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Musicians Highlight Need for Solar Power in World's Poorest Places

Raghav Mathur
Raghav Mathur

Canadian-Indian singer Raghav Mathur describes his music as ‘unabashedly pop.” But recently his song “Until the Sun Comes Up” has been used to raise awareness of the needs of the developing world – especially in Africa. The song has changed the lives of some Tanzanian school children – and the singer.

If you listen to the words of Canadian crooner Raghav’s song “Until the Sun Comes Up,” you might think it is just another dance-based pop tune. You wouldn’t know it is helping to transform the lives of school children in a small African village.

Raghav says when he learned that there are currently more than one billion people living in the world without electricity, he wanted to help.

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

So he teamed with SolarAid – a non-profit dedicated to eliminating the kerosene lamp - to distribute 320 solar-powered lights to school-age children in Tanzania.

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

“And 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 thing 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 into a pop record," he said.

Raghav teamed with rapper Nelly and Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan and filmed the reaction of the students when they received the lights. The singer says that the joy seen in the video is real – none of it was staged or choreographed.

“Their idea in their homes or in the school would have been the use of kerosene. And when the sun went down, that’s the climax of the video," he said. "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 and will save their parents nearly $60,000 that would have been spent on kerosene and candles for them to study by. Raghav says he hopes the video raises awareness of the need for electric power in the developing world – especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

“600 million of the 1.3 billion that have no electricity are in Africa," he said. " Obviously I have toured extensively throughout Southeast Asia and I would 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 care in the mainstream about what happens there. So hopefully we can change that.”

The 34-year-old Canadian singer says he hopes his song – and the video – will inspire other musicians to become socially active and aware.