Celebrity birth benefit concert

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George Harrison was one of the biggest rock stars on the planet in 1971, but his voice was courageous when he lent fame to discuss the global crisis. Sit at a press conference to open a performance film, Bangladesh ConcertHe was asked why he made a profit for the refugees from East Pakistan at the time in all the crises of the world.

Harrison simply replied, “A friend asked me for help, and that’s it,” in a tone that reflected why he was called the “silent beetle”.

The friend was the legendary Indian musician Ravi Shankar.

They hosted a star-studded concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City on August 1, 1971 to help Bengal refugees in India fleeing the violence. Its immediate and lasting effects were far greater than Harrison’s calm demeanor implied. From the late 1960s to the early 1970s, pop artists became more than just artists. It was the first major pop music event to benefit from major human rights issues.

The impact of the two sold-out performances of the Bangladesh Concert (and the accompanying album and film) set the tone for the All-Star charity event that followed. Some organizing musicians are building their models in their own way and using new tools such as social media to raise awareness of the myriad of causes. However, Key Performances have the ability to grab more attention and keep viewers longer than tweets, TikToks, and Facebook posts.

Rally fan base

Perhaps more importantly, the Bangladesh Concert showed that celebrities can use their fan base to bring more Western audiences’ attention to geographically distant issues.

At that time, the fate of South Asia was terrible. In the spring of 1971, Pakistani troops suppressed the Bengal democratic movement for autonomy in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), killing hundreds of thousands of people. Millions more have fled to Indian refugee camps. Ravi Shanker, a Bengali frontman of Harrison’s Indian sitar, explained the situation to the guitarist.

Shanker acknowledges the concert’s accomplishments in raising awareness of this conflict. “Overnight, everyone knew the names of Bangladesh around the world,” he said on a 2005 DVD. Bangladesh Concert Documentary from 1972. “Because it appeared in newspapers all over the world, so it was of great value. “

Harrison and Shanker said their motives were not political, but Gary J. Bus’s historical account was that they caused a surprise between the Pakistani junta and its operatives in the United States. .. Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and the Forgotten Massacre.. Pakistani officials were angry at the attention Harrison’s “Bangladesh” concerts, albums and singles gave to their enduring atrocities.

President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger – Those who escaped cuts in US military aid and allowed guns in Pakistan during a short war with India Beyond the situation – I was regretted again. Bass reported that Nixon personally requested concert funds to go to the “Terrible Indians”.

Look deeper

Musicians who have organized charity events since the Bangladesh Concert have investigated the causes of the crisis they are facing. Jamie Drummond co-founded the Global Poverty Eradication Foundation ONE With Irish rock singer Bono. He was headlining a live help event in the mid-1980s (modeled after Harrison’s concert, led by a number of stars from Queen to Madonna), with event planners Bob Geldof and stars of U2 internationally. He said he had started to look at traditional debt relief. Dramondo showed how countries like Ethiopia cannot buy the right food when they crush their international financial obligations.

“The concerts, the showbiz for a good reason has gone so far, the funding has gone so far, but you have to get to the structural cause of the problem,” Dramondo said. “It takes a little more political involvement.”

Bob Ferguson, who manages Oxfam’s creative alliance and music delivery, Providing information and education on all of these issues has been key to her organizational partnership for COVID bailouts with celebrities such as Australian singer Courtney Barnett and pop group Lucius.

“The heaviest part of my job is letting people know exactly what’s going on,” Ferguson said. “Our artists want to be fully aware of everything they are involved in. The luxury of being able to put artists in touch with experts in this field. The artist wanted to know more about our work in Darfur, so in 15 minutes I was able to put her in touch with someone in a refugee camp in Darfur. “

It’s also important that organizations like ONE work with everyone from American conservatives to the French Socialist Party to find common ground on issues such as COVID mitigation, climate change and girls’ education. for non-partisan organizations. is.

“Compromise doesn’t have to be a bad word,” Dramondo said. “Sometimes the best ideas come from conflicts between different things. [political] Appears on the sides and in the middle. Debt cancellation and the historic AIDS initiative came to fruition thanks to American bipartisan leadership. “

Pay attention to your ego and pay attention to details

Harrison’s loving personality set an example for Western musicians who want to describe themselves as using their fame for greater benefit. This is not always the case in a huge, ego-filled industry. Some use a charitable look just to sharpen their reputation.

According to Ferguson, Oxfam has realized that some artists may not have altruistic goals when contacting the organization. “We need to step up to sniff out opportunities to restore the artist’s reputation, rather than helping,” he said. “It doesn’t happen often, but it does. So there’s a judgment process to make sure you’re working with people who want to work with us. Music fans today You can feel the ideas and marketing plans. “

Musicians who follow Harrison’s model should also be aware of the less attractive bureaucratic chores associated with large amounts of fundraising and distribution. Her concert raised more than $ 243,000 for UNICEF, but the U.S. Internal Revenue Service raised millions of dollars through subsequent record sales because event organizers failed applied for the status of a non-profit organization. Retained (this issue has been resolved). Dramondo said artist-run charities should always take these operational aspects of fundraising seriously.

And the impact can be huge. For concerts in Bangladesh, the legacy remains global to this day UNICEF George Harrison Foundation. “It doesn’t make sense to do showbiz well and then deliver what you’ve done wrong,” says Dramondo. “The good news is that if you’re a celebrity in the area, more people want to help you than ever before. Make sure you are influential in philanthropy and advocacy now. The number of national industries that we support is increasing. “

The right music, the right tone

Harrison promoted the sale of tickets to concerts in Bangladesh with friends of British and American rock stars, but Shanker’s opening performance meant music from the affected area was featured. Such inclusion is important to show that people’s culture is always more than their sacrifice. Dramondo said he aims to include more African musicians, African athletes and movie stars in events focused on the African continent.

An example of such involvement is a Tibetan musician who performed at the Tibetan House Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City last year. According to Ferguson, its diversity also influences active public participation. He added that this involvement could take place at all levels, from signing petitions to joining an organization.

“The Tibetan House concert in Carnegie began with a long prayer sung by the monks,” Ferguson said. “So you knew right away that was true, not just for the interesting music, but ready for action. “

Aaron Cohen is the author of Move Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power (University of Chicago Press) and amazing Grace (Bloomsbury). He teaches humanities and English composition at City College Chicago and writes regularly on the arts in publications such as: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader When Highligths..

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit https://www.npr.org.


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