Last Friday was World Music Day – an occasion that celebrates the true value of performance and music making.
Fête de la Musique, as it was first known, began life as a dream of France’s Minister of Culture in 1982. He imagined a day with ‘the music everywhere and the concert nowhere’, a carnival of musical freedom where amateur and professional musicians alike could take to the streets and play. The City of Paris took this idea to heart, and on Friday, more than 120 countries across the globe picked up their instruments to make some noise – including in our home cities of Manchester and Chicago.
Through these activities, the uniting power of music clear to see – which inspired us to look back over the occasions when this power has been used for real good. Over the last 40 years, benefit concerts have proved that performance can really change the world – so we’re taking a look at the most renowned events that brought people together far and wide in the name of charity and entertainment.
The Concert for Bangladesh
We start where it all began, with a moment that’s widely considered to be the first benefit concert of modern times – The Concert for Bangladesh. Around the turn of the 1970s, East Pakistan was struggling to become the independent state of Bangladesh, and the resulting turmoil – coupled with a natural disaster – left an estimated 500,000 people dead and even more as refugees. Devastated by the situation in his homeland, Ravi Shankar sought the help of his friend George Harrison, then at the peak of his solo career. In order to raise both awareness and funds, they gathered friends including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell and Ringo Starr for two MSG performances that generated $250,000 overnight. The impact of this event continues to be felt to this day, with a triple album and film earning more than $17 million for Unicef, and many more acts inspired by their music-tinged philanthropy.
14 years later, it was the turn of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure who held Live Aid – a duel-venue concert to support the relief effort for the Ethiopian famine. The 100,000 in Philadelphia’s John F. Kennedy Stadium watched acts like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Madonna, and Mick Jagger – while the 72,000 at Wembley saw David Bowie, The Who, and Sade among others. With an estimated audience of 1.9 billion in 150 nations watching the live broadcasts, it’s said that almost 40% of the world’s population witnessed the event, forcing the issues of famine, poverty and inequality into the centre of foreign policy for many governments.
One Love Manchester
Perhaps the most recent example – and the one closest to home for PHMG’s UK staff – is 2017’s One Love Manchester. In the aftermath of a horrific attack, Ariana Grande found the courage to hold a concert for her fans that showed the deep and defiant ties between music and inclusivity. 55,000 people joined her and stars including Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams and Liam Gallagher – while millions watched around the world – for a show that raised more than £17 million.
Music, at its most basic level, breaks down divides and brings people together. World Music Day typifies this perfectly, by giving communities across the globe the opportunity to not only witness live performances for free, but create a little noise of their own too. And that’s definitely something to be celebrated.
In celebration of World Music Day, PHMG Founder Grant Reed shared his thoughts on the importance of music to all – along with the musical inspirations of our talented composers. Click here to take a look.