At the beginning of this year, I gave myself a challenge. Not so much a resolution as an experiment. I decided that I wanted to reach out to people who I admire, whose art I enjoy, or whose work has touched me in some way. In pursuing my own creative goals, I have come more closely to the fact that no matter how famous, talented, or successful someone is, we all appreciate and need to know that what we do matters. So I decided to pay it forward. I wrote a letter to Amanda Palmer, whose book The Art of Asking moved me deeply. I wrote to my favorite poet, Joy Harjo, whose words I come back to again and again. My goal is to drop an unexpected love bomb at least once a month. This practice opened me up to the possibility of using my own art in service and honor of others. My YouTube channel, is all about creating music for books that I love. It's a way to give a little gift to the authors, and to continue the flow of creative energy. In working on this project, I've found that not only do I love writing music as a tribute, but it's opened the flood gates to creativity inside me, allowing me to write music for myself like never before.
My latest video was a really special tribute. I like to do a mix of different genre's and age groups with the books that I choose, so I was excited to be able to feature a non-fiction title. From the moment I started reading her story, I knew I would write a song for Malala. The thing that struck me the most, and that became the central theme for the song, was how Malala is very much like all of us. She has desires, hopes, dreams, and struggles. She has gone through extroardinary circumstances, but as she said in the book, "I am Malala. My world has changed, but I have not."
In writing this song, I thought about the many "empowerment" songs out there, like Katy Perry's "Firework" or "Roar," Alicia's Key's "Superwoman," and so many more. Don't get me wrong, they are great songs, but one thing I noticed is that there is always a comparison to something else— you are a firework, you are a lion, you are a superhero--and I thought, maybe we don't need to be. Maybe we should make the word "girl" synonymous with power. Maybe you can be whoever you are, as long as you are willing to speak up, and that is enough to make a difference.
Here's the finished song:
I began writing the song after finishing the book in February, but it wasn't complete until just a day before posting the video. On that day, March 22, there was a terrorist attack in Belgium. I had been planning to record and post the video that week anyway even though the song wasn't finished. In the wake of this new tragedy, and the recent attack in Turkey the week before, and so many others around the world, I sat down and wrote the bridge. The image of pollen in the wind is something that Malala mentions in the book:
"Like pollen blowing in the wind,
words of peace will carry.
Don't let fear define reality,
Love is what we need to rally"
When I posted the video, I sent it to the Malala Fund on Twitter, who retweeted it. I've only been doing these videos for a few weeks, and have only been semi active on twitter for about a year, so it was thrilling to see so many likes and retweets.
Then, later that day I saw this one:
That's Malala's father, who founded the school in Pakistan that was targeted by the Taliban and who is an advocate for education along with his daughter. Not only did he retweet my video, but he sent me a private message telling me how much he and his wife liked the song, and how it had such a positive message.
I know I just wrote this whole post— and it's also the main theme of the song—about how we are all just people, but in that moment I held my iphone to my heart and tried to slow my breathing. I told him how thrilled and honored I was that he like it, and promised him I would make a polished recording of the song and send it to him.
I am welling up with tears as I write this. The words "blessed" and "humbled" seem trite. I am profoundly grateful to be able to use my gifts to raise up and honor others. It seems to prove my theory: I am a work-at-home mom from NJ, who has a voice, and it matters.