World Trade Organization group records "One Woman" anthem for Int'l Women's Day

In January, 2018, I was surprised - and thrilled - to receive an email from a woman at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland asking if she and her colleagues could do their own recording of “One Woman,” the anthem I co-wrote for UN Women.

My answer was a resounding “Yes!”

Front row, left to right: Cyril Cottereau (voice), Ninez Piezas-Jerbi (voice), Sroda Bedarida (voice),Helen Favez (voice), Sheila Coyle (voice). Back row, left to right: Steve Tanner (electric guitar), Majda Petschen (flute), Hannu Wager (bass guitar).

Front row, left to right: Cyril Cottereau (voice), Ninez Piezas-Jerbi (voice), Sroda Bedarida (voice),Helen Favez (voice), Sheila Coyle (voice).
Back row, left to right: Steve Tanner (electric guitar), Majda Petschen (flute), Hannu Wager (bass guitar).

And a little more than one year later, they did it. Recorded their own instrumental tracks, vocal tracks, produced a video - the whole shebang. And shared it, in-house, on International Women’s Day.

I asked her Ninez Piezas-Jerbi about the “making of” their song. By day, Ninez is a Senior Statistician, WTO Gender Network advocate, and the WTO Employee Networks coordinator. By night and weekend, she made “One Woman” come to life. We both hope this will inspire others to create their song so they can feel the joy and power when we sing together.

Beth Blatt (founder Hope Sings): Where did you get the idea to do your own in-house recording on “One Woman”?

Ninez: I got the idea during our preparation for International Women’s Day 2018.  After listening to the song again, I said to myself, “Why not see if our in-house musicians could do this, too?”  If we could pull it off, perhaps other international organizations could do the same!”  We had an amateur rock band at the WTO and a makeshift recording studio as well.  We could rehearse there and see if there was money to buy us a few hours to record the song in a proper studio.  For a long time now, I had been trying to find a way for us, WTO staff, to do something symbolic for Women’s Day and in our own unique way.  With our love for music at  the WTO, this was how we could do it.

So that’s what we did.  With the money entrusted to me as volunteer WTO Employee Networks coordinator, I bought 3-hours of recording time one Saturday afternoon in April 2018 in the cheapest recording studio we could find in Geneva.  We had a few volunteer musicians:  2 guitarists, a drummer, 3 female and 1 male vocalist - all of us sacrificing our weekend to do this song.  Lucky for us, too, our male vocalist did sound engineering as a hobby.  He had just been hired by the WTO on a short-term contract. Given our limited funds, we were so happy we could use him to help us edit our recording. 

Beth: What it was like in the studio to sing and edit? How did you feel before and after? 

Ninez: It was an experience to sing in a recording studio!  The special microphones for vocalists especially amplified our voices, we sounded like real recording artists!  It felt awesome!  As for the editing, given our work schedules, this was the difficult part.  It took a while for us to figure out how to make our sound better.  Some parts were not in the right tempo, some were out of tune and some needed more volume. Our volunteer sound engineer colleague had a lot of editing to do!  Moreover, his short-term contract ran out that he had to leave the WTO and Geneva!  After corresponding by email, though, he finally got the sound track finished in December 2018.  It was such a great Christmas gift to hear the final version! 

My next problem was getting the video done.  We didn’t have the money to get a proper videographer, so I had to do it myself.  I’m not a particularly great video editor, but I manage.  I had to learn, however, a new video editing software.  In the end, it took me 4 weekends to get it done, just in time for Women’s Day 2019!  It was really a labor of love because the video was the only way I could show off the hard work my colleagues and I put into the recording.  It’s not an official video of our organization, but just a symbolic gesture of support from some of the people who work there.

Beth: What a labor of love! Are you glad you went through it?

Ninez: What a rewarding experience it was!  For us colleagues who don’t normally work together, it was a great bonding experience and opportunity to use our love for music and do something meaningful together.  To highlight the end of our WTO International Women’s Day 2019 celebration, we were asked to sing the song live in our Atrium.  As we were singing, I really felt the support of colleaguesfor the hard work we had done to create this positive moment.  They all knew we were amateur musicians who only came together to sing this one song.  They especially got out of their offices to listen to us and give a supportive applause.  It was so touching!  It created such a positive moment for us all, especially when many joined in singing that last “Shine, Shine, Shine”!

Recording April 2018.PNG

From left to right: Ninez Piezas-Jerbi (voice), Steve Tanner (electric guitar), Majda Petschen (flute), Beatriz Alvarez Castillo (voice), Isabel Calderon (voice), Hannu Wager (bass and acoustic guitars), Lilo Prizzi (percussion), and Kivanc Inal (voice, sound).

International Women's Day 2017

It's hard to believe it was four years ago that we released the recording of "One Woman" - the anthem Hope Sings created for UN Women - at the United Nations on International Women's Day.

Since then, the song has been heard by almost 1.2 million people on-line - plus who knows how many people live, in-person. Every year, women's groups and singing ensembles ask to perform the song, and we are thrilled when they do.

Since 2013, the song has been recorded in Chinese, Arabic and in a Japanese karaoke version. And this year,  the National Orchestra of Chile, led by conductor Alejandra Urrutia, will perform a symphonic version of "One Woman" (arrangement by Ignacio Perez) in honor of UN Women's HeForShe Arts Week.

Today, it is with a deep sense of gratitude that I acknowledge all the collaborators who allowed myself and Hope Sings to do the work that gives us our purpose and joy: creating songs inspired by success stories from organizations/causes that help women and children, songs that inspire people to support this great work.

I want to thank the composers, Graham Lyle and Fahan Hassan, and to our producer, Jerry Boys. Thanks to the people from UN Women who took a leap of faith - Michelle Bachelet, Nanette Braun, Jeca Taudte, Jaya Jiwatram and so many others. Thanks to Microsoft for the financial and technical support - Orlando Ayala, Oriana Spaulding, Alethea Lodge-Clarke.

And thanks to the amazing artists from all around this world who donated their time and talent - Ana Bacalhau (Portugal), Angelique Kidjo (Benin), Anoushka Shankar (India), Bassekou Kouyate (Mali), Bebel Gilberto (Brazil), Brian Finnegan (Ireland), Buika (Spain), Charice (Philippines), Cherine Amr (Egypt), Emeline Michel (Haiti), Jim Diamond, Keith Murrell, Lance Ellington (England), Idan Raichel (Israel), Jane Zhang (China), Maria Friedman (England), Marta Gomez (Colombia), Meklit Hadero (Ethiopia), Rokia Traore (Mali), Vanessa Quai (Vanuatu), Ximena Sarinana and Yuna (Malaysia).

I thank the inspiration that came to me on a playground in New York City (video of the origin story here). 

Most of all, thanks to all the women who inspire me every day, at home and around the world. To you, I say - Shine, Shine, Shine.

One Woman

In Kigali, she wakes up,
She makes a choice,
In Hanoi, Natal, Ramallah.
In Tangier, she takes a breath,
Lifts up her voice,
In Lahore, La Paz, Kampala.
Though she's half a world away
Something in me wants to say ...

We are One Woman,
You cry and I hear you.
We are One Woman,
You hurt, and I hurt, too.
We are One Woman,
Your hopes are mine.
We shall shine.

In Juarez she speaks the truth,
She reaches out,
Then teaches others how to.
In Jaipur, she gives her name,
She lives without shame
In Manila, Salta, Embu.
Though we're different as can be,
We're connected, she with me

We are One Woman,
Your courage keeps me strong.
We are One Woman,
You sing, I sing along.
We are One Woman,
Your dreams are mine.
And we shall shine.
We shall shine.

And one man, he hears her voice.
And one man, he fights her fight.
Day by day, he lets go the old ways,
One Woman at a time.
Though she's half a world away,
Something in me wants to say.

We are One Woman,
Your victories lift us all.
We are One Woman,
You rise and I stand tall.
We are One Woman,
Your world is mine
And we shall shine.
Shine, shine, shine.
We shall shine
Shine, shine, shine.
We shall shine.
Shine, shine, shine.

For you Spanish speakers, readers - with subtitles!

One small thing you can do to support women today is support the work of UN Women by   buying a download at Amazon or iTunes (One Woman: A Song for UN Women).

What Happens When You Stop "Singing"? (or Thanks, Universe, for the Ear Infection)

I have a confession to make.

I told myself when I started Hope Sings that it was all about helping people – to empower women, to “harness the power of song and story to change the world.” My stated mission was to put the power of inspiring true story back into pop music – to Sing Stories and Change Lives (to misquote our tag-line). Sounds good, right?

In my heart, I knew a big part of why I started Hope Sings was for me. I wanted to swim in a bigger pop/international pond than the musical theatre one where I’d been. I dreamed of writing with all different kinds of big exotic fish, traveling the world as I created huge hit songs.

We have had many satisfying successes - our songs supporting microfinance, our Songs for Sandy initiative, the anthem for UN Women. I believe we have helped people. And I know I've written next to nothing in the four years since I started Hope Sings

And now I find myself facing a crisis – a crisis of inspiration.

I am facing it because of an ear infection.

A summer swim with my son, an overactive Q-Tip, a stubborn plug of earwax, a visit to an ENT who noticed something I hadn't – and today, here I am looking at what truly inspires me, what my real talents are, and what happens when you stop singing - literally and metaphorically.

I've pondered whether this line of posting of belongs with Hope Sings. But I think there is something worth sharing about this journey I'm beginning. Another more personal aspect to the idea of hope and singing.

In recent weeks, my energy and attention has shifted from creating songs and shows to another use of my creative energies - healing myself. And trying to uncover where the disease (or "dis-ease" as Esther Hicks calls it - genius) came from.

I believe that when you are blocked creatively - or in any part of your life, since your life is your biggest and best creation - disease will follow. So letting yourself Sing - and letting your hopes and dreams Sing - isn't just nice, it's fundamental. It's key to wellness and thriving, a matter of life and death - as much as microloans are essential to women in Latin America. 

More on What the ENT Saw in the next post.

But first: a song that reminds us how SINGING defines who you are (however you define singing) – whether you achieve “Success” or not. Jim Croce’s “I’ve Got A Name”:

Like the North wind whistling down the sky


I've got a song
, I've got a song


Like the whip-poor-will and the babies crying


I've got a song, I've got a song


And I carry it with me and I sing it proud


If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud


Moving me down the highway


Rolling me down the highway


Moving ahead so life won't pass me by.

 

UN Women artist Concha Buika comes to NYC - yay!

Concha Buika is one of those singers that grab you in the heart - even though she sings mostly in Spanish, you get it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8SVDn34vVQ

Concha was named one of "50 Great Voices by NPR, and if you live in NYC, you can judge for yourself on June 13th when she appears at Town Hall as part of the Blue Note Jazz Festival.

http://www.bluenote.net/newyork/schedule/moreinfo.cgi?id=11239

Concha mixes flamenco and jazz - she was raised in Majorca by African parents - and her last album won her a Grammy. Her next release is due out June 4th.

Launch Day! One woman song for International Women’s Day

It doesn't get any better than today.

March 8, 2013. A very snowy Friday. Despite the traffic snafus, the room at the UN is overflowing - hundreds of men and women in colorful outfits, excitement bubbling. It's International Women' Day.

It's not yet 10am, but they almost won't let me in - it's the overflow room for me. No! But someone snags me and pulls me into the room, to a seat in the front row. It's reserved in my name. Wow.

Isha Sesay, CNN anchor, makes introductory remarks. She says, Today we have a special treat for you - the first theme song ever written for a UN Agency. 

That would be our song.

Then Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon makes his remarks. He closes his speech by saying, " If we work together - as our new song says - We Shall Shine." 

That would be my lyric.

Then they played the video for "One Woman." Ms. Bachelet, Exec Dir of UN Women and former president of Chile, sang along; if she could have stood up and danced, I think she might have (that's what she did at the pre-launch sneak performance on Tuesday).

And when it was over, people cheered.  Ms. Bachelet and Ban-Ki Moon gestured for me to stand up, so I did. People cheered. I cried. 

Here's a terrible picture of Mr. Moon shaking my hand.

And then - how cool is this? - UN Women rented a karaoke booth so people could sing the song. They audio and videotaped the performances for the next fun and fabulous music video for "One Woman." 

May everyone sing this song, in their own language, in their own voice. May we all shine.

Are you a Latin music artist interested in ending domestic violence?

One out of every three women under the age of 35 has experienced gender-based violence during her lifetime (according to the Ibero-American Youth Organization). And regional statistics in Latin America and the Caribbean are even more terrifying. For instance, in the Bahamas, 17% percent of deaths/homicides in 2007 were as a result of domestic violence.

In September, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE To End Violence Against Women invited 26 artists from Latin America and the Caribbean to participate in a workshop in Panama City.

Over three days, those artists used their talent to generate compelling messages and other initiatives to raise awareness of and advocate for an end to this scourge of violence against women and girls.

http://www.saynotoviolence.org/join-say-no/26-artists-unite

Are you interested in being involved? Let us know!

Video of Hope Sings theme song for UN Women

In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. 

On February 24, UN Women launched in New York City. And Hope Sings was there - we created their theme song! Lyrics by me (Beth Blatt, founder of Hope Sings), music by Graham Lyle ("What's Love Got To Do With It") and Somalian/Brit singersongwrtier Clay.

It was so exciting, rehearsing in the General Assembly Hall (that's real gold leaf on those walls!). And hearing Ban Ki-Moon, Michelle Bachelet, Ted Turner, Geena Davis speak - with Shakira and Nicole Kidman sending video well-wishes - well, when history is being made, how cool is that?

Now, the video is up! See it on the home page at www.hopesings.net. Photos there too, behind-the-scenes videos on youtube http://www.youtube.com/user/hopesingsmicro?feature=mhum