Vancouver-based non-profit record label Revolution Harmony was launched in 2011 by British music lecturer/journalist Ray Holroyd. After founding the non-profit Grade 9 Records in 2008 and growing the label over three successful years, Holroyd decided to expand upon what he had originally established as a means for his students to sell their music and donate the profits to charity, and Revolution Harmony was born. Revolution Harmony acts as a two-way channel, providing an outlet for artists to release their music worldwide and earn money from it, and providing an inlet for the label profits from that music to be redirected to charities that restore harmony between all people, animals and the environment.
Revolution Harmony’s debut All-Star charity single ‘We Are’ features vocals from Serj Tankian (System Of A Down) and Ihsahn (Emperor), as well as guitar solos by Devin Townsend. Composed, arranged, programmed and produced by Ray Holroyd in Vancouver, the complex international studio project was recorded in North America, England, Norway and New Zealand, then mixed by Rohan Onraet (Slipknot, Machine Head) in London, and mastered by Ted Jensen (Green Day, Muse) in New York. The single also features Stefan Loh (We Claimed Sentience Once – signed to Revolution Harmony) on guitars, and additional vocals from the young up-and-coming UK singer Abbie Johnson.
The lyrical theme in ‘We Are’ is based on the concept behind Revolution Harmony, which is essentially the belief that musical harmony has the power to inspire a revolution towards societal harmony. The single is dedicated to Nelson Mandela and the memory of Lucky Dube, regarded as South Africa’s Bob Marley, and will be released worldwide on Mandela Day (18 July), with all proceeds donated to Buskaid, a charity that provides free music lessons and instruments to children in the townships of South Africa.
Ray Holroyd comments: “Revolution Harmony is a dream come true, it’s the perfect harmonious marriage of my two callings: making music and making a positive change in the world! ‘We Are’ is the first milestone for Revolution Harmony, and to share it with three of my musical heroes, Serj, Ihsahn and Devin, who all believe in my vision, is deeply heartwarming and humbling. These musicians are overflowing with talent and compassion, and I am eternally grateful and monumentally honoured to have had them contribute to my cause by singing and playing on a piece of my music. The goal for these All-Star charity singles is to raise significant funds for various smaller charities, by making/selling creative and meaningful music that features rare collaborations by inspirational artists.”
Holroyd continues on why he chose Buskaid as the charity to receive all the proceeds from their debut single: “I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, down the road from the Khayelitsha township, and was so incredibly fortunate to have lived in an environment where I had the privilege of playing and learning music from a young age. I feel that it is absolutely vital to provide the same opportunity to all underprivileged children. Life in the townships is unbelievably difficult, and music literally saves lives! Also, imagine how many phenomenally talented musicians are going unnurtured and therefore unnoticed, simply due to the lack of opportunity. My whole life has been about music, in fact I’ve never even had a non music-related job, and none of it would have been possible without my childhood music education in South Africa. I could just as easily have been born down the road in Khayelitsha and would not have had the opportunity to study music, so I made it my mission a long time ago to do whatever I can to ensure that music education is available to all children and youth, regardless of their location or financial situation. Buskaid does this every day, and for that they have all my gratitude and they will have all the proceeds from this single too, in order to continue their life-saving work!”
Serj Tankian speaks about his involvement with Revolution Harmony: “It has been an absolute honor being involved with the Revolution Harmony project to bring much needed financial aid to Buskaid in South Africa. Music has saved my life and has the potential to create positive change in all those young kids struggling to make themselves heard and to survive.” He continues on the single itself: “The song is a musical collage of complex yet moving colors intertwining genres and vibes.”
Ihsahn adds: “I have followed this song since it was basically just a MIDI file and love how it has grown into this massive piece of music, so it was very easy to get inspired for lyrics and vocal lines.” He continues on his support for the cause behind the single: “Knowing how music has shaped and enriched my own life, and how privileged I have been to be able to follow that passion, I really appreciate Buskaid’s work to enable young people to follow that same path. Like most, my involvement in charity has been very generic, like signing up for donations to some of the global organizations, but Revolution Harmony has given me the opportunity to contribute with something personal, together with people who share my passion for music. I’m honored to be part of this.” He concludes: “With our different backgrounds I think this just underlines the message of the song; a deep passion for music that goes beyond how we are typically isolated and divided.”
Devin Townsend reflects on his experience: “I met Ray while he was working at a guitar magazine in the UK. He was very generous with his position there and had convinced me to guest on his charity project. I am happy to contribute and to be involved with the other musicians. I hope the goals he has for the benefit of people in need come to fruition, and I wish everyone involved the best of luck. Please do what you can to help people less fortunate than yourself, it is rarely easy, but it is a testament to the human spirit.”
Rosemary Nalden, founder of Buskaid, affirms: “There is no doubt at all in my mind that Buskaid continues to transform lives in South Africa. This transformation takes many different forms, and can affect the lives of youths and children alike. I had wondered, with all the changes which are taking place in South Africa and globally, whether teaching music to children in a township would become a sort of quaint anachronism. Far from it! Children of all ages continue to flock in, and I wish you could come to the music school any day of the week and see the crowds of kids. At the moment we can get through this year, just, but when our money runs out we shall close, that is the stark reality. We’re also often teaching 110 kids in a space built for 35, and I have the plans drawn up and permission to extend, but no money. This is a dream which we must make into reality. Any money from Revolution Harmony which can support this will be so very very welcome!”