Songs For Justice: Empowering Voices of Kenya

Songs For Justice: Empowering Voices of Kenya

Kelly Budish, media lab intern, Emerson College 2016

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Everyone has a story or a message they want to share with the world. For musicians, they share their story through music. In order to distribute their music though, it requires a vast amount of tools and knowledge. One must have the money and technology to record the music and the knowledge to market it. This is why being a musician has become an expensive career. What if you had the talent and simply lacked these necessary tools to distribute your music? Does that mean you should give up on what you love to do and find something else? PeaceTones, a member organization of the Next Mile Project, is working to prevent that. After all, celebrities such as Justin Bieber or One Direction would be virtually unknown without the help of knowledgeable mentors such as Simon Cowell and Bruno Mars or Internet sites such as YouTube.

Overcoming a lack of resources is a common problem for musicians in Nairobi, Kenya. Members of these communities are faced with tribal tensions and violence that are a result of political conflicts. Destruction of property and high crime rates are prevalent in these areas, which is why musicians from these communities need extra assistance to pursue their dreams. PeaceTones is an organization that works with unknown musicians in low-income and post-disaster areas across the globe to give them the tools they need to create and sell their music successfully. They are currently leading a project entitled “Songs for Justice.” The project will address the challenges up and coming musicians face by providing workshops in Nairobi that will offer legal, marketing, and community development tools. The organization has reached out to other community partners to join them in November to conduct these workshops. Some of these partners include the founder and chair of ACREF, Ramadan Obiero, The Foundation of Artists Managing Events (FAME), Daniel Muli of Just a Band, music law experts from Manatt, Phelps and Phillips and the Kibera Law Center.

After completing the workshops, there will be a contest. Artists will have the opportunity to audition in front of a live panel of locally established musicians and community leaders to narrow it down to a “Top 20.” Audiences will then have the ability to choose their favorite musician through an online voting platform. The winner will earn the chance to record a professional album for the PeaceTones record label. Finalists will also receive mentorship and be featured on PeaceTones’ crowdfunding platform, Springboard, so that they can raise money to fund their own musical projects. In this type of contest, PeaceTones feels there are no losers because every artist will gain public exposure simply from taking part in the contest. Following the contest, there will be three “Peace Concerts” held in several different townships in Nairobi that will feature locally established musicians along with the winner of the contest and some finalists, as another way for the musicians to share their music.

Unfortunately, because music is an expensive field to pursue, it is going to take $12,500 for PeaceTones to make all of this possible. So far, PeaceTones has raised only enough money to fund several workshops and a Peace Concert in one of the three locations. However, if PeaceTones reaches their goal, they will be able to hold many more workshops and peace concerts to help these starving artists. It is an especially good time to donate now. You can go to www.rally.org/peacetones to donate once or every month. The site outlines suggested dominations for how your money will specifically help musicians in Nairobi. For example, $5 will help one artist produce a CD, $50 will fund an artist rights workshop for one person, and $500 will sponsor a peace concert. You do not have to necessarily donate these amounts, but it gives you an idea of how you are helping musicians. In addition, any one who contributes $15 will receive a free CD from the winner of the “Songs for Justice” project.

PeaceTones is also holding a variety of events that the public can attend to find out more about the organization and connect with members of the PeaceTones community. Recently, they had their first Bay Area house where they raised over $2,000. It was an informal event with music and a presentation about the organization was given to a group of friends. There was also an event a few days ago at Hotel Utah in San Francisco called “Folk and Soul for PeaceTones.” Guests enjoyed folk and soul music while raising money for “Songs for Justice” project. The organization plans to continue holding several more house parties over the coming months. You can find more information about upcoming events on www.peacetones.org.

Yes, $12,500 is a lot of money, but PeaceTones believes these artists are worth every penny. The musicians PeaceTones fosters create music that inspire and discuss the hardships of their culture through the sharing of their stories. These musicians speak for peace and justice for their communities through their music. Don’t believe it? Check out some of the artists’ music that PeaceTones helped produce for free by going to http://bit.ly/x2xm4b. $12,500 will provide these musicians with the tools they need to share their music with over 12,500 people. Just think: if Justin Bieber had not had access to a computer or if members of One Direction did not have the resources to attend an audition for X-Factor, you would be missing out on some really great music! Everyone deserves the chance to share his or her voice with the world. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to hear it.