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Peace Through Music: How 200+ Artists United With Industry Giants For A Global Show

Mumbai musician Tushar Lall and Akshay Gupta from Corning Gorilla Glass discuss their partnership with music non-profit Playing For Change and UNFPA

Rolling Stone India Jan 07, 2021

Tushar Lall is a Mumbai-based music composer and the founder of the collective Indian Jam Project

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It wasn’t just a personal milestone for Tushar Lall when he saw his name listed among global legends like Carlos Santana and Ringo Starr on a concert flyer last month – it was a big moment for India and the music he represents. The Mumbai-based musician has been painstakingly building bridges between local and global sounds for over six years since he founded the Indian Jam Project. The said concert, Peace Through Music, is an international initiative by music non-profit Playing For Change and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), with performance sets by everyone from Billie Eilish, Gary Clark Jr, Ellie Goulding, Yo-Yo Ma, and more. The timing of the event couldn’t be more opportune – it came together on the 75th anniversary of the United Nations and the virtual show clocked in millions of views within hours of its premiere. A follow-up run on MTV India ensured that the concert reached fans in India who might have missed the virtual premiere or wanted repeat viewing of performances by their favorite music superstars.

“You’re always grateful when something like this happens… I see it as a confluence of so many cultures — to be part of something, which is so collaborative in nature, and that on such a scale. That itself, you know, just by the virtue of its existence, gets me excited,” says Lall.

A call for justice and solidarity, Peace Through Music is presented by Corning Gorilla Glass and Blackbird Presents. Corning Gorilla Glass’s long-standing commitment to music reflects now and then in the form of immersive and inventive collaborations, such as Imagine Dragons’ album launch campaign and event in Las Vegas in 2018. Says Akshay Gupta, Director, Strategic Brand Marketing, Corning Gorilla Glass “When Mark Johnson (co-founder, Playing For Change) brought the idea, it was a no-brainer… I think it just helps bring a year in perspective. And I’m really happy that we did this. And I’m really grateful to Mark for pulling it together and Tushar for participating.”

In this exclusive interview, Lall and Gupta discuss why leveraging creative tools is perhaps the only way to impact widespread social change.

Akshay, congratulations on yet another successful collaboration. How did the Peace Through Music project come about and what been the response so far?
Last year, we were in India for the Tech2 Innovate conference. We were at lunch. And we’re kicking around this idea  — Tushar you were there I remember this. So we were having this discussion about how we need to do something about uniting the world, right? And little did I know that Mark was kind of thinking about it. And then when the UN approached him — I think it was a few months later — COVID had happened. And we’re all locked down. And they said, ‘Hey, we want to do something.’ And Mark jumped on the idea…. And the reality was that when he brought the idea, it was a no brainer. It was like, absolutely, we’re going to do this. It helps bring a year in perspective. And I’m really happy that we did this. And I’m really grateful to Mark for pulling it together and Tushar for participating.

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Tushar, this is a big one for you — like your name among some really fantastic musicians!

It’s always a big one when it’s when it’s these guys. I’m always grateful that it’s happening. And you know, I’m a part of it — so that itself feels great. And whenever it’s a project on a global scale I see it’s a confluence of so many cultures, right. For this project, I was with a lot of big names in the lineup. There were also the people who I got to interact with, like, there was, there was like a percussionist from South Africa, there’s the celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, then obviously, the legend Peter Gabriel. For me, it is knowing that whatever I’m doing as an artist and having such great patrons behind me, whatever my contributions are, they’re going to be a part of something so collaborative in nature. And on such a scale that it just by the virtue of its existence gets me excited. And, you know, that gets all my creative juices flowing, and I’m happy I was able to contribute, and, you know, be a part of it.

Akshay, tell us more about your role as an enabler for something cultural. As a tech brand, that aspect of empowerment is something that has begun to define a lot of your commitment lately.
You know we talk about technology and context — like everybody thinks that look, you know, it’s the next innovation, the next better chipset, the next better Gorilla Glass, but at the core of it, you know, if you just step back and think about what the smartphone really do for the world — it brought us together and it allowed us to cross boundaries when we communicate… But it doesn’t end there. And when you look at the next unifying language, music sort of dissolves that, at an emotional level, right? And, and you’re accessing music through your device. So, to me, from a brand perspective, they really aren’t separate ideas. And at the end of the day, it’s the creative force of the human capability that’s being unleashed. And so what whatever we can do from a brand perspective to enable it, and continue to foster it, I think it’s incumbent on us to do that. Right? Because to me, they’re not separate things, right? They just want to the same. They’re just manifestations in different dimensions of creative power.

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Tushar, artists create art because it makes them happy on an individual level. How was that experience for you in terms of creating something deeply personal and bringing a social, collective angle to it? Tell us about your artistic process in that respect.
To be really honest with you, when you’re doing you aren’t aware of it. So when you’re doing you aren’t aware that you know, you’re going to be a part of such a big picture, because I think art comes from a very unadulterated space. For me, that space has to be very pure, and you know, it can’t be motive-driven — it just comes from the sacred space. So even with this project, like, you know, when Mark sent me the stems, and you know, this is a Peter Gabriel song. And we were supposed to use Indian classical instruments on the song. So when you’re trying to add to the vibe, you aren’t actively thinking of, you know, the global nature of the song. Even though the stems were like different instruments coming from different continents. I was solely focused on you know, like, how Indian classical can contribute to this, and, you know, make this better. And by the time I was done, unknowingly, like, you know, it just became a part of a very big picture. So, I think the best part about being an artist is, you know, like being unaware of this process. The worst part about being an artist is you know, like, not even knowing how you did it, but then look at it now, you know, like it’s such a big thing.

All of us are happy and content. So yeah, my I mean, my answer is that I don’t know the answer. And I think that that’s an answer for a lot of artists as well.

 

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