ROME – Nearly two decades after music greats gathered to record the hit song “We Are the World” to help Africa’s hungry, the next generation of celebrities came together Sunday for a follow-up “We Are the Future” concert to benefit children in war zones.
The concert, which opened as the sun set over Rome’s Circus Maximus and continued after midnight, started with a performance by the garbage-can-clanging percussion group Stomp and featured dozens of acts from around the world.
Oprah Winfrey welcomed the tens of thousands of people and reminded them that the concert was occurring just weeks after the world had marked the 10th anniversary of genocide in Rwanda, “where it seemed the world turned its back.”
“But that’s all changing tonight because we are all here,” Winfrey said. “We are all here to stand up for the children.”
Musicians Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli and Carlos Santana performed live, and Norah Jones sang in a prerecorded video. Israeli, Palestinian, Pakistani, Colombian and South African artists joined actress Angelina Jolie, model Naomi Campbell and actress Natassja Kinski, who were presenters.
Quincy Jones, who produced the 1985 “We Are the World” recording that featured the likes of Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie and Bob Dylan, organized Sunday’s five-plus-hour concert, which will raise money for child-care centers in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Rwanda and the West Bank.
Santana brought a decidedly political message to his act, telling the crowd, “We are the other side of America. We are not Bush!”
The concert was free, but proceeds from broadcast rights, donations and related sales will go to fund the centers. The concert was broadcast live on MTV in Italy, and a shorter version will air later in other MTV markets. The concert also was being shown in real time on the Yahoo Web site.
A DVD, book and live recording of the concert also are expected to go on sale. The recording is to feature a new song, “We Are the Future,” written and produced by Jones.
Organizers hope to repeat the enormous success of the “We Are the World” single. That song, recorded by 43 artists in a Los Angeles studio after the American Music Awards in January 1985, became an instant international hit, being played incessantly on radio stations and MTV.
T-shirts, posters, books and videos boosted fund raising to fight hunger in Africa through an organization called USA for Africa, which had raised more than $61 million by 1991. Most of the money went to care for refugees of Sudan and Ethiopia, whose emaciated images shocked the world in the mid-1980s.
That relief effort came a year after another star-studded initiative for the hungry in Africa had produced the hit single, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”