The Price of Silence
Created in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) set forth the basic rights of every human being, yet 60 years later in places the world over, violence, poverty and oppression hold sway.
To commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR, and to remind the world that violations of Human Rights are unacceptable anywhere, at any time, Link TV has produced a video, “The Price of Silence” for Amnesty International.
Set in the United Nations, the artists appear on the stage of the General Assembly, flanked by huge screens whose images reflect the lyrics, or project performances from foreign locations. Starting with just Stephen Marley, the performance grows until a full band occupies the stage, singing and rapping, and the delegates are out of their chairs, cheering and dancing.
“The Price of Silence” is a true labor of love, the result of generous donations of time and talent on both sides of the camera. The song is based on “Cancion Protesta” which was donated by Aterciopelados and Nacional Records, produced by Andres Levin through Music Has No Enemies, and performed by an all star cast of international artists who have added their own lyrics. All of them are human rights activists and several are refugees. The video was directed by Joshua Atesh Litle, and although everyone looks like they are performing at the U.N., in fact all the artists and delegates were composited in through the visual effects wizardry of The Syndicate in L.A., Phoenix Editorial | Designs in San Francisco, and a team of NY-based artists.
Video introduction by Laurence Fishburne.
AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON ITUNES HERE
Video produced by: Link TV: Television Without Borders for Amnesty International
Directed by: Joshua Atesh Litle
Music produced by: Andres Levin for Music Has No Enemies
Photos courtesy of Magnum Photos
Artist Biographies and Links
The video opens with a prologue written by Alicia Partnoy, a poet and human rights activist who spent two years imprisoned during Argentina’s Dirty War. Laurence Fishburne delivers the message.
These are not just words tattooed on paper
No prison cell, no border fence, no torture well will stop our plea
No stone, no stain will mar the river of our dignity
My child, for you today our voice befriends the winds-
Alicia Partnoy is a survivor from the secret detention camps where about 30,000 Argentineans “disappeared.” She is the author of The Little School: Tales of Disappearance and Survival, and of the poetry collections Little Low Flying/Volando bajito, and Revenge of the Apple/Venganza de la manzana. Partnoy is an associate professor at the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at Loyola Marymount University, and presides over Proyecto VOS-Voices of Survivors, an organization that brings survivors of state-sponsored violence to lecture at U.S. universities. Her work has been published in more than twenty anthologies, and in journals in the U.S.A and abroad.
Aterciopelados (Colombia). Aterciopelados is one of Latin America’s most popular rock bands. A collaboration between Colombian musicians Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago, the band won the 2007 Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Album (“Oye”) and in 2001 was recognized by Time Magazine as one of the top 10 contemporary global bands along with U2 and the Rolling Stones. Their songs speak to issues such as human rights, materialism, feminism, and other social matters. The band often performs using “escopeterras”- guitars fashioned out of former machine guns – a gift from peace activist César López in support of the band’s efforts to take guns off the streets of Colombia.
Emmanuel Jal (Sudan). An acclaimed and politically active hip-hop artist, Emmanuel Jal was born in war-torn Sudan in the early 1980s. He was taken from his family home in 1987 when he was six years old, and sent to fight with the rebel army in Sudan’s bloody civil war. Jal has performed at events such as Bob Geldof’s “Live 8″ UK concert, Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday celebrations in Hyde Park. An acclaimed documentary film, Warchild was recently made about his life.
Kiran Ahluwalia (India). Born in India and raised in Canada, Kiran Ahluwalia is an acclaimed singer and songwriter who has successfully promoted Indian and Eastern culture and values in a Western context. The 2005 recipient of Canada’s JUNO Award for “Best World Music Album”, Ahluwalia has been actively involved in promoting the protection of women’s rights as through her involvement with the Guira Foundation in India which fights to prevent trafficking of women and girls. She continues to promote cultural and ethnic tolerance and understanding through her work.
Natacha Atlas (Belgian/Arabic). Singer-songwriter Natacha Atlas is known both for her exciting fusions of Arabic melisma with electronica and her lyrics promoting peace and ethnic and religious tolerance. Born in Belgium to a father of Moroccan, Egyptian, Jewish, and Palestinian descent and a British mother converted to Islam, Atlas always knew “that it [was] important to be tolerant”. In 2001, Atlas was appointed by Mary Robinson as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Conference Against Racism.
Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe). A devoted advocate for human rights and social justice, Chiwoniso was raised both in Zimbabwe and the U.S. in a musical family (both parents were musicians) and is a charismatic singer and virtuoso mbira player. The outspoken popular music star recently relocated from Zimbabwe to the United States in August 2008, removing herself and her two children from the political and economic unrest there.
Laurence Fishburne (United States). Laurence Fishburne is an award-winning actor, playwright and producer known for his incredible talent as an artist as well as his dedication to humanitarian causes. Fishburne has performed to much acclaim in TV, theatre and blockbuster film productions, but recognition for his humanitarian work has been equally as strong. Fishburne is a UNICEF ambassador, and in 2007 he was honored with the Harvard Foundation’s Artist of the Year award at the annual Cultural Rhythms show, in recognition of his prowess as an entertainer and his humanitarian pursuits.
Angelique Kidjo (Benin). One of world music’s best known divas and a tireless activist for human rights, Angelique Kidjo is a Grammy award-winning, Benin-born singer who has collaborated with artists such as Dave Matthews, Josh Groban, Alicia Keys and Carlos Santana among many others. Political conflicts in her native Benin led Kidjo to relocate to Paris around 1982 and she currently resides with her family in Brooklyn, NY. Kidjo has lent her voice and time to numerous social causes including women’s rights, Control Arms with Amnesty International and Oxfam, and UNICEF where she is a Goodwill Ambassador.
Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet) was born in a Chinese labor camp and left Tibet in 1989 at the age of 22, trekking across the Himalayas with her two-year old son to escape oppression from the Chinese regime. During her journey she made a pilgrimage to Dharamsala, to receive the blessings of the Dalai Lama and was inspired to share her culture and educate people about Tibet through her music. Lhamo has collaborated with artists such as Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Merchant, bringing her traditions to new audiences.
Stephen Marley (Jamaica). The second son of the legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, Stephen Marley has produced five Grammy award-winning albums and has recently taken center stage as an enticing vocalist who makes music with heart and message. Marley continues his father’s tradition of producing music that communicates the importance of combating political oppression and expresses the realities of poverty and legal injustice in today’s society.
Visit Stephen Marley’s official site
Hugh Masekela (South Africa). This legendary musician, composer and singer has used his music to help fight Apartheid and advocate for human rights for decades. Following the March 21, 1960, Sharpeville Massacre – where 69 peacefully protesting Africans were shot dead – Masekela left the country beginning a long exile. He had hits in the United States with the pop jazz tunes “Up, Up and Away” and the number one smash “Grazin’ in the Grass” (1968), which sold four million copies. In 1987, his hit single “Bring Him Back Home” became an anthem for the movement to free Nelson Mandela. He now resides in South Africa.
Visit Hugh Masekela’s official site
Natalie Merchant (United States). Natalie Merchant is one of the most prominent and socially conscious progressive/folk music artists in recent times. First as lead singer and songwriter of 10,000 Maniacs and then as an acclaimed solo artist, Natalie Merchant has achieved international renown for the literary quality of her songs and her unique, contralto voice. Her album “Motherland” was released in 2001 shortly after the events of 9/11 and addresses issues of global conflict and oppression. Merchant has also actively lent her support to many important social causes including the fight against AIDS, the freedom of Tibet and the struggle with homelessness across the United States.
Visit Natalie Merchant’s official site
Rachid Taha (France/Algeria). Born in Oran, Algeria, Taha is based in Paris. He generally sings in Arabic and his music is influenced by many different styles such as rock, techno and raï. Taha has recorded several successful albums of his own and collaborated with musicians such as Robert Plant, Patti Smith and Brian Eno. He also famously covered The Clash song “Rock the Casbah” (in Arabic, as “Rock El Casbah”). Taha has always stood up to defend democracy, tolerance and altruism against racism and discrimination.
Visit Rachid Taha’s official site
Julieta Venegas (Mexico). Born and raised in Tijuana, Julieta Venegas is a multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter who has garnered several Latin Grammy awards for work and recognition for her social activism. Venegas’ unique sound combines accordion, native Mexican rhythms, pop and R&B. Originally trained in cello and violincello, Vengas, has collaborated with iconic Mexican rock bands such as Café Tacuba. Venegas is known for speaking out on politicial injustice lending her time and talents to many Mexican humanitarian causes including demanding equal rights for people living along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Visit Julieta Venegas’s official site
Yerba Buena (Cuba/USA). The Latin fusion band, Yerba Buena, was founded by producer and guitarist Andres Levin and features dynamic vocalists Cucu Diamantes and Pedro Martinez, Cuban refugees residing in the United States. Yerba Buena’s Latin Grammy award-winning sounds are described by The New York Times as “one of New York’s best dance bands, mixing up the Latin boogaloo of the ’60s, Cuban religious music, American soul and Fela-like Afrobeat.” Yerba Buena has performed for many charitable organizations supporting the U.S. Latino and Latin American community. In addition, Levin has worked on a number of benefit albums including the Red Hot series and recently launched Music Has No Enemies to produce music content for social causes.
Chali 2Na (United States) is best known for his work with the highly respected alternative hip hop band Jurassic 5, and the activist Salsa band, Ozomatli. He is also known for his collaborations with other MCs. He is a devout Muslim and his work reflects a deep commitment to family, particularly as reflected in the raising of children. He also featured in the award-winning documentary This is the Life.
Tamer Pinarbasi (Turkey/USA) provides the brilliant kanun work on the “Price of Silence.” A member of the New York Gypsy All-Stars Band, Mr. Pinarbasi has become one of the world’s great kanun virtuosos. He attended the Istanbul Technical University State Conservatory of Turkish Music, where he developed his own technique for playing the instrument, which allows him to use all his fingers while playing.
Visit Tamer Pinarbasi’s official MySpace page
Founded in London in 1961, Amnesty International is a Nobel Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with over 1.8 million members worldwide. Amnesty International undertakes research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the context of its work to promote all human rights.
Amnesty International website: PROTECT THE HUMAN
Amnesty International blog: HUMAN RIGHTS NOW
Speak Up for Human Rights: The Price of Silence is Much Too High
by Marcia G. Yerman, The Huffington Post
With Barack Obama poised to take office in January 2009, one of the
major lessons his candidacy has offered is that movements are built from
individuals taking action. In an effort to rally attention to the 60th
Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty
International, working in cooperation with Link TV: Television Without
Borders, is releasing the international song and video The Price of Silence.
I first saw The Price of Silence at its New York City premiere, which was part
of an evening hosted at the New York Society for Ethical Culture entitled
“Every Human Has Rights: Hope for Human Rights in an Era of New
Leadership.” Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA,
shared the stage with Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997 – 2002); Dr.
Blanche Wiesen Cook, biographer of Eleanor Roosevelt; and Samuel Kofi
Woods, Labor Minister of Liberia.
All of the speakers referenced the window of opportunity at hand for the
nation and the world to focus on a recommitment to the original tenets
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Robinson said, “We have a moment now. 9/11 was a precursor of difficulty
for human rights.” She related how “it was quite lonely in those early
days,” after the Patriot Act went through. “It [Patriot Act] was not an
appropriate way to respond to very real threats,” she said. Several
times Robinson repeated the phrase, “There can be no ambivalence about
Dr. Cook, who has written extensively about Eleanor Roosevelt and spoke
on her leadership role in moving the UDHR forward commented, “On
November 4th, we stepped off the bitter road to fascism.” Challenging
the audience she said, “What follows is up to us. It doesn’t matter who
occupies the White House, it matters who pickets the White House.”
Woods, previously imprisoned and banned from employment in his country,
pointed to what he termed “the moment of opportunity,” moving from “mere
declaration to accountability.” Robinson crystallized it as “the
responsibility of each of us.” Cox concurred, “Everybody can do
something, and doing it together we can change the world.”
It was in that spirit that the creative team behind The Price of Silence
galvanized. They drew on the talents of accomplished musicians from
around the globe, several of whom have experienced the ordeal of human
rights violations. Emmanuel Jal, the rapper from Sudan who was a “child
soldier,” recorded his track the day after appearing in front of the
United Nations General Assembly – to bear witness to the horrific
experiences of his youth.
Steven Lawrence, Vice President of Music and Cultural Programming at
Link TV, conversed with me about the evolution and production of the
video. “It took over three, months,” he said. They worked around the
availability of the different artists, who all donated their time. They
used sixty actors, making five wardrobe changes, to portray the hundreds
of UN delegates. Using the “magic of visual effects,” they intercut the
close-up shots with real footage from the United Nations. “We filmed the
opening of the UN in September of ’08,” Lawrence said, adding, “When
people see the video, they assume we took over the UN for a few days!”
Creating a “digital General Assembly” and shooting the artists on stage
in front of a green screen, the production team hit locations that
included Bogotá, Paris, and the Tibet House in New York City.
The vision for the video’s concept came from director Joshua Atesh
Litle, who sees hip-hop as the protest music of the new generation. The
producer, Andres Levin, is a Grammy-nominated artist and the co-founder
of Music Has No Enemies, which is based on the premise that “music as an
art speaks to everyone.” Lawrence stressed, “The most important thing is
that the video and music connects billions of people who don’t have
these rights. By downloading the song [at iTunes, with all net proceeds
benefiting Amnesty International], you are supporting human rights.”
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United
Nations on December 10th, 1948. World War II was the catalyst. The aim
was to create a doctrine that would guide the international community on
how to achieve political, social, economic, civil, and cultural human
rights. It was a two-year process, and Eleanor Roosevelt was
instrumental in its drafting, later serving as the first chairperson of
the United Nations Human Rights Commission. She called the Declaration
“the international Magna Carta of all mankind.”
Which brings us full circle to the present. Amnesty International USA
has requested a meeting with Obama to discuss the human rights agenda of
his new administration. In the first 100 days, they have called for a
plan and date for the closure of Guantánamo, an executive order to ban
torture as defined under international law, and an independent
commission to investigate abuses committed by the United States in its
“war on terror.”
When I spoke to Cox by telephone to ask him what he would like to see
The Price of Silence accomplish he said, “I hope the video will help
spark a large movement to take action and to mobilize people.”
Poet Alicia Partnoy, who survived two years in prison during Argentina’s
Dirty War (where 30,000 Argentineans “disappeared”), contributed the
prologue delivered by actor Laurence Fishburne at the beginning of the
video. She wrote:
These are not just words tattooed on paper
No prison cell, no border fence, no torture will stop our plea
No stone, no stain will mar the river of our dignity
My child, for you today our voice befriends the winds-