The Music Fund for Cuba: Who we are

Who we are

The Music Fund for Cuba is the only UK registered charity which supports the development of music, arts and culture in Cuba.

Working with partner organisations on the island the Music Fund has already distributed tens of thousands of pounds worth of equipment to children and young people in music, arts, dance and special needs schools.It also raised £350,000 for the renovation of the Miramar Theatre in Havana.

The Music Fund for Cuba was established in 2001 in memory of British singer Kirsty MacColl who was inspired by Cuban music in her last album and loved the island, its culture, and its people.

Cuba is renowned for its cultural traditions. Its music, art, and dance are enjoyed by people around the world. Budding artistic talent is nurtured and encouraged within the country’s free music and arts schools which are open to all.

Sadly this heritage and the development of future talent are hindered by a lack of access to basic equipment and materials that we in richer countries often take for granted.

Violin strings, paper for music scores, reeds for woodwind instruments, ballet shoes, paints and other small but essential items are all in short supply. One of the  main reason for these shortages is the continuing economic blockade of the island by the United States.

The Music Fund for Cuba aims to help nurture new talent by providing much needed support and equipment for children and young musicians, dancers and artists throughout the island that may otherwise be denied.

By supporting  this vital work, you can help  to keep alive Cuba’s rich cultural heritage and nurture a new generation of talent.

Please make a donation today.

‘I’m the only trip-hop artist in Palestine!’: the musicians shaking up the occupied territories

Guests arriving at international music conferences are usually welcomed with a bit of a meet-and-greet by the pool, an ice-cool daiquiri and canapes, perhaps. They are not normally whisked off to sites of forced evictions and killings. But when the host city is the Palestinian capital, Ramallah, normal rules – as with most of life in the occupied territories – do not apply.

The hilly West Bank town has just hosted PMX, the first ever Palestine Music Expo. Dreamed up by three locals – a rapper, a composer and a journalist – and a British record label boss, PMX showcased a blossoming of musical talent among a people whose voices have struggled to be heard. What emerged after three memorable days of talks, tours and live performances could form the blueprint for a whole new music industry – and even the re-branding of a nation.

Martin Goldschmidt set up his label, Cooking Vinyl, in the 1980s and has worked with Billy Bragg, Marilyn Manson and the Prodigy, among many others. He came to a music-biz conference in Tel Aviv two years ago and decided to venture out into Palestine. There he met rapper Mahmood Jrere from Palestinian crew DAM, composer Abed Hathout and journalist Rami Younis from progressive news site, and they introduced him to several local acts. The place was alive with talent – but lacked a music industry of its own.

“We knew we could provide delegates with an experience, an insight into the place,” says Goldschmidt as he recalls hatching the plan for PMX. “Once you visit Palestine, it gets under your skin. It messes with your head in quite a shocking way. It really makes you think.”

Hip-hop group Sa’aleek, from the Qalandia refugee camp in Palestine.

Snapped up … hip-hop group Sa’aleek in the Qalandia refugee camp in Palestine. Photograph: Sami Alalul/Breathing Stories

Jrere agrees: “We wanted to give delegates a different perspective from the one they get from the news.” And so, at 10am, a bus takes us to a refugee camp at nearby Qalandia. There are 20 delegates from Britain, the US, Canada, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Switzerland and France: agents, managers, lawyers, promoters and producers, as well as NGO representatives.

As the bus sways through a landscape of rubble and twisted metal, our Palestinian guide points out evidence of what he calls an apartheid society. It is shocking just how many walls there are. He indicates a sleek dual carriageway stretching for miles. To reach the same destination, Palestinians may have to go five times the distance through a series of grubby checkpoints.

There are no tents in Qalandia. Occupied by the Israelis after the six-day war in 1967, the camp has existed since 1948, and is a maze of jerry-built, breeze-block units and gaping rubbish sacks. Vivid black stencils on the whitewashed walls depict the faces of young men killed by Israel’s security forces. Our guides are three camp residents who make hip-hop under the name Sa’aleek, meaning “the Scrawny Ones”.

“Sa’aleek also means Vigilantes,” says 20-year-old Mohammad Silwadi, a whip of a boy with an eerie intensity. He works at a petrol station and as a hospital chef – but he lives to write rhymes. “This man was a journalist,” he says, pointing to a stencilled face. “They shot him. Knocked down his house. It is forbidden to build it again.”

He walks over to another face. “This was my friend,” he says, showing a miniature of the same image on a chain around his neck. He’s close to tears. His voluble bandmates fill in, invoking Tupac Shakur and Immortal Technique, all in American English learned from hip-hop lyrics: “We are revolutionaries, you get me?”

The wall at Qalandia.
The wall at Qalandia. Photograph: Maria Zreik

At the edge of the camp is a checkpoint through which all Palestinians must pass – on foot and only with the correct permit – to enter east Jerusalem. Built into the wall and blackened by the smoke of burned tyres, an Israeli observation tower looms over a perpetual jam of people and vehicles.

In the shadow of the tower, Silwadi opens a metal door. “Our studio,” he says. We squeeze into the tiny room, which contains a computer, a keyboard, two speakers and a mic. Dust fills our eyes and mouths, as well as every crevice of the equipment. Silwadi clangs the door shut, the others fire up the beats, and Sa’aleek unleash a torrent of rhymes.

During the drive back to Ramallah, we learn that Sa’aleek are not actually on the PMX bill. Ninety acts applied, but the Qalandia trio had never performed live before so didn’t make the cut. This seems a shame, so the delegates decide to petition the organisers.

After lunch comes a speed-networking session, held at a fashion boutique in Ramallah. The musicians line up amid the mannequins, while the delegates sit at tables, looking dazed after the morning’s crash course in life for your average Palestinian. A buzzer sounds to start the first 10 minutes of networking – or in my case, interviewing. DJ Odai sits down. He says he’s a refugee from Jaffa. He tells me he has often sneaked away to the city of Haifa for gigs.

“Being Palestinian fucks up your sense of identity,” says singer Rasha Nahas, my next interviewee. “Hebrew is everywhere. Eventually, you find yourself thinking in Hebrew, and you say, ‘Wait – this is the language of the oppressor!’ So English is a way to escape that.” Finally there’s Moody Kablawi, a smiling, 6ft 5in trip-hop artist (“the only one in Palestine!”) who has a gargantuan afro and controls his own lighting from the stage.

Goldschmidt and the expo’s other organisers are uncertain how many people will buy a ticket to watch the evening’s music in the huge tent that has been pitched in the hotel grounds. But by the time the first note is struck, there are 1,000 people in the crowd. What is most striking is the variety of styles. There’s a folky flavour to opening band Talila, while Nahas has the theatricality of Weimar cabaret with added violins and rockabilly. Then Jrere and his friends in DAM bring the noise, closing the night with an incendiary set.

Rasha Nahas live at PMX
The theatricality of Weimar cabaret with added violins and rockabilly … Rasha Nahas live at PMX. Photograph: Sami Alalul or Breathing Stories

The next night the crowd is larger still, and barrel-chested MC Saz does the pogo in full flowing white robes and fez, before stripping down to his vest – and even that comes off in the end. Already deals are being struck. From the Golan Heights come the winningly named Toot Ard. Their fusion of ska with the desert blues of bands such as Tinariwen quickly persuades Scottish booking agent Isla Angus to make a move.

Angus handles the live careers of a roster of artists including Sleaford Mods, and plans to bring the Palestinian group to Europe for shows at the end of summer. Why does she think they’ll do well? “They sing in Arabic, but the rhythm section is from the Prince Buster playbook,” she says. “It’s a joyful package and there’s always something special about seeing a bunch of musicians at the top of their game playing together. Plus, like everyone I’ve met here, they are the personification of grace under pressure.”

After a final set of panel discussions and a moving livestream with musicians in Gaza who faced difficulties leaving the strip, PMX moves towards its finale, which will take place in a cavernous basement. Its low ceilings bring an added intensity – perfect conditions for Sa’aleek, back by demand from Qalandia, for their first-ever live performance. They’re so excited (and under-rehearsed) that they can barely remember how their songs go, but the crowd get behind them, and when they go a cappella they turn things round. As they bounce their way through the closing tune – a rousing mix of marching-band snare drums and keening strings – the effect is overwhelming.

Then comes the final act, Zenobia. Two guys at keyboards making pulsing electronic instrumentals that build to emotional climaxes, like some crazy Kraftwerk of the Levant, and wild Arabic double-time clapping spreads through the crowd.

It all goes to show that the best music is often born from adversity. Supported by friends from many nations, in this swaying, cheering room of young people, a new side to Palestine is emerging – one that is about joy, fun and laughter. “Through music,” as one artist said to me, “we can be free.”

This article was taken down for review on 12 April 2017, amended to correct and clarify details and republished on 13 April 2017. It was amended again on 18 April 2017 to change a caption and to remove a reference to the separation barrier which mistakenly associated a walled section of the barrier with the Israeli coastal city of Haifa.

Love Music, Hate Racism

Rock – Hip-hop – Grime – Dubstep – Drum n Bass – Indie – Reggae – R&B – Punk – Bhangra – Jazz… OUR MUSIC!!

Our music is living testimony to the fact that cultures can and do mix. It unites us and gives us strength, and offers a vibrant celebration of our multicultural and multiracial society. Racism seeks only to divide and weaken us. Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) was set up in 2002 in response to rising levels of racism and electoral successes for the British National Party (BNP).

We use the energy of our music scene to celebrate diversity and involve people in anti-racist activity, in the tradition of the Rock Against Racism (RAR) movement of the late 1970s. There have been now been many hundreds of LMHR events, from large outdoor festivals to local gigs and club nights.

Top artists who have performed at our events include Ms Dynamite, Kasabian, Hard -Fi, Babyshambles, Akala, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Estelle, The View, Lethal Bizzle, Kano, Roll Deep and Basement Jaxx. Just as important are the up-and-coming bands, DJs, MCs and their fans who have performed at or organised their own local LMHR nights.

The LMHR campaign has a renewed importance with the increase in islamophobia, anti-migrant racism and hostility towards refugees in Britain and across Europe. We think it is time to reignite our national movement against racism through music. It is vital that everyone gets involved however they can.


Do Not Work For List: USA

TOP OFFENDERS LIST Music Scoring – Alan and Cathy Umstead are soliciting and contracting non-union recording work through this website and elsewhere.

Steve Schnur, Worldwide Music Executive for the videogame company Electronic Arts, is commissioning and recording non-union sessions in Nashville for his company’s hugely successful franchises. EA declared $4.3 billion in net revenue in fiscal year 2015.


Listed below are employers who owe musicians large amounts of money and have thus far refused to fulfill their contractual obligations to Local 257 musicians.


Positive Movement/Tommy Sims (multiple unpaid contracts – 2007 CeCe Winans project)

Terry K. Johnson/ 1720 Entertainment (unpaid contracts/unauthorized sales – Jamie O’Neal project)

Beautiful Monkey/JAB Country/Josh Gracin

Eric Legg & Tracey Legg (multiple unpaid contracts)

Ray Vega/Casa Vega

Quarterback/G Force/Doug Anderson

Rust Records/Ken Cooper  (unpaid contracts and pension)

Revelator/Gregg Brown (multiple bounced checks/unpaid contracts)

HonkyTone Records – Debbie Randal



Casa Vega/Ray Vega

Knight Brothers/Harold, Dean, Danny and Curtis Knight

FLS Records – Nashville/Ronald Stone

Region One Records

RichDor Music/Keith Brown

River County Band/SVC Entertainment (unpaid demo conversion/pension

Robbins Nashville



Comsource Media/Tommy Holland

Conchita Leeflang/Chris Sevier

Ricky D. Cook

FJH Enterprises

First Tribe Media

Matthew Flinchum dba Resilient

Jimmy Fohn Music

Rebecca Frederick

Goofy Footed


Tony Graham

Jeffrey Green/Cahernzcole House

Randy Hatchett

Highland Music Publishing

In Light Records/Rick Lloyd

Little Red Hen Records/Arjana Olson

Maverick Management Group

Mike Ward Music (pension/demo signature)

Joseph McClelland

Tim McDonald

Joe Meyers

Missionary Music

Jason Morales (pension/demo signature)

O Street Mansion

OTB Publishing (pension/demo signature)

Tebey Ottoh

Ride N High Records

Ronnie Palmer

Barry Preston Smith

Jason Sturgeon Music

If you know of any organisations who regularly exploit musicians and want to warn colleagues to stay clear, leave a comment below.

Don’t forget to sign up for regular news and updates from freedom for musicians.


How to Write a Chorus with a Catchy Hook

Everyone looks forward to the part of the song where they can join in, and even though they’ve loved every note staved across your verse, they can’t wait to reach that crock of chorus gold. In this post for budding songwriters, Joe Hoten from Bands For Hire takes a look at every key aspect of songwriting necessary to create a killer hook for your chorus

How to write a chorus


As Berry Gordy, Jr put it: ‘Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.’

We even get the word ‘chorus’ from the groups of masked performers in Ancient Greek theatre, who would sing and dance in unison as they filled their audiences in on the plot – much in the same way the choruses of today’s musicals do. If you want to release music that makes an impact, this is the effect your chorus should have too – you provide the finer details in the verse, and get everyone singing along to your overarching theme.


So how do we go about that? Let’s break it down.


How to write a chorus fans won’t forget




Writing lyrics that bring your killer chorus to justice can be a tough call. You want your chorus lyrics to be both concise and poetic, and also to remind your listeners what your song’s all about.

Simplicity is the name of the game when you’re drafting up a future stadium anthem for thousands of lighter-wielding fans to sing along to. Just think about how effective Queens’s ‘We Are the Champions’ and ‘We Will Rock You’ are as sing-alongs – you can’t not know the words after a few short minutes of exposure, and they perfectly capture the attitudes built up in the verses. It’s hard to not feel victorious after straining your throat proclaiming your victory.



What these killer choruses also show us is: if you’ve got something worth saying, you’ve got something worth saying over and over, so don’t be afraid of repeating yourself. As such, the lyrics should also be enjoyable to repeat, so it’s prime time to rhyme and also alliterate. ‘Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty’ trips off the tongue nicely, especially after the tenth recital. The quicker they can pick it up, the quicker they can fall head over heels with it. And remember – you’ve got to write straight from your heart if you want to win other people’s.




You’re going to need to set your killer lyrics to an equally killer melody – something your listeners find themselves humming at full volume even at the most inopportune of moments, like when they’re perusing library shelves, or queuing at the bank. The German term for this is ‘ohrwurm’ – literally a tune that figuratively worms its way into your ear. If you’re an early bird, you can catch yourself a fresh earworm that’ll be impossible to dislodge.

Melodies tend to be composed of steps and skips, steps being a semi or whole tone apart, and skips being anything from a third upwards. Think carefully about which words or phrases you want to emphasise and position them accordingly – something you feel profoundly, like a declaration of love, would be best conveyed via a melody leaping from one note to a significant other.




Your chorus may also present you with an opportunity to bust out some new killer chords. Typically, starting on your home note – the tonic – is a clear sign to the listener that they’ve arrived where they belong. Take ‘I Believe in a Thing Called Love’; it’s not until the chorus that the Darkness shed some light on what key we’re in – up until then, we’ve been wondering around in F#’s shadow. But at the far end of the bridge sits an illuminating beacon, a solid B, setting us up for a perfect cadence. And payoff doesn’t get much more perfect than rhapsodic repetition of the song’s title – and central theme – over a brand new progression in the home key. We made it!



Alternatively, many fantastic choruses use the same chord pattern as the verse. ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ is a classic example – though the key difference between the sections is that the melody’s sung in a higher register. The verses begin on a major third, but in the chorus this is ramped up to a powerful fifth, drifting from side to side down an entire octave. If it needs to be sung higher and louder than the verse, your chorus is going to pack an almighty punch in comparison.




A popular device with songwriters is the ‘hook’ – something that anchors itself into your listeners’ memories, digging deeper every time they hear it. A hook can be lyrical, melodic, rhythmic – anything that gets under the skin and refuses to leave. So load up your hook with a tasty earworm – something along the lines of the ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah’ that follows ‘She Loves You’, or the keyboard part in ‘The Final Countdown’ – and wait for the fans to bite.




It’s also worth considering giving your chorus a rhythm that is distinct from what you’ve got going on in the verse. Giving your chorus an unusual – or better still, unique – rhythm will affect your listeners through more than their mere ears. Kasabian’s ‘Fire’ plays with this, shuffling its way quietly through each verse only to pound your eardrums with its four-to-the-floor chorus. Don’t forget – your chorus is the part that brings people together through singing and dancing, so let their whole bodies know what time it is.





It’s time to decide how you’re going to present your chorus. How’s it going to fit into your song? Do you build up to it slowly, or dive in straight away? Both are valid options, but upping the anticipation is always an effective way of making your chorus feel like an enormous pay off.

Leave y

our listeners treading the pre-chorus waters for a little longer, then wash them away with your tidal wave. Consider the ‘we gotta hold on to what we’ve got’ before the ‘whooooooaah we’re half way there’, and the ‘it’s alright, it’s ok’ before the ‘whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother, you’re stayin’ alive’ – it’s like waiting for ten unsuspecting pins to be struck down with a bowling ball.



Instrumentation and Dynamics

Maximum impact is required here, so you’re going to want to hold back before bringing out the big guns. High volume and intensity is what’ll get your audience going, but be careful not to underestimate the quiet or even silence – when you do crank it up, it’ll be like slapping your audience round the face with an iron gauntlet. Have parts drop in and drop out. It’s all association – ‘hey, I love that part where the strings come in’ or ‘wait for it… wait for it… NOW’S THE CHORUS’. ‘Woo hoo’ is an sensible response to the thunderous bass and deafening guitars cutting back in for the chorus of ‘Song 2’, not to mention a killer hook.




Now you’ve got all the tools you need to build yourself an absolute powerhouse of a chorus. You’re ready to tell the people what you mean, and the people will be able to tell you mean it. You’ve sharpened your hooks and the earworms are hungry. The world is at your feet, waiting for you to unite it in song. Knock ’em dead!



How do you go about writing a chorus for your tracks? Got any tips for other artists out there? Let us know in the comments below and share this advice with your fellow musicians.

Canadian and Lebanese Ambassador: Dr William Nassar

It is with great honour that we announce the appointment of Dr William Nassar as Freedom for Musicians Ambassador for Canada and Lebanese musicians worldwide. William has devoted his life to promoting peace through his music and we look forward to regular updates on his work and support of musicians in Canada and particular those involved in the Arab-Israeli peace movement.

William Nassar is a Canadian – Lebanese most outstanding and successful protest singer and composer. He has achieved a worldwide reputation as a protest singer and peace activist.William Nassar descends from al Batroun, a very beautiful Christian city North of Beirut. He was born on December 25th, 1966 in the Northern Lebanese village Batroumeen (The house of god), of a Lebanese father and a Palestinian mother.
For he was born in Batroumeen, his close friends call him al Batroumeeni (The Batroumeenist).

He started his career at the age of 11, when he sought refuge into music to run away from the sounds of civil war, and took a stand against the sectarian killing at a very young age throughout his music and songs.

On the year 1987, he was subject to an assassination attempt in Beirut by Islamist fundamentalists after his song ( Beirut) Thus, he left Lebanon on February 13th, 1993.

William Nassar possesses a P.h.D. degree in Ethno-musicology and taught Arabic composition and orchestration at various musical institutions and conservatoires, besides his work as a songwriter and singer.

He is a member of several musical organizations and considered one of today’s leading political “protest” composers and singers who promote peace and non-violence in the middle east.

On the year 2014, he was diagnosed with Leukemia and Liver Cancer. He undergone a tough treatment and survived.
Being a Cancer Survivor, William Nassar dedicates half of his musical works income to the Canadian Cancer Society, which helps Kids living with Cancer, and he is an active volunteer with them.

William Nassar albums have been runaway hits in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan and other Arab states, as well as Canada, the United States and Europe, especially after his hit song On the Road to Aytat, (Al Tareeq Aytat) which was released on the year 1986 and re-recorded on 2015 under the title (A Red Hymn) track 2 of the CD album You look like Pomegranate.

William Nassar compositional skills have been honored with distinguished awards by several International and local music festivals and civil societies.

To become an ambassador for your country, email Roger Moisan directly at introducing yourself, outlining your musical story and what you can offer to this role.

One Day One Choir: an inspiring global peace initiative

One Day One Choir is an inspiring global peace initiative which uses the harmonious power of singing together to unite people around the world on Peace Day, September 21st.

Since we began in 2014 – as a response to growing unrest and conflict in the world – more than a million people, from all walks of life and a huge array of different singing groups, have joined in and sung with us in more than 50 countries. We’ve also gathered and are being helped by some wonderful supporters and collaborators.

We’d love you to join in too please, to add your voices to our growing ‘global choir’ for peace and to help make a difference where you live by bringing people together in your community to sing with a focus on unity and peace and how we might find ways to work towards it – peace at home, at school, in our work places and communities – and around the world.

Any group of any size, age, talent, style or mix can join in and you can choose what kind of song/s you’d like to sing. All that matters is that it works for peace and unity and it works for you. (We do have a new song you can try – have a look on our schools or join page).

So please sign up and add your voices to our growing global ‘choir’ for peace.

Our aim is to create the largest ‘choir’ in the world, singing for unity and peace, by 2018 – so we need you to help us by singing, supporting and sharing.

Thank you.

Social share!

Please, sign up to sing with us on Peace Day and share what you are doing, and our project, with as many other friends, singers, community, choir, social and school groups as you can – and on social media using #onedayonechoir.

Thank you

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Appeal in Capitol Records Vs Vimeo Copyright Dispute

The ruling said websites are protected from liability for inadvertently hosting music recorded before 1972.

The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from record companies that want to pursue copyright infringement claims against music site Vimeo for hosting unauthorized recordings from the Beatles, Elvis Presley and other classic artists.

The justices on Monday left in place a federal appeals court ruling that said websites are protected from liability even for older music recorded before 1972.

The Capitol Records building in Los Angeles.

Supreme Court Asked if DMCA Safe Harbors Apply to Pre-1972 Sound Recordings

Capitol Records and other music companies sued Vimeo for violating copyright laws based on 199 videos uploaded by users. A federal judge ruled a federal “safe harbor” law did not cover pre-1972 recordings that are protected by state law.

But a New York federal appeals court overturned that ruling, saying service providers would incur heavy costs to monitor every posting or risk “crushing liabilities” under state law.