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Global Citizen Festival Unites Rappers and Royalty

Effort to eradicate extreme poverty puts heads of state onstage with music stars

Global Citizen Festival J Zee Ken
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

It takes a rare kind of strategic vision to put Jay-Z and the queen of Sweden on the same stage to raise money to fight poverty.

Producer Ken Ehrlich seems to be hardwired with that ability.

Ehrlich embarked on a new philanthropic endeavor in 2014, joining forces with the Global Poverty Project.

Founded in 2008 by Australian philanthropist Hugh Evans and Simon Moss, the GPP aims to end extreme poverty all over the world by 2030 by inspiring people to become “global citizens,” and encouraging them to campaign for fair trade and governmental aid for the impoverished.

The GPP’s popularity among celebs (Olivia Wilde and Hugh Jackman are supporters) is reflected in its annual Global Citizen Festival, a day-long music festival in Central Park that offers free admission to those who use social media to take action for the organization. Acts who have performed at the fest include Neil Young, the Foo Fighters and the Black Keys.

Ehrlich produced the first live broadcast of the fest for NBC and MSNBC.

“We did this past show for a very small fee because I really believe in what this guy’s doing,” Ehrlich said. “He’s really amazing, this Hugh Evans.”

Under Ehrlich’s command, the 2014 festival featured headliners Jay-Z and No Doubt (who were joined onstage by Beyonce and Sting, respectively) and appearances by Queen Silvia of Sweden, prime minister Narendra Modi of India, prime minister Erna Solberg of Norway and even President Barack Obama (via pre-recorded video).

Ehrlich will produce the 2015 Global Citizen Festival for broadcast as well.