College students get first all-African album on iTunes

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Two college students are spreading holiday cheer all the way to Africa.

Last week, the “Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project,” the first and only all-African music benefit album, was released for sale on the iTunes Web site. Wesleyan University students Eric Herman and Jesse Brenner originally conceived the project while working for Afro-Pop Worldwide last summer in New York City.

Herman and Brenner approached Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry’s and True Majority, an online democracy organization. Cohen agreed to help fund the project, which is currently the top selling album and the only charity CD in the iTunes music store.

“They came up with what I think is an incredible product,” Cohen said.

The album features ten Afrobeat musicians and bands and sells for $10. All proceeds go to support non-profit organizations offering humanitarian aid during the crisis in Darfur. The western Sudanese region has been ravaged by fighting between African groups for 22 months.

Dr. Abdul Aljabar works for Kebkayiah Small Holders Charitable Society, an Oxfam partner organization that helps rural farmers in the area, supporting internal displaced communities. The organization will receive ASAP profits in order to supply food, water and medical supplies for people in the Darfur region.

“I do believe any assistance from the international community, the United States and anywhere outside of Africa will help,” Aljabar said.

With its release around the holiday season, the artists and sponsors of the CD said they hope to draw large support for both entertainment and charity purposes. Martin Perna is a bari sax and flute player, and the founder Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, whose music appears on the CD.

“Music is a weapon used to create peace and to extend the good will and spirit,” Perna said.

“It’s great to be a part of something that doesn’t have anything to do with any government,” he added. “We can’t trust our government to promote peace, it’s an agent of culture. We hope that because of our songs, some children will have something to eat.”

Womni, a solo Afrobeat artist born in England and raised in Africa, said she is happy that the youth have become such an active part in helping the crisis and was thrilled when Herman asked her to perform for the CD.

“I got into Afro-beat as a child. Music was an outlet, a positive tool of expression,” Womni said. “With all the crisis in the Sudan, as an artist the one thing I can do is say something. If my music can raise enough money to help, it shows that no matter how small you feel you are, it makes a difference.”

Herman and Brenner also founded MODIBA productions, an organization dedicated to African social and political empowerment through music and film.

“Simply stated, the ideology behind our production company is to direct the commercial production of Africa’s unique and brilliant arts towards causes that provide tangible support for those in need on the African continent,” Herman said.

They said they would eventually like to set up a production company in Africa geared towards helping the community, and setting up a self sustaining African music industry. Wesleyan’s public relations manager has gotten involved to handle press for project, and they are working to sign up volunteers on Wesleyan’s campus and college campuses nationwide.

Herman said, “Music is the most effective weapon, and it’s a benevolent weapon so I don’t have any problems using it wherever I can.”

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