04 Aug 14
NEW YORK—Sixteen musicians from different corners of the world, such as Sweden, Mexico, and Guyana, unite to form Truth On Tour, a collective of artists who raise awareness about a hidden persecution.
The Truth On Tour album was released on July 15, and the songs are available on its website. The music ranges in style from hip-hop and reggae to folk and rock.
The group consists of professional and semiprofessional artists—from David Bowie’s former drummer to an attorney in Washington, D.C.—who set aside time in their busy lives to put together an album that exposes the persecution of Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation practice that is banned in China.
The majority of the Truth On Tour artists are practitioners of Falun Gong, a discipline based on truth, compassion, and tolerance.
The communist regime banned the practice in China in 1999. Since then, more than 3,000 deaths have been documented, although the estimated real number is in the tens of thousands. According to Minghui.org, a website that reports on the persecution of Falun Gong, there are over 63,000 confirmed accounts of cruel and unusual torture.
As the ongoing persecution receives little coverage in mainstream media, these artists use their music to spread the word. For many, it has been one of the most profound experiences of their musical careers.
Indira Sarabia, from Mexico City, formerly sang for bands such as Rapsodia and Tishain in the early 1990s. Her style is a fusion of blues and funk with a tinge of soul.
Seven years ago, Sarabia had achieved her ideal life. She had a nice house, stable finances, and was in the process of producing her first album. Yet there was something amiss, a vacuum that she could not fill.
“I cried after my first recording,” she said. “I had always dreamed of having my own album. I couldn’t understand what was missing.”
For Sarabia, music became more fulfilling when she began to sing for a cause that was bigger than her.
When she heard about the persecution of Falun Gong in China, she felt that she should use her talents to support human rights. It was the missing piece of the puzzle.
“It doesn’t matter what race or color you are,” she said. “We need to speak for those who are silenced.”
It was a similar case for Sterling Campbell, a drummer who was once part of Duran Duran, B-52′s, and toured with David Bowie.
Campbell began practicing Falun Gong in 1998. Despite his exciting career, he felt compelled to protest in China and was subsequently arrested, detained, and beaten by Chinese police.
In 2007, Campbell returned to the band B-52s to record a new album. He is currently on tour with the B-52s and a member of Truth On Tour.
Hip-Hop and Universal Truths
Jamil Lawrance, also known as Rise-Ascend, is a rapper, an attorney, and the father of three small children.
“We’re busy, but none of us thought twice about it,” he said. “We contribute to this project to raise awareness to something that effects all of mankind.”
He is part of a duo called Rise-Ascend & Direction, which produces hip-hop music. Their style resembles those of Lupe Fiasco, Bob Dylan, and Jay-Z.
Kristian Karlgren, also known as Direction, is a Swedish Falun Gong practitioner who is the producer for the group.
Lawrance and Karlgren are disseminating a new message through hip-hop.
“A lot of people in the hip-hop community have not heard of this issue,” Lawrance said. “People have this perception of China as an economic superpower.”
“We want to invite people who listen to hip-hop and pop to look beyond the screen of what the government in China has put forth,” he said.
The lyrics of his songs, and the premise of the music, have touched a broader range of people than hip-hop fans.
He has received a positive response from his target market, but his music has reached beyond the hip-hop community.
He recalled how after a performance in a café, an elderly woman approached him and told him that she was deeply moved by his music.
He had ended the performance in the café with “The Great Wall,” which is on the Truth On Tour album.
“So much is hidden behind the wall/The wall/The Great Wall/Horrible killings behind the wall,” the song goes.