Arcade Fire in concertPhoto by Steve Cohen


Arcade Fire sparks support for PIH – Canadian band raises issues and funds

The Arcade Fire, a Montreal-based “indie” rock group, is making a name for itself not only as one of Canada’s hottest bands but as advocates and fundraisers for global health equity. Most visibly, they provided the music—free of commission—for a series of television advertisements to boost sales during the holiday shopping rush of the “(PRODUCT) RED” campaign to raise funds for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tubeculosis and Malaria. But they didn’t stop there. At the end of December, they dedicated proceeds from the iTunes release of the first single from their eagerly awaited new album to Partners In Health. And most significantly for us, the band has committed to give PIH $1.00, £1.00  or €1.00 of every ticket sold on their upcoming European and North American tours.

 

Haiti

Haïti, mon pays,
wounded mother I'll never see.
Ma famille set me free.
Throw my ashes into the sea.

Mes cousins jamais nés
hantent les nuits de Duvalier.
Rien n'arrete nos esprits.
Guns can't kill what soldiers can't see.

In the forest we are hiding,
unmarked graves where flowers grow.
Hear the soldiers angry yelling,
in the river we will go.

Tous les morts-nés forment une armée,
soon we will reclaim the earth.
All the tears and all the bodies
bring about our second birth.

Haïti, never free,
n'aie pas peur de sonner l'alarme.
Tes enfants sont partis,
In those days their blood was still warm

– The Arcade Fire

 

After learning about PIH by reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains and Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power, Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the husband-wife duo who formed The Arcade Fire in 2003, contacted us about their desire to help. Although the band’s interest in PIH is relatively new, their dedication to promoting understanding of Haiti’s complicated history and solidarity for its long-suffering people is not. Régine’s Haitian background has influenced the band’s music significantly. The song “Haiti” appeared on their first album, Funeral. The lyrics are indicative of Régine’s deep personal bond with the country: “Haïti, mon pays, wounded mother I'll never see. Ma famille set me free. Throw my ashes into the sea…” In addition to expressing the issues through their music, Win has used his online journal (link) to write snippets about Haiti’s historical relationship with France and the United States and to encourage support for Partners In Health.

With the release of The Arcade Fire’s second album, Neon Bible, in March 2007, they will be touring both in Europe and North America. Following a series of warm-up concerts in London, Montreal and New York through the middle of February, the band will tour Europe from March 7 through April 7, with appearances in the Ireland, Scotland, England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Dates and locations for the North American leg of their tour have not yet been finalized.

But wherever they go, they intend not only to entertain their fans but to educate them about the major global health issues of our time—from the weakening of the Global Fund to the structural violence that has plagued Haiti and other poor nations for years, causing major public health disasters.

[posted January 2007]

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