Published on Voices

Year in Review: #Music4Dev aims to end poverty one song at a time

End Poverty.

Seems impossible, even ridiculous, especially since the goal is to end extreme poverty by 2030, right? But consider the progress that has been made: In 25 years, we've gone from nearly 2 billion people experiencing extreme poverty to fewer than 1 billion. Still, a billion's a lot of people, so there's a lot of work to be done.  
Action begins with awareness . If people don't know that change is needed, then change will never happen. To that end we've created a new series to raise awareness about poverty, #Music4Dev, where we welcome artists from around the globe to share their music using the World Bank as, literally, their stage.

By sharing their music these global artists are spreading the word about ending poverty, and inspiring fans to take action. Here’s who we have had on so far, check out their interviews and enjoy their music. We look forward to bringing you more great musical artists in 2016 who've joined the End Poverty movement. We invite you to as well.

Nigerian singer/songwriter Nneka


Ever since Nigerian singer Nneka released her debut album, Victim of Truth, in 2005, the diminutive star has been one of the most vocal advocates of anti-corruption and women’s rights in Africa. "I use my music as a platform to (give voice) to such issues,” she says. "I grew up in Nigeria where women don’t have much freedom on many different levels.  I was raised in a system where you respect the system through fear.ImageImage

Nneka, who has shared the stage with acts such as The Roots, Femi Kuti and Damian Marley, lends her star power to NGOs like the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), where she is the cultural ambassador.  She also co-founded the ROPE (Reach Out, Organize, Practice, Experience) Foundation, a charity supporting young people who want to express themselves through art. Most recently, ROPE teamed up with the WAGA Foundation (War Affected Girls and Adults), to help sexually abused women in Sierra Leone. 

While she continues to help empower women through her music, Nneka offers this advice to fans: "Whatever you do, do it with confidence. ImageImage Don’t let anyone intimidate you.ImageImage

Nashville country singer Drew Holcomb

What does the end of poverty look like? For Nashville music star Drew Holcomb, it’s the beginning of opportunity."Poverty crushes opportunity. It crushes people’s dreams to create a life for themselves and their families,”ImageImage  he says. "So when I hear ending poverty, I hear beginning opportunity.”

For his part, Holcomb tours continuously with his band, The Neighbors, playing roughly 150 shows a year, giving him ample opportunity to raise awareness about social responsibility. "With the platform of music, you have the opportunity – not to force anything on your audience – but to let them know about things," says the 33-year-old star. "A lot of times, I think people do want to be involved in solving problems, but they just don’t know where to begin. Sometimes the problems seem so enormous, you think, well, what can I do? I’ve found that people if they know of a need, they tend to find some generosity.”

Since Holcomb and his wife, Ellie, who is also his bandmate, had their two kids -- 2-year-old Emmylou and 8-week-old Huck --  they're even more passionate about ensuring that the world they inherit is a better one. "I envision a world where my kids become problem-solvers in the same sense that my wife and I hopefully have tried to do," he says.  

Nigerian pop star D'Banj  

One of the most successful African music artists in the last decade, D’Banj has won numerous awards including Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007, Artist of the Year in 2009 at both the MTV Africa Music Awards and BET Awards. With over 1.4 million followers on Twitter alone, his social media reach is vast. That D'Banj uses his star power to raise awareness for development issues makes him a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty.

In 2014, during the African Union Year of Agriculture, D’Banj revolutionized the fight against extreme poverty on the continent. He spearheaded a pan-African campaign that brought together nearly three million African citizens calling on their governments to invest more in agriculture and support small-scale farmers—and it worked. In 2015, during the 10th anniversary of his music career, he continued his crusade against extreme poverty by devoting his attention to the AU Year of Women's Empowerment. "In order to eradicate poverty, you have to have equality," he says. "What’s good for he, is good for she." 

Iraqi music icon Rahim Alhaj

He learned to play the  oud , a pear-shaped stringed instrument, at an early age in his hometown of Baghdad. He grew up writing protest songs against the dictator who ruled his country with an iron fist for three decades. He was imprisoned, tortured, and eventually forced to leave his beloved Iraq in 1991. He later found refuge in the United States.

Rahim Alhaj , a renowned Iraqi musician whose music often sends powerful messages on humanitarian and global issues, recently visited World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. He discussed how music plays a big role in raising people’s awareness and solving worldwide issues.  "When music tackles people’s tragedies in any country, it has a major impact,” said Alhaj. "To me, music is a visual and auditory tool to achieve change.”

One of the issues he discussed was the current refugee crisis, in which millions of people have been fleeing the devastation of wars in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and others to neighboring and European countries. "We, as people on this earth, have a responsibility to end it,” Alhaj said of the crisis.

Ghanian songstress MzVee


Ghanian star MzVee uses her music to amplify her ultimate hope, to end poverty. "If people cannot educate their kids, then they can’t pursue their dreams,” she said. "If poverty can be eliminated, then people can do whatever they want to do. They will no longer be held back.”

To MzVee, born Vera Hamenoo-Kpeda, education is the path to ending poverty. "Education ties everything together,” she said. "There’s that saying that if you give a man a fish you’ve fed him for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish, then you’ve fed him for life.”

Putting her passion into action, MzVee, 23, has set up a scholarship fund to help young girls get an education. "Once you are educated, everything gets better,” she said. "Education helps you climb the social ladder, it can make you more successful and prosperous. Education makes you a better person.”

The song, "End Poverty,” is call to action for everyone in the world to join the fight against poverty. "There’s one line (in Ghanian), "Mikataa mi wor deka” which means "we should all come together,” she says. "Ending poverty is not one person’s work, it’s everyone’s work.” 

American blues rocker Fantastic Negrito

For Xavier Dphrepaulezz, whose stage name is Fantastic Negrito, black roots music is about celebrating and preserving African-American culture. "It’s the music of Southern black American slaves. I pull from that tradition,” he says. "I don't think that being descendants of slaves is something to be ashamed of. It's a part of our history.” His music is also an homage to Delta blues music legends such as R.L. Burnside and Skip James. More importantly, his music is a celebration of the black experience in America.  "There's no way to be a black man in America and not experience racism,"Image  he explains. "But  blackness is something to be celebrated and that's what I do through my musicImage ."

The Democratic Republic of Congo artist Fally Ipupa 

Fally Ipupa uses his celebrity as all celebrities should: as a tool for social good. Most recently, he joins the World Bank's #Music4Dev initiative, to raise awareness about ending poverty leveraging the global reach of his stardom. 

It's not the first time that the entertainer is using his popularity to raise the awareness of his followers to Africa’s challenges. He established the FIF foundation, which provides the most vulnerable Africans with access to basic resources — water, schools, and medical care. The foundation also offers relief from conflicts, adverse weather conditions, and diseases.

Cambodian rock band Dengue Fever

During their brutal reign from 1975-1979, the Khmer Rouge killed an estimated two million people, targeting artists and intellectuals, even people who wore eyeglasses. Cambodian arts and music have been making a comeback through the education of younger generations. Educating and raising awareness of Cambodian arts also means employment for the master artists and possibly their students.

For people living in poverty, finding possibilities for employment is critical.Image Lead singer of Los Angeles-based Cambodian rock band Dengue Fever Cchom Nimol is proof. 

Nimol grew up in a refugee camp in Thailand; her sister was left behind in Cambodia. For years, the family had no idea what happened to her sister. But in the late ‘80s, they heard Nimol’s sister singing on the radio. They returned to Cambodia and the family was once again whole. After winning a popular singing contest called the Ansara Awards. Nimol decided to try her luck in the United States in 2001. As a star, she’s a source of inspiration for people in her country. “I’ve been living here for 15 years, but I like to go back to Cambodia to perform,” she says. “I’m happy that I can help my poor country.

Want to know more? Here are the full episodes, including a few extra songs, of our #Music4Dev guests:


Korina Lopez

Social Media Campaigns Consultant

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