsor, and to the Liberian community. The musicians would draft lyrics and produce a rough musical recording (they do this quickly and easily in their refugee camp studio) and send these to the sponsor to be approved, or for constructive feedback.

Once approved the sponsor would send funding covering song production in a really good studio in Accra (no travel abroad required), with a modest stipend also for composer/lyricist and performers. With a bit more funding an accompanying music video could also be made. I anticipate a contract specifying a Creative Commons attribution/non-commerical/no-derivs license ( - musicians would essentially agree to be paid in advance, and to receive credit (potentially boosting careers) but not to expect royalties. This would enable free circulation of the song.

Shadow estimates the total cost of a single song to be around $2000, which seems to me to be a very manageable figure - well within the range of even smaller organizations, including community groups likes churches and schools, and smaller pots of grant money available at this University and elsewhere.

Shadow and his musician colleagues are lightning quick - they took to this new idea immediately, and within days had sent me drafts of two songs: one centered on a message of religious tolerance, and the other on HIV/AIDS awareness (attached).

I'm imagining that different NGOs might wish to support these very different kinds of songs, but the beauty of the scheme is that each song can proceed independently - fundraising doesn't need to be coordinated, and modest chunks of funding can produce something from start to finish.

High profile dissemination - both locally and globally - is obviously crucial to the project's goals of social transformation, locally (on the ground) and globally (in raising awareness). Here on our campus there's a new iTunes U initiative underway that could provide a broad audience - the tech guy in charge was most welcoming of the initiative. Of course there's always youtube and similar services for audio, eg.

Locally in West Africa I'd like to work via local radio or TV stations (setting this up might require my travel there) - though songs would also be available via the web, downloadable to mobile phones and other high-tech devices that are increasingly available (more often, it seems, than fresh water and good sanitation).

Besides making them individually available, I thought of linking the songs in a podcast, to include also interviews and background information.

What do you think of this plan? Can you suggest any possible sources of support? Even a little would go a long way. There's also some urgency as the Ghanaian government appears to be attempting to close the camp this month, and yet many of the musicians have grown up there and really have nowhere to go. If they return to Liberia, as they may well have to do, they'll need support.

I'm attaching the two songs so far so that you can have a look and listen and get a sense of what I have in mind (but bear in mind these were recorded in the most rudimentary of studios; the idea is to fund their production at a much higher level in Accra, where quite good studio facilities can be hired, at modest cost). They have begun to draft five songs altogether:

1. Religion and people Ft. Shadow, KB. & Quincy B. 2. Be aware - Beware of HIV/AIDS Ft. Shadow, KB., Lib. Dream and Ampain 3. Child eduction Ft. Judell, H. Tarwah Steward & Shadow 4. Sanitation Ft. J-cop V, Shadow & Faya 5. World peace Ft. Shadow, Judell & P. Curly

I'd really love to be able to send them seed funding to get going on these five, but even funding one or two would provide a wonderful start.

Many thanks for your feedback and guidance.

wishing you all the best, Michael