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Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog

‘In This Together’ shines as refugee tribute

By Jim Drake I have to admit it’s a rare thing for me to immediately respond to a musician after watching a music video, but that’s what happened to me last Friday, after watching John Marvinkite’s video for his brand new song “In This Together.”

John is a fellow you can say I’ve known a few years (I’ve worked with his brother at the News for 20+ years), but it wasn’t until 2016, when I invited him to participate in an art show that I co-curated, that I learned more about the musician, entrepreneur and inventor sides of him.

His unique hand-made instruments were featured in “Instrumental,” an art show that paired artists with local luthiers.

“Our family has been into music our whole lives. Our grandfather (on my mom’s side) was 'Borromeo Lou',” John said.

Lou, which is also John’s middle name, was a key player and composer of Vaudeville and jazz entertainment in the Philippines in the early 20th century. This knack for making music has apparently filtered down the line - John says he has “close to 50 songs in various stages” in his archives.

Of his new song, “In This Together,” a serious and very moving tribute to world-wide refugee issues, I was surprised to learn how quickly it came together. “It took me about a week to compose and write the parts, and come up with the lyrics,” John said.

Creating songs about world crisis situations is not new, but I definitely feel the impact of John’s four-minute song, just as I remember hearing “We Are the World,” and watching the Live Aid concerts on TV way back in 1985 (which, by the way, is a terrific DVD package, albeit it’s only 10 hours of material). John’s brief description of his song on his youtube channel simply says “This song is dedicated to the millions of victims of war and violence who are marginalized in refugee camps around the world. They need a voice, and our help.”

The song is obviously a response to today’s world conditions – but I wondered if there were any particular instances that made him say “I need to write a song about this.”

“I think the plight of the refugees in camps has been a horrible political tool in many different countries, with lots of money spent on border patrols, and not nearly enough spent to help these poor people,” John said.

The images John uses in his video are hard to look at, yet even harder to look away from. The song lyrics that scroll across the screen remind us that our daily problems are insignificant, yet I still wondered how on earth can someone help in these situations, and will a song like this garner a response?

“I specifically decided to make a video of this song so that a frame of reference —starting with ISIS and ending with refugees and hope for mankind — could be illustrated,” John said.

“I believe Youtube and other video sources can serve the public good, in many ways. I watch educational videos on YouTube all the time, and music videos have the same power to convey important messages, and to convince people to do something to help.”

John is hoping that his song and video will generate a positive response — possibly in the way of an awareness gathering in the community, or maybe a fundraising event of some sort — he believes that people in a refugee situation really don’t have a voice, and his song is one way to give them one.

“In This Together,” was written and performed by John Marvinkite in his home studio (he said that a program called Acoustica Mixcraft was used in the production). And I must say, the song is on par with the star-studded radio-friendly songs of the past, created for similar causes.

“As you know, from that music instrument show that you hosted at the Columbia Center for the Arts a couple years back, I am a musician and performer,” John said.

John’s song has reminded me that one doesn’t have to be star to rally for a cause. And maybe being those two things, a musician, and a performer, can make a difference.

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