Every movement needs music. Every revolution has a song.
"Music is a great blessing. It has the power to elevate us and liberate us," said Nelson Mandela. "It sets people free to dream, it can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music."
Mandela would know, as music played a crucial role in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, uniting people across the country, sharing information and inspiration, and keeping the flame of hope alive for decades.
Now that rhythm of revolution is needed again, because from November 28 to December 9, South Africa is playing host to another round of the United Nations climate negotiations.
For years, world leaders have struggled to create a fair, ambitious and binding treaty that would help solve the climate crisis. All the while, more and more people are feeling the impacts of global warming: terrible flooding, endless drought, freak disaster. Even today, over 12 million people are still facing famine in the Horn of Africa, where a lack of rain has made it impossible to grow the most meager of crops.
There are a lot of reasons why the climate negotiations have faltered thus far, but one of those reasons should not be that the climate justice movement still lacks music to unite us as one voice. After the historic 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, when the world seemed on the brink of signing a treaty but failed to seal the deal, many activists began to reflect on the need to bring more song and culture into the movement.
Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told us, "When I returned home to South Africa after those talks in deep disappointment, my activist friends at home said, 'Kumi, no wonder you all failed in Copenhagen, because no movement succeeds without a song and without being a part of the culture with the broader society.'"
Though we don't know if this year's critical talks in South Africa will yield progress, one thing is for sure, we are going to be singing while we try for it.
The Hip Hop Caucus is proud to partner with our allies over at 350.org, Okayafrica, and Rhythm of Change to release the first of what we hope is many transformative tracks for the climate justice movement.
"People Power" is a new song written and sung by artists across the African continent in collaboration with the global Hip Hop community. Talib Kweli kicks off the track and is joined by Zap Mama, Angelique Kidjo, Ahmed Soultan and top South African artists like Jabba from Hip Hop Pantsula and Zolani Mahola.
The song tells the story of climate impacts across Africa, but it is also a call to action. "The weather is crazy, Our leaders are lazy, Their attitude doesn't amaze me," raps Jabba. "Let's come together and work together to face the challenges of the future," sings Angelique Kidjo.
Over the coming weeks, we'll be working with 350.org's global network of activists to get radio stations across Africa and around the world to play "People Power" and connect people so they can work together to expand and strengthen the growing climate justice movement. We're also working with DJs and musicians throughout the world to remix the song to share in their own countries and radio stations.
Help us amplify the message by checking out RadioWaves and submit your own remix by December 9, 2011. The remix with the most "favorite" votes on Sound Cloud will be featured on MTV International's website along with a bio of the DJ/artist who remixes.
Mandela said music "sets people free to dream." As the climate crisis manifests into a nightmare for more people across the planet, those people will need to be set free. Free to dream, free to survive this crisis, and therefore free to thrive in this 21st century. So we need more dreamers, and I ask that you be one of them.