Wednesday February 18, 2009
CompassionArt: music for a world in need
By RICH COPLEY
On its last couple of albums, Delirious has become increasingly vocal about poverty and disease around the world.
One of the British band's most recent worship anthems, Our God Reigns, pricked listeners' and singers' consciences with the idea that the cost of an order of Chinese take-out food could cover the cost of medicine for an impoverished victim of AIDS.
"I remember going to India for the first time and being completely shocked, like being hit over the head with a baseball bat," says Martin Smith, the group's lead singer and songwriter. "I realised that people lived on the same planet as me with completely nothing. That set a massive thing off in me, feeling like I couldn't just get on a plane and do nothing. I had to make a personal response.
"That was the beginning of Delirious trying to find new things to say, and react to what was going on inside of us."
That reaction has come to fruition on a much larger scale, in a new multi-artist project called CompassionArt: Creating Freedom From Poverty.
The new album features 14 songs by 19 of the biggest names in contemporary Christian music, including Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, Stephen Curtis Chapman, CeCe Winans, Israel Houghton and TobyMac.
All of the artists involved waived all of their fees, including songwriting and royalties, so the proceeds from the album and its companion book will all go to CompassionArt and the 16 international charities it has selected.
"All of the people involved in the project had been talking for the past few years about how it is not enough for us to just do our thing and write songs and that sort of stuff," Martin Smith says. "We started to see it as our responsibility to be a voice.
"We thought, what would happen if all of us got into a room and started writing songs together, and that's what happened" in Jan 2008 in Scotland.
Smith says getting all the songwriters together was far easier than he expected.
"Now the challenge is sustaining it," Smith says.
The singer says the measure of success for this project will be a bit different than "selling loads of records. It would be when we see lives changed on the ground. When we see people that haven't got water suddenly have clean water, when we see people that get enough food and become part of a sustainable community and have anti-retroviral drugs and malaria meds. That would be an incredible thing to happen from this project. That would be extraordinary."
Smith will be making CompassionArt the focus of his attention, as Delirious is splitting up after final shows this year, ending in November.
"It's a sad time but also happy in looking forward to new opportunities," Smith says. And CompassionArt is "the thing we wake up thinking about every morning."
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