Back in December 2011, I had called my friend Ustad Amb Jogi in Pakistan. I was visiting Ohio at the time, and thought it would be good to catch up with some friends I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I had hired Jogi and his group of musicians to record music for my short animated film Gul, back in 2008. I returned to the US, finished the film, toured around with it, then returned to share the results with Jogi and his group in 2010. That day in December 2011, on the phone, after some prodding, Jogi told me that he and the other musicians had lost their homes to flooding, earlier that year.
I felt ashamed for not having called sooner. My second thought was that I needed to do something. Sitting a world away, what could I do for these wonderful musicians? I had one song that I had hired them to record. There was some unedited video footage from the recording session. Perhaps I could use these along with the photos of them I had already posted online in promotion of my film, to try and piece together a campaign to raise funds.
It was not feasible for me to raise enough funds to rebuild their homes. Still, I knew they could use whatever I could raise, but there had to be something more. I had discussed promoting them with recordings that others may have made of them before all of this, but no one every really gave them footage from shows, nor were there people interested in looking our for and promoting them.
What if I used this campaign to pay them to create an album? Then they would be earning the money and it would work towards trying to create new opportunities for their careers. I already had a website, so I researched some shopping plugins for wordpress and decided on Shopp. I also started contacting people in the US and in Pakistan. I started letting everyone I met know about this campaign that I was putting together. My target was to get it up and running after Christmas and New Years, when people might be paying attention again. I enlisted the help of a few friends for recording at the Institute of Sindhology in Jamshoro, Sindh, Pakistan.
I went through my data backups and pulled out the footage, and the music only version of the score from my film. To me, this was the key to connecting potential crowd funders here in the US, with these musicians in Pakistan. I edited the video together, finished testing the shop portion of my website and finally launched the campaign, a few days after New Years. I used my facebook page, and fan page to send out messages with the purchase link. Everyone I spoke to learned about the campaign. By the time the campaign began, I had everything worked out as far as recording facilities, how to send the money directly to Ustad Amb Jogi and what to do with the footage for the new album once I had it. Now I just needed to raise the funds. I set a goal for $1,200 as that would be 4 to 5 times what the musicians would normally get paid for recording.
Now that I had pushed myself so hard and put it all out there, certainly the money would come pouring in. Wrong! A few sales came through, but it quickly became apparent that things needed to pick up to make this goal a reality. I posted in all kinds of forums and groups related to Sindhi culture (Sindh being where the musicians were from in Pakistan). There was interest. People enjoyed watching the video, but it really did not increase sales.
I started sending direct messages to everyone based in the US on my facebook. It took time to write all the messages, personalize them and try and connect people to what I was trying to do. Every day, I sent messages until I hit the facebook anti spam warning, then stopped for the day to start again the very next. Things picked up slightly, but on a day when I didn’t campaign, nothing happened. I kept on it morning, noon and night around my work schedule.
Every time someone purchased the music, I sent a thank you with them tagged in it from the Mad Guru facebook page. This showed up to all their friends and then to my twitter feed which was connected. I tried to use hash tags that would help with visibility. I kept this going for 2 months, messaging and remessaging to get through to friends and their circles.
By the end of the campaign, there were over 90 people who purchased music to help the Jogis. I sent it all to Ustad Amb Jogi, all the while discussing what the purpose of the album was, how stories are what connects people and how their culture is what people wanted to enjoy. The Jogis were ready to go. With money in hand, they were able to hire a recording engineer and studio at the Institute of Sindhology for a very low cost thanks to the generosity of contacts there.
Receiving the recordings ended up being the largest delay in the process. I called from April to October to try and get the recording sent. I tried to have other contacts go and pick up the tapes to send me, but in the end a good friend Suffi Bilal Khalid in Lahore was able to get the tapes sent to him, which he was able to digitize and ftp to me as courier services refused to send music, probably due to piracy fears, though these were original recordings.
With the recording in hand, I’ve launched the album, and feel thankful to all those who chipped in $1.50 to $150, and placed their faith in the Jogis and myself. It had been a rewarding journey so far, and I hope to keep connecting the Girnari Jogi Group to new opportunities. Thanks Saeed Mangi for all the beautiful photos from the recording session, and for helping to make it possible to record at the Institute of Sindhology. Thanks to Fatah Daud Poto and Suffi Bilal Khalid for making it possible for me to ever even meet Ustad Amb Jogi and the group.