New CD to Benefit Women of Darfur
October 3 was the release date for the CD We Are All Connected: Berklee College of Music Reaches Out to the Women of Darfur. A collection of r&b, soul, jazz, pop, world music, and gospel selections, the music was written, performed, and produced by Berklee students, faculty, staff, and alumni to raise awareness of the plight of women and children affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. The disc will be available through iTunes and CD Baby, and the proceeds will benefit the Mercy Corps Darfur Crisis Fund.
We Are All Connected is the culmination of the Berklee community’s collaborative effort. In early 2005, a delegation of Boston women, including Linda Mason (wife of Berklee President Roger H. Brown), TV journalist Liz Walker, and Reverend Dr. Gloria E. White-Hammond, traveled to Sudan with Mercy Corps on a fact-finding mission to investigate the use of rape as an instrument of war. They took a recording of two songs, “We Are All Connected” and “To the Sudanese Women,” which were written and performed by Berklee students Andrea Whaley and Farah Siraj.
President Brown and Jack Perricone, chair of Berklee’s Songwriting Department, initiated a songwriting competition, and the two songs were winning selections. Recorded specifically for the trip, the tunes were presented to the Darfurian women as a musical gift from their sisters half a world away. The music was played in the refugee camps on a laptop, a device that many of the women had never seen before. Upon hearing the songs, the women leapt to their feet and began trilling and singing in jubilant musical response. Their reactions were recorded in the field and brought back to Boston.
During the trip, the Boston delegation heard firsthand accounts of the violence that has killed hundreds of thousands and sent millions to refugee camps, ripping families apart and leaving women and children homeless, hungry, and in grave danger. Mason shared these stories with the Berklee Women’s Network, inspiring the group to take action to produce a full-length CD that includes the original songs. The goal of the project is to raise awareness and funds.
Submissions for We Are All Connected were solicited through another songwriting competition open to Berklee students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Participants used the field recordings of the Sudanese women as inspiration, and their voices can be heard throughout the CD. More than 40 songs were submitted for consideration. From this rich pool, 18 songs were selected by a committee that included Mason, Perricone, Melinda Weekes of My Sister’s Keeper, Laura Guimond of Mercy Corps, Berklee Chief of Staff Carl Beatty, and Berklee staff members Shannon Kim, Karen Wacks, and Lynette Gittens.
The Berklee community mobilized not only for the songwriting but also for the recording and production of the CD. Associate Professor Leanne Ungar of the Music Production and Engineering Department contributed her time and talent as executive producer for the CD. Other faculty members served as mentors and producers for student compositions recorded in Berklee studios and other Massachusetts locations. Guest artists include Meshell Ndegeocello, Abe Laboriel, Jr., Vinnie Colaiuta, and Jamey Haddad.
Songs from We Are All Connected have been performed on the TV show Sunday with Liz Walker and at Save Darfur Now rallies in New York and Washington earlier this year. For more information on the project or to purchase the CD, visit www.berklee.edu/darfur.