Some 1,000 artists participated in private concerts across 60 countries as part of Give a Home for Human Rights, a concert series collaboration between Amnesty International, the world’s largest human rights organization, and Sofar Sounds, a London-based company that specializes in arranging secret events in private homes.
Give a Home’s aim is to raise awareness and funds to support Amnesty’s I Welcome campaign, which protects the human rights of refugees, a group which now exceeds 22 million globally.
Starting in Auckland and ending in Los Angeles, of the 300 shows, 100 were held in the United States. Notable artists who performed included: Ed Sheeran (in Washington DC), Ani DiFranco (in New Orleans), The National (in Edinburgh, Rudimental (in London), Jake Bugg (in Nottingham), Hozier (in Dublin), and Moby (in L.A.), to name a few.
Sheeran’s DC performance featured Jean-Jean Bashengezi (‘JAJA’), a guitarist, singer and refugee who now lives in the city. Bashengezi’s music draws influence from his roots in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was forced to flee in 1994 when his country descended into deadly conflict following the Rwandan genocide. “We all deserve a home, not just the memory of one,” said Sheeran. “That’s why I’m proud to join [the] Give a Home campaign in raising awareness for the global refugee crisis and funds for Amnesty’s important work.”
In L.A., Moby performed an acoustic set of originals and covers in a backyard in Laurel Canyon, while Andrew Bird’s performance was interrupted by a dog pooping on stage. “I mean, I’ve had hecklers before, but,” he said with a laugh.
“In the 1980s and 1990s Amnesty International really pioneered how you can use music to engage people in activism through the big benefit concerts we used to do,” Eric Ferrero, Deputy Executive Director of Public Affairs for Amnesty International, tells Variety. “This is the new generation of that work… it’s about bringing people together in a much more intimate way, connecting them to each other and to music, and then to activism and to the issues. It started with people [from Amnesty International] showing up to a Sofar concert [in London] and being blown away by the level of connection you get to each other and to the music, and the potential and the power that has to engage people in human rights.”
Added Tom Lovett, COO of Sofar Sounds: “I don’t think when we set out with this project that we really expected the incredible artist response it fostered. Nor the intense sense of global community it created. We were on the phone with our people in India during the recent flooding determining whether or not they were going to go ahead with their shows, same with Houston, Miami, and even Mexico City… literally there on the phone as the earthquake hit. It’s humbling to be so connected to such an amazing network of people, all working towards that same shared goal of making the world a little more of a welcoming place.”
For more information and to support the campaign, head over to amnestyusa.org or text AMNESTY to 21333.