(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Site review - The Voice Project

I got turned on to the Voice Project when I heard about Peter Gabriel covering Tom Waits' In The Neighborhood.

It's a fairly straightforward interpretation. Gabriel doesn't have the world weary rasp that Waits brings to this song, but I really appreciate his conversational intro to the piece. He gives an elegant explanation of what the Voice Project is all about.
A lot of the ways that people communicate are cerebral, they go through the head. And one of the interesting things about music is it seems to plug directly into the emotion. So, I wasn't at all surprised when I heard that these Ugandan mothers couldn't get to their sons in normal ways, but when they started singing music, it somehow touched them in a place that nothing else could reach. Music can do that and if we can make the chain and make the link here, I'm sure we can help to make a difference.
Gabriel goes on to set up the song. His appreciation for the words comes through in his phrasing as he emphasizes his take on the hymn-like nature of the song.

Peter Gabriel » Tom Waits from The Voice Project on Vimeo.

The point of the Voice Project is a response to a grassroots effort in Uganda. Child soldiers, refugees, a land torn by war -- these are all things that are far removed from our more privileged lives. The idea of mothers trying to sing their children back home from their exile with a message of forgiveness is a powerful idea. The site hosts videos of numerous artists covering songs by other artists as a way to raise money to support these Ugandan women with sustainability grants, educational programs and rehabilitation programs.

At its root, though, the Voice Project is also a cool musical idea. There are some great musical selections and interesting combinations. Mike Mills from R.E.M. covers Billy Bragg's Sing Their Souls Back Home, Har Mar Superstar plays Out of the Blue by Julien Casablancas (the Strokes), and Steel Train has a couple of false starts before getting through Bulletproof by La Roux. This last is quite a contrast to the original.

The site also includes some of the Ugandan women singing. The front page includes them singing Western songs, like their short version of Joe Purdy's Suitcase. They also have a touching page of Ugandan songs like Akello Miriam's simple song that focuses on healing the community and the Youth Forgiveness Song. These all end in a high pitched ululation that seems to punctuate the hopefulness of the songs. The thing that I really like here is that there is a sense of the universality of music. They use music to reach out, to communicate, and to initiate an exchange with the wider world.

Whatever you drink, raise a toast to this worthy cause. Visit the site and check out the covers. If you find any you like, donate a bit.

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