“For me, music and activism have always been interlinked. From taking part in many protest marches as a student to organising charity gigs in support of local charities, being an activist has always helped shape and influence my musical compositions and performances”, says singer and songwriter Greg Genre, based in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK). Greg is dedicating his single release, “Realigion”, to World Wide Music Day. The song which will also be featured in Greg’s upcoming album “Make Your Own”, coming out on August 11, 2017!
1. How did you find your way to music?
Starting with writing poetry at fifteen I made the worthwhile decision of selling all my computer games to buy a guitar and I started putting my words to music. A few years later, I began performing as a Singer/Songwriter in York and while studying at University my lyrics became increasingly political and spiritually focused. Living back in my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne, I now perform with my band mates John Atkinson (Bass) and Simon James-Coleman (Percussion). Our music is pretty difficult to pigeonhole but some have described our sound as Alternative Acoustic Hip-Hop but I try not to limit myself to one particular genre (hence my name).
2. How did you become involved in social activism?
For me, music and activism have always been interlinked. From taking part in many protest marches as a student to organising charity gigs in support of local charities, being an activist has always helped shape and influence my musical compositions and performances.
3. What are the ways that a musician can make a difference today?
I believe that music can be a powerful force for good in the world. Writing songs gives me a means to raise awareness about issues that I feel strongly about. Recently I composed a protest song against proposals to build an open cast coal mine near one of my favourite wildlife spots. Music is particularly important in bringing communities together and uniting them around a common cause and there is no greater cause than seeking to end war and conflict around the world.
4. What are the main challenges for a musician-social activist?
Although the internet and social media platforms have given musician-activists instant access to potential audiences around the globe, the reality is that it can still be very difficult to find dedicated listeners. Many worthwhile voices are so easily lost amongst the proliferation of posts seeking attention. In the present times of quick click and flick entertainment music with meaningful lyrical content is given very little consideration. Instead what seems to matter is whether musicians are well versed in marketing strategies, advertising campaigns and whether they can present an eye-catching public persona. I try to critique music as a form of consumerism in many of my songs asking the listener, ‘don’t buy this make your own!’
5. What motivates you to collaborate with Musicians without Borders?
I have tied all my releases in the past to a charity or social cause because I feel it is important that my actions reflect my lyrical messages. Many of my recent songs focus on the theme of seeking lasting inner peace in a fast paced changing world. I came across Musicians Without Borders while writing a song called ‘Box Box Box’ and after reading about your work I knew right away that it was an organisation I wanted to support. In the song I talk about how we are led to create an identity based on little boxes such as a political party, our nationality or religion, but that ultimately we should see past these boxes and identify as a human being or as a citizen of Earth. So many innocent people are affected by war and conflict around the world as a result of one small ‘box’ fighting against another. It is a privilege to support an organisation which seeks to provide relief and hope for communities affected by these needless wars.
6. If you wanted to inspire people through music, what song/composition would you play?
I would play my new song ‘Realigion’ which is about bringing people of different beliefs together to celebrate our common humanity. It has quite a catchy chorus in which I repeat, ‘peace and love for everyone and everything’ and a funky harmonica solo which always goes down well live. It is going to be the first track on my upcoming album ‘Make Your Own’, out on the 11th of August. Proceeds raised from the album will also be donated to Musicians Without Borders.