Last fall, musical minds from all over the world met in the San Francisco Bay Area as part of the Music Action Lab 2.0, a residency program held by socially-minded organization Giant Steps Music. The result, album What If, holds nothing back as the musicians - with musical and personal backgrounds as vastly diverse as the world itself - tackle inequality and injustice all over the world. Coming out on March 8, International Women's Day, and inspired by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the album reaches a height with the collective's brand new single and video, "Overlooked", which highlights women's voices against harassment, misrepresentation, and gender-based violence.
"What was amazing was how the four women of the collective, although coming from different parts of the world, instantly connected by sharing the same experiences due to patriarchal domination," French-Armenian multi-instrumentalist Sevana Tchakerian explains. She raps alongside the strong, nimble vocals of Kosovar singer and former Eurovision semifinalist Rona Nishliu; Japanese-American pianist and flutist Erika Oba and Kenyan percussionist and TED fellow Kasiva Mutua round out the female core of the track with fantastic and finely-honed skills. The rest of the group includes Grammy nominee Ernesto "Matute" Lopez, global music educator Avery Waite, Sony Records alum James Brandon Lewis, Tanzanian multi-instrumentalist Kauzeni Lyamba, and Californian bassist Chris Bastian.
"I'm happy and proud to be part of a global movement and struggle to shift toward more gender equality and emancipation," Tchakerian continues. "Overlooked" certainly fits perfectly into the current cultural revolution for human rights. In the video, the musicians step through Berkeley streets with fearless strides that echo the recent international wave of Women's Marches, the nine musicians a multicultural movement unto themselves.
Giant Steps founder Drew Foxman calls the new album "a cohesive statement on rights and justice," and it's truly an inspirational one. On "Overlooked", the Music Action Collective makes it clear what they stand for and how hard they're willing to work for it.