By Minji Hong
There are many ways for one to contribute to various social causes, be it through making donations, raising awareness, holding fundraisers, or simply signing petitions. Small or big in scale, we can all lend a hand in making this world more peaceful. With the aid of technological advancements over the last few decades, it has become increasingly more globalized by allowing people from one country to help out a cause taking place half way across the globe, or merely expanding their awareness of events taking place far away from home. In light of the famine in Ethiopia during the early 80s, a group of famous American musicians got together to release a worldwide hit single titled “We are the World,” whose proceeds went on to contribute to starvation that Africa had been suffering for a long time. 25 years later, a group of famous artists all over the world convened to produce a remake of the single for the Haiti Earthquake in 2010. They have proved that one can marry music and technology to create a powerful synergy effect in raising awareness and further compel people to take action. So these 3 Arab artists in the music industry have used their talents to release songs dedicated to bringing to light the plight of various conflicts in the Middle East – to show the power of music in bringing about social change.
“It was my way of speaking up about this terrible injustice… Some people march and protest and some people write letters to the powers… I wrote a song; A song that seems to have hit a global nerve and resonated really deeply all around the world.”
Making his debut in 2008 as a Pop/Rock recording artist, Michael is now widely recognized as a humanitarian singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. His legacy as a humanitarian artist in the music industry took off with the release of his massive hit single “We Will Not Go Down,” which gave him a phenomenal worldwide recognition for this powerful and moving song that captured the plight of Palestinians in Gaza by having more than 1 million views in Youtube within just a month of its release. From then on, he wrote songs about devastating conflicts and events around the world, those especially concerning the Middle East, where his roots belong. Indeed, originally born in Syria as Annas Allaf, this Syrian-American artist chose to use Michael Heart as his stage name. Although he has worked with many artists as a producer and a songwriter, Michael’s passion for writing songs in support of various causes lives on, with the most recent one being, “What About Us” dedicated towards the Syrian conflict, “Freedom” inspired by the Arab Spring, and also one dedicated towards the victims of the earthquake in Haiti titled “Help is on the Way.”
Maher Zain is a Swedish R&B singer like no other. He is a Lebanese-born Muslim singer, whose success is admired by and inspires young Muslims that Islam and modernity can co-exist. Not to mention, he is perhaps one of the highest-profile artists in the modern Islamic music industry. He rose to fame with the release of his debut album titled “Thank you Allah,” which brought him a giant success among Muslims throughout the world. The album was awarded multiple platinum by Warner Music Malaysia and Sony Music Indonesia, and also highest selling album of 2010 in Malaysia. He has also gained worldwide prominence for his two humanitarian songs – “Love Will Prevail (#SYRIA),” whose proceeds were directed to Syrian humanitarian relief work, and “Freedom,” inspired by the uprisings during the Arab Spring. Apart from his humanitarian songs, Maher is also famous for his philanthropic activities, including performing at the 2014 Nansen Refugee Award ceremony and going on a tour organized by Islamic Relief for typhoon victims in the Philippines in 2013.
Another real-life example of a rags to riches story, Assaf is using his recently garnered fame and success to contribute to the conflict in Gaza, a place he calls home, a place dear to his heart and soul. Born in Libya and raised in the Gaza strip, this young Palestinian singer first gained public appearance through his participation in Arab Idol, an equivalent of American Idol in the Middle East. His heart wrenching performances won him the title as the winner of the second season of the television competition. From then on, he has continued to proclaim his support for the fellow Palestinian refugees through music, gaining worldwide popularity in the Arab world through his rendition of patriotic Palestinian hymns. Thus in a way, many believe that he facilitates Arab unity through music, especially for the Palestinian cause. To this day, Mohammed stands as one of the most popular artists in the Arab music industry and strives to use his power to influence in order to bring peace to the region. In addition to being declared as an honorary ambassador by the Palestinian president Mahmood Abbas, he is also the very first Regional Youth Ambassador for Palestine Refugees for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency since his appointment in 2013.