When “We Are the World” came out in March 1985, it had a lasting impact on my impressionable young mind. I was seven years old, and seeing white and black artists from all different genres of music performing together to benefit starving people in Africa was almost too much goodwill to swallow. Indeed, my throat would catch back then when hearing the song, and it still does sometimes today.
“We Are the World” showed me that people from distinct ethnic and cultural backgrounds could join together to help the less fortunate of the world and that music could actually be a force for lasting change. For many people of my generation, who today are beginning to take the reins of power and influence across the globe, “We Are the World” instilled a sense of global concern for human beings far, far away, while revealing that it didn't take much to help, whether you're a superstar who could spend a few hours in a recording studio or a little kid, able to convince your parents to buy the song and support the cause.
And my take on the song wasn't just some sappy, kid-brained idealism either. Not only was it the fastest selling single in American pop history — and the first to ever qualify as multi-platinum — it raised more than $40 million for Africa in just the first few months, eventually pumping up about $70 million to various causes on the continent. Better yet, it inspired a generation of musicians to produce their own humanitarian recordings, which continue to this day to bring attention to overlooked problems and raise money for good causes.
Today, there's a new song making the rounds on the Internet that has perhaps even more potential than “We Are the World” to solve some of our most pressing global problems. Also produced by Quincy Jones, the song is in Arabic and features 24 of the Middle East and North Africa's top musicians performing together, across ethnic, religious, and national lines, to tell their neighbors that there is hope for a better tomorrow, especially amidst the alternating triumphs and turmoils of the ongoing Arab Spring. Called “Bokra,” which translates to “Tomorrow,” the song's chorus goes: “We are the voice of goodness; we are the sun of the days / We are a new day; we are a banner for peace. / We are the flute of love and the soul of music. / We are a thousand and one nights from the East of dreams.”
Released originally on 11-11-11, it's selling right now for $1.30 on iTunes here, and 100 percent of the money will go straight to the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, which in turn supports the United Nations World Food Program, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and others to be announced later. No administrative costs will be taken from the sales, and others who are interested can simply donate to the cause by visiting this link.
If “Bokra” is anything like “We Are the World,” then we can expect a rising tide of money flowing into the Middle East and North Africa to help much needed efforts to stabilize the region through goodwill. Better still, the song might even show another generation that music, diversity, charity, and peace might be a better option for the future than war and terrorism.
For more info, see tomorrowbokra.org.