Singers Use Music to Light Up World's Poorest Places

18 September, 2015

Pop singer Raghav Mathur is using his music to light up African villages where there is no electricity.

The song is called "Until the Sun Comes Up."

If you listen to the words of the song, you might think the piece is just dance music. But it is helping to change the lives of school children in a small African village in Tanzania.

The Canadian-Indian singer says he wanted to help others when he learned that more than one billion people live without electric power.

Raghav Mathur
Raghav Mathur

"That 1.3 billion people have no electricity, and so when I say that number, people often think, I mean to say million. It's a sixth of the planet with zero electricity. And until you go there and not just go there, but experience or hear the stories of the negative experiences through the kerosene industry, you can't really totally understand the impact."

Raghav teamed with SolarAid, a non-profit group working to end the use of kerosene lamps. Working together, they presented 320 solar-powered lights to school children in Tanzania.

Raghav says he got the idea from watching an old YouTube video.

"They take a bucket of water and they put it in a village in India or Bangladesh or somewhere in what is clearly an impoverished village, and in it they put a light, and I think the first people kind of look at it like, 'What is this hanging around here?' And throughout the YouTube video you see people start coming up to it, playing with it and the joy that it creates, and I thought what a great way to depict joy if we could incorporate that in a pop record.''

He made a video for the song with help from the American rap artist Nelly, and Indian movie star Abhishek Bachchan. In the video, they filmed the reaction of the students when they received the lights. Raghav says that the happiness on the children's faces in the video is real. There was no staging or theatrics.

"Their idea in their homes or in their school would have been the use of kerosene. And when the sun went down, that's the climax of the video. They kind of started partying without ... it wasn't choreographed and it wasn't shot to be a music video. They just were having such a great time."

The lights will help the students study for more than 375,000 hours. That will save their parents nearly $60,000 on the cost of kerosene oil and candles.

Raghav says he hopes the video raises interest in the need for electric power in the developing world, especially south of the Sahara.

"Six hundred million of the 1.3 billion that have no electricity are in Africa. Obviously, I have toured extensively throughout Southeast Asia and I imagine the rest are all throughout India and Bangladesh and Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and all over. But Africa's a funny one. People don't really seem to really care in the mainstream about what happens there. So hopefully we can change that."

He also says he hopes his song and the video will motivate other musicians to become socially active and aware.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

VOA's David Byrd wrote this story. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in this Story

choreograph v. to plan a series of steps or moves for a performance

climax – n. the most exciting or important part of a story

kerosene n. an oil that is burned as a fuel

stage v. to organize or do something that is designed to get public attention

unabashedly – adj. not afraid of expressing strong opinions