Dubai-based musicians release song to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement

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John Rashid
John Rashid

I Can't Breathe addresses police brutality and racism in the US and Europe

By Michael Gomes

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Published: Sun 28 Jun 2020, 2:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 29 Jun 2020, 5:53 PM

While some demonstrators taking part in the Black Lives Matter (BLR) protests in the US have taken to music to voice out their issues, a bunch of musicians in Dubai have come together to show solidarity with the movement in the form of a song.
The song titled I Can't Breathe addresses police brutality and racism in the US and Europe. Interestingly, the phrase I Can't Breathe originated in 2014 after the death of Eric Garner, a Black-American who was put into a chokehold by an NYPD officer. Garner said "I can't breathe" 11 times before he lost consciousness and died soon after. The phrase has now become a global cry against injustice, especially after George Floyd's demise. A police officer pressed his knee on his neck before he died as he pleaded, "I can't breathe". 

However, it was the demonstrations following the death of Floyd that inspired Dubai singer-songwriter John Rashid, member of the Dubai-based Firm Band, to write I Can't Breathe.
"I've always believed, that as musicians, it's our responsibility to raise awareness about social issues through our music. We must address disarray, suffering and injustice through our lyrics. When I witnessed the crowds in the US and UK last month (May) demonstrating so forcefully against police brutality and demanding justice for George Floyd, I felt I had to make a song on it. I needed to tell how the system is rotten and why the Black Lives Matter movement is important. Everyone needs to fight for equal rights, work towards eradicating racism and bring these 'killer' cops to justice," said John, who is of Spanish-Italian heritage.
Music has always been instrumental in bringing change in the past, explained John. "We are living in an extraordinary time, and I think music can be made to protest and bring about change in our society. In the past, iconic events such as Live Aid, Human Rights Now! Tour and other such events have been successful in bringing people together and getting them involved in important issues. Unfortunately, I feel there is lack of activism towards social movements in the music world these days."
Soon after John wrote the song, he shared it with his musician friends. "They all liked it and we immediately decided to work on the song. I must say I'm blessed to work with such a talented bunch of musicians. Alex Munoz played the guitar on the song. Powella Keys played the keyboards and provided the backing vocals, he embellished the song with some wonderful 'soul -gospel' choruses. Oscar Martinez played the bass, did the mastering and also produced the video," said John about the pop-rock composition.
Frustration over the US police's violent actions towards certain communities is something John wanted to highlight in his song. "I wanted to tell how people are being discriminated due to the colour of their skin. I also wanted to write about how we can all stand united to fight for justice and equality. Change is happening as we speak. Unfortunately, a man (George Floyd) had to lose his life to make all this happen but I truly believe change is coming."      
I Can't Breathe is the 9th song from John's album You Got to be True which is an ongoing project. The video features striking snapshots of protesters in monochrome while it lays emphasis on people standing up for police brutality and racism. Talking a bit about the album, John explained that it is a recollection of his life experiences. "The album is a reflection of my eight years of living in this amazing city, finding love, losing it, how cultural differences can affect a relationship and the ups and downs of life."
The feedback to I Can't Breathe has been tremendous as far, said John. "We've been receiving plenty of positive responses to our song from people in Dubai. That's why we love this city, there is a great feeling of community and people are very supportive of artistes and their work here. We are proud of being able to deliver this song and get people to see things differently and call their attention to be more active and supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement."
Activism seems to be a common theme reflecting in most of John's songs. "Last January, I released Oh Mamma Welcome to the Revolution. This song was written as a tribute to the 'March for our Lives movement, a student-led demonstration in support of legislation to prevent gun violence in the US. "This song and I Can't Breathe are my two proudest achievements as a singer/songwriter," he said.
Now that he has done his bit for racial injustice through I Can't Breathe, what's next for the 'activist' singer-songwriter? "I'm working on finishing two more songs -Fastlove and Hit and Run which will conclude my project which began in December 2018. We are already in talks with record producers and we're hopeful the album will out soon."
You can find John Rashid's music on:
YouTube: TheFirmBandDubai
Apple Music: John Rashid and The Firm Band
Instagram: Ivojohnk
Facebook: The Firm Band 
To listen to I Can't Breathe visit: 

John Rashid's single, I Can't Breathe
John Rashid's single, I Can't Breathe
John Rashid with guitarist Alex Munoz, keyboardist Powella Keys and Oscar Martinez who played the bass, did the mastering and produced the video of the single, I Can't Breathe
John Rashid with guitarist Alex Munoz, keyboardist Powella Keys and Oscar Martinez who played the bass, did the mastering and produced the video of the single, I Can't Breathe

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