The artists of Valley Entertainment have lent their musical voices in hopes of fostering social change and greater awareness of human rights. With the albums: Listen to the Banned, Lullabies From the Axis of Evil and Songs From a Stolen Spring, we have tried to support those fighting for freedom and a political voice.
Presented by Freemuse, an organization advocating freedom of expression for musicians, and Deeyah, an Emmy and Peabody award-winning film director and musician, Listen to the Banned is an album of songs dedicated to the voice of freedom. Tiken Jah Fakoly’s “Quitte Le Pouvoir” (“Leave the Power”) became an African anthem railing against political corruption he fought in his home country of Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The late Chiwoniso Maraire, a member of The Storm (one of Zimbabwe’s best-known bands) and later part of Women’s Voice has contributed “Rebel Woman”.
Lullabies From the Axis of Evil featured international stars Lila Downs, Ricki Lee Jones, Eddi Reader and others singing duets with prominent female voices from the countries George W. Bush singled out in his infamous 2002 speech. The stories and poems underlying these lullabies are meant to show that a collaboration of voices can change the discussion, even if political leaders cannot find a common voice. Conceived and produced by our musical partner Erik Hillestad, the album provided an international platform for women artists such as Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, Rim Banna, Sun Ju Lee and Pari Zanganeh.
The well-known songs on this playlist required the permission of their writers and publishers for us to add lyrics or create mashups (‘medleys’) with other songs. The first song, Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” by Iranian activist Mahsa Vahdat with rock star Melissa Etheridge, became the soundtrack to dozens of videos showing protests around the world. Many of the mashups coupled with famous Western peace songs on Songs From a Stolen Spring shine a light on incredible Middle Eastern artists: Lebanese actress/singer Tania Saleh, Tunisan actress Lobna Noomen and Palestinian Rim Banna. Participating Western artists included Blind Boys of Alabama, film composer Lisbeth Scott, Soozie Tyrell (of the E Street Band), Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze), and Terry Evans (known by many for his work with Ry Cooder). Among the famous peace songs are “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Danger Zone”, “Dancing in the Street” and “A Simple Song of Freedom”. These wonderful performances, recorded and produced by Erik Hillestad in studios all over the globe, were mixed together by film mixer Daniel Lerner.
We’ve included a couple of protest songs by other artists. “Chimes of Freedom” is Bruce Springsteen’s recording of the Bob Dylan song, the inspiration often credited to Dylan’s meeting with civil rights leaders in 1963. Taking a more literal path, Canadian songwriter Bruce Cockburn wrote “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” in frustration over waiting for a political solution to a refugee crisis sparked by a South American dictator.