By Puja Gupta
Grammy award winner Ricky Kej and nominee Lonnie Park, along with other Grammy winners from across the world, will be holding a one-hour concert on World Music Day on June 21 to sing songs based on the Sustainable Goals set by the United Nations.
The team has created ‘My Earth Songs’ that highlight the needs of the planet and the corrective action people need to take to check the imbalances, ensuring a cleaner, greener planet for future generations.
There are 27 songs in all which are based on improving environment and sustainability, written for children between the ages of 5 to 11 years.
IANSlife spoke to the Rickey Kej and Lonnie Park about the importance of “meaningful” entertainment for children ahead of the concert.
Tell us about the World Earth concert and the rationale behind it?
Park: This is a concert for children but really appeals to all ages. All the songs are songs written by Ricky Kej, Dominic D’Cruz and me with a specific unifying theme. While travelling the world and performing concerts where Ricky is deeply involved in environmental movements, we discussed the fact that it is challenging for adults in this world to change bad habits. We realised that to make a long-term impact, we need the following generations to start good habits and practices early.
This also brings an early awareness that kids will carry for their entire lives. So rather than singing meaningless nursery rhymes, we want them to sing about our amazing earth, equality, kindness, and initiative. We believe that this can have a meaningful impact across the whole world. So, we began writing based on the themes on the 17 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Once the songs were completed, they began to be adopted and supported by the education system and organizations like UNICEF. Then it became obvious that it was time for us to do a full concert during this lockdown for the 850 million children who are forced to not attend school.
This is so important to focus ou initiative on children?
Kej: We have to start with children if we are to raise a generation of environmentally conscious citizens and that it what we are setting out to achieve with this initiative. These songs already appear in over 5 million schoolbooks and ‘My Earth Songs’ was also recognised and honoured by the United Nations in Bonn, Germany for its innovation, creativity and outreach. During the current pandemic, countries around the world and their school systems are struggling to provide uninterrupted learning for children and this is affecting a critical part of their lives. This concert will provide meaningful entertainment to children while conveying really important messages around our environment.
Tell us about your performance on World Music Day.
Kej: We are bringing in eight Grammy winning and Grammy nominated artistes from around the world for this performance including the winners of the Grammy for ‘Best Children’s Album’ for the last two years, Lucy Kalantari and Jon Samson. We are performing 15 songs. All these songs convey powerful messages in a fun way and children around the world will be inspired to protect the only home that we have, our beautiful planet.
Park: It is World Music Day and it is also Father’s Day. Seemed like the perfect day to do a children’s music concert with people from all over the world. We are fortunate to have an amazing group of participants including six Grammy winners, two Grammy nominees, and a core band of NY musicians. As a fun addition, I was able to convince my beautiful wife Jody to sing backing vocals too!
How has the pandemic impacted the music world? What changes do you see in a post COVID era?
Kej: As performing musicians, we feed off the energy of the crowds in a concert and performing online deprives us of this. I use my live concerts to connect emotionally to hundreds of thousands of people to inspire mass behavioural change and also perform intimate concerts to world leaders to remind them of their commitment to climate action. However, arenas always have physical limitations. With virtual concerts, the whole world is our playground.
My last online concert on Earth Day (22nd April) was watched by an estimated 89 million viewers from around the world and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I did wonder how we will all be able to keep our energy and momentum high as this virtual concert was filmed completely at home and there is absolutely no feedback from the audience coming through but a lot of people reached out to me stating that they were extremely inspired by the music and the overall message of my concert.
As an artist, it is very fulfilling when the audience is so receptive. A massive concert such as this is a new experience but I am very happy with the way it all turned out in the end. I have several more large scale virtual concerts coming up and we are expecting the viewership figures to increase tremendously.
Park: Every musician is impacted in a big way. Part of our job is touring and playing live shows. Obviously, that cannot happen now, so during this period, we have adapted to playing internet-based concerts. Another part is the creative process of writing and recording. We find ourselves living in a global historic period now, and I believe that the art we create during this time will be the soundtrack and pictures that define it.
What is your musical philosophy?
Park: Never ever stop working hard and learning. I think that music is like Thomas Edison’s description of genius, 99 percent perspiration and 1 percent inspiration. To be a good musician, writer, or performer you spend years and years working hard to learn and develop your craft. Combine the inspiration with the results of your perspiration, and hopefully, you create music that connects and inspires other people.
What has been your biggest lesson?
Park: We can get easily get lost in a sea of the world’s problems. Rather than focus on the negative, I have learned to simply ask “What is my part of the solution?”. The answers give us something positive to focus on. The resulting action can change the world, one piece at a time.
What message would you give to young and aspiring musicians? How can they cope up with the current situation?
Park: Work hard, then work harder, innovate, and adapt as things change. Build a platform that you can stand on and bring about some good.
What are you guys currently working on? Are you creating music or just listening?
Kej: The theme song that I created for the “Make A Mark” project was just released. It is a project initiated by Niccolo Campriani, a three-time Olympic Champion and one of the most decorated rifle shooting athletes in the world along with India’s only Olympic Gold medallist, Abhinav Bindra. In partnership with the Abhinav Bindra Foundation, three refugees, Mahdi, Khaoula, and Luna, were selected to help them rehabilitate their lives through the sport of shooting. From training in the sport, to forming bonds with one another, the three are now very much athletes, channelling the intent to become excellent, and in the process growing as individuals as well. The goal is to ensure that they have all they need to train and stand eligible for selection to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I am very proud to make a contribution to this wonderful project through my theme song.
Park: I am always creating music, literally every day. My collaborations with Ricky are nonstop and our working chemistry is amazing. In addition, as a producer in my own studio in NY, I am working with a collection of great artists in a wide variety of genres. The COVID situation forced a pause, but it also allows for a period of writing and developing. I am slated to score two movies and complete a few records by the end of the year once things start to move again.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at email@example.com)