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performing 24 Jan 2022

Jams for Justice: advocating fair representation through music

By CIS Communications
Photograph by CIS Communications

Grade 12 students Neil V and Kieran H created Jams for Justice, an initiative to showcase the rich diversity in music through a three-day Instagram live concert that featured a curated playlist celebrating musicians of colour.

Neil and Kieran tell us what inspired them and why they felt compelled to stand up for fair representation in the music industry.

What was the inspiration behind Jams for Justice?

Kieran: We knew we wanted to do something surrounding music and racial justice for our Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project. We are both musicians and come from countries — United States and South Africa — where the discussion of race is gaining more and more traction. We thought about it a lot and felt that this angle was where we could inspire the most change in our community.

Neil: We considered that representation in music was somewhere we could actually make a difference, even if on a small scale. The fundraising route wouldn’t be as hands-on and we might be detached from the results, so the Jams for Justice concept came to us as somewhere we really think we could incite change, and be close enough to witness it.

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Grade 12 Neil V, who is part of the DP music programme, plays the guitar and electric bass.

Why did you choose Instagram as a distribution platform?

Kieran: Looking at how much our peers use social media, especially Instagram, it felt like the right choice as a platform. We set up an account and began making promotional materials, as well as drawing up setlists of music, divided into acoustic, blues and pieces we could play with a full band.

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Grade 12 Kieran H plays the guitar and drums.

What are your thoughts about the current state of representation in the music industry?

Neil: I think historically music has been among the more diverse areas of society — we have seen representation of many cultures and ethnicities even within the western music industry which is great. Most people don’t just listen to music from artists of one race. However, I think that most people don’t recognise the influences behind music. For example, we celebrate an artist like Ed Sheeran, without recognising that a lot of his current music is drawn from Latin styles like reggaeton. Can we really say that has nothing to do with the disenfranchisement of Latin artists?

How do you hope to inspire other CIS students through this project?

Kieran: Jams for Justice was a project that we came up with to show how talented the often unknown and overlooked musicians of colour are. Putting on a show that gives a taste of what lies within this super diverse community of musicians. We feel like there is a lot of cool music that just flies under the radar as a result of a lack of representation, and we wanted to make as much of a difference as we could, even if it wasn’t on a super big world stage.

I believe youths have a voice to be used if they choose to. Within the world of social media, we have access to an audience, and if we can organise our arguments, present them well and use the tools at our disposal, I believe we are all capable of making a difference.

If any students at CIS were to take anything away from this little project, it should be that you shouldn’t worry about the magnitude of your potential impact, just care about the fact that you’re passionate enough to try and make a difference in the world.

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Take a look at the Jams for Justice account here.

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