The Nippon Foundation (TNF) has released a music video in which 46 artists with disabilities from 15 countries/areas perform an updated rendition of “Stand By Me”, the classic Ben E. King hit.
The 4-minute video, filmed collaboratively but remotely in each artist’s home, is a message of hope, positivity and inclusivity from the artists to the global community of people with disabilities. It is an event of the True Colors Festival, created by TNF in its commitment to building a more inclusive and caring global society.
The geographically diverse line-up of performers spans many styles and genres, from a cappella to rap, jazz to classical, and ballet to breakdancing.
Among them are rapper Signmark (Finland), the first Deaf artist in the world to be signed to a major record label, Warner Music; Sparsh Shah (US), 17-year-old child prodigy, performer, speaker, and social media sensation; Caliph Buskers (Malaysia), an award-winning pop band of visually impaired vocalists and instrumentalists; members of Drake Music Scotland, the world’s first disabled youth orchestra that makes music with digital instruments; members of world renowned street dance crew, ILL-ABILITIES™ (represented by members from Canada and Holland); rapper, composer and music producer Wheelsmith (Singapore) who performed in Singapore’s 2019 National Day Parade; singer Aliènette Coldfire (Philippines), who placed third in the 2016 edition of France’s Got Talent; and Yusuke Anazawa (Japan), a blind virtuoso jazz violinist. The video also features Amber Galloway Gallego (US), who provides the sign language interpretation of the song, and specializes in interpreting concerts and music festivals into sign language.
Says Founder of ILL-ABILITIES™, Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli: “We are currently all in a similar situation globally, we face lots of struggle and uncertainty about what the future will hold. By participating in a project like this, we hope to bring people together and inspire us all to stand by one another, no matter what obstacle comes our way.”
“I absolutely love the fact that I get to work on this project with more than 40 other specially-abled musicians worldwide! This project is, for me, proof of the extraordinary power that technology has to bring us humans together, regardless of who and where we are in the world. I could not be more blessed to live at this point of history to be able to do such work!” says rapper Sparsh Shah.
Says Dr Sydney Tan, Creative Producer & Director of the music video: “It has been a wonderful privilege to work with these artists, who jumped in and gave their time and talent at short notice. Even coming from different geographical regions, cultures, languages and genres, the performances exhibit a unity of purpose and conviction in communicating the message of commitment to stand by one another.”
On 6th May, a policy brief calling for a disability-inclusive recovery and response to the COVID-19 crisis was launched. UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged governments to place people with disabilities at the core of COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, and to work towards creating more inclusive and accessible societies.
He highlighted that under normal circumstances, people with disabilities are already less likely to be able to access education, healthcare and income opportunities, or to participate in their communities. They are also more likely to live in poverty, and suffer higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse.
“The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities – and producing new threats,” he said, adding that in this health crisis, people with disabilities are among the hardest hit. They face a lack of accessible public health information and significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, among other things.
TNF’s “Stand By Me” music video aims to serve as a catalyst to raise awareness about this situation, while presenting a gathering of talented artists performing a well-loved song in a music video that will connect people everywhere. Says Mr Ichiro Kabasawa, Executive Director of TNF, which has been supporting people with disabilities in Japan and around the world for more than 50 years: “We can already see a new way of living. Governments, employers and service providers have quickly adapted by implementing alternative work arrangements, harnessing technology and remaining efficient. As societies everywhere envision life post-COVID-19, the global community of people with disabilities must be factored in, right from the ‘reset’. We can build a world in which everyone’s needs are catered for, and no one is left behind.”
Learn more about the project and the upcoming True Colors Festival on their website here.