It's one day a year: International Women's Day. Everyone rails against violence, poverty, inequality. Then the furor fades.
How can we keep that passion -- a vision of strong, empowered women and girls everywhere -- beating in our hearts every day, all year long?
How about with a song?
UN Women believes in the power of song. That's why they took a leap of faith and created the first-ever anthem for a United Nations agency.
"One Woman" launched Friday, March 8 (yes, International Women's Day) at the UN. Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon even quoted the lyric, closing his speech by saying that if we all work together -- "We Shall Shine."
The song seems to be shining for people around the world. So far, approximately 10,000 people have posted 15,000 tweets about the song, reaching more than 26 million people, creating 67.9 million impressions. Facebook posts have been shared thousands of times, reaching more than 1.5 million people.
From radio stations in Beirut, to Youku in China, to Katie Couric (she really likes it!), to CNN International, to Microsoft's Bing -- many, many millions of ears have already heard the song - and been moved by it (read the comments on YouTube).
We keep getting asked the question: How did you do it? How did you produce a song starring a cast of 25+ artists? As you may suspect, it wasn't easy. But it was fun!
Casting, from start to finish, took almost 18 months, starting soon after the initial performance of the song at the UN in February, 2011. We compiled lists of artists who were the right fit - fierce women, amazing singers, humanitarians. Artists who had connections with UN Women; artists who had personal contacts with lead producer Jerry Boys, co-composer Graham Lyle and myself (lyricist/co-producer); contacts from partner Microsoft. I penciled artist names onto maps of the world, making sure we were covering all the continents, representing the regions, countries, languages fairly.
In the spring of 2012, the creative team (Jerry, Graham and I) converged in London to record the instrumental track (thank you to Dave Arch and the band of the hit TV show Strictly Come Dancing, the UK version of Dancing with the Stars) and the guide vocal track (sung by me - unexpectedly, when the "real" singer fell ill!).
Then our artists started recording. We shared the tracks digitally and they laid down their vocal or instrumental parts wherever they happened to be - Vanuatu, Mali, Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Miami, Israel, London, New York, Ireland, Portugal, Egypt, Spain.
And finally, we met back in London in January, 2013 to edit all the tracks together. We listened to each vocal track and assessed each line, making notes on log sheets. Then we started building the song, line by line. It may seem petty, but diction at the top of the song was super important. With words you don't often hear in pop songs, place names like "Kigali" and "Jaipur," you need listeners to understand or they tune out.
For the top of the song, we kept the feel intimate, solo's only. Then we began the build, creating duets, trios, groups, choosing voices that had similar tone, vibrato, phrasing. By the second chorus, we started using call and response, alternating a larger group with solos. For the third chorus, it was everyone in. At the end, it was time for the ad-libs -- where the singers' personalities really got to shine.
Though you may not notice the instrumental track, it got a lot of our attention. We added Idan Raichel's piano to the original by Dave Arch. Bassekou's ngoni and Anoushka's sitar and Brian Finnegan's Irish whistle were layered in to travel the song around the world. We beefed up the rhythms -- doubling up the tempo on guitar and drum here, laying in cowbell there(you can never have enough cowbell -- ask Will Ferrell).
Four 12-hour days later, the rough mix was ready. Jerry took it home to Cornwall and mixed it, then Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound mastered and polished it with a beautiful touch. And we were done! Nothing to it....
When I heard the song played at the UN on International Women's Day, every moment of the two years' work was worth it. "'One Woman' gives us a message of hope and inspiration," said UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet earlier. "This song carries a message of unity and solidarity with women worldwide and reminds us that equality, human rights and human dignity are the birthright of all of us, every human being. I thank everyone who made this song possible."
None of this would have been possible without the partnership of Microsoft, spearheaded by Orlando Ayala, Chairman of Emerging Markets . Microsoft supported the song production and disseminated it widely through their extensive networks. They believe strongly that, "technology can be a real catalyst for improving the lives of women," and have also joined with UN Women to create the Women's Empowerment Award "to encourage and reward students of any gender to create technology solutions that address the world's most pressing gender challenges."
And now that the song is out there, this isn't the end, but the beginning. There's talk of a Spanish version. UN Women rented a karaoke booth and delegates to the International Women's Day events sang and recorded it -- look for that video on youtube. 500 women will sing together live the song at my alma mater, Dartmouth College, at the 40th anniversary celebration of co-education.
My biggest dream is that people all over the world will own the song, will translate it into their language, record it in their own voices, perform it, claim it as their anthem -
We are One Woman
Your courage makes me strong
We are One Woman
You sing, I sing along
We are One Woman,
Your dreams are mine -
And We Shall Shine.