10 Questions with ... Robby Romero
July 2, 2012
1. You have been creating music for a few decades now; when did that evolve into the Native Children's Survival organization?
Following my teenage years playing the Taos Plaza and Hollywood nightclub scene, I founded NCS in 1989, in the aftermath of the then-world's worst nuclear accident, the 26 April 1986 catastrophic Chernobyl disaster. Our first music video campaign, "Is It Too Late," was broadcast around the world from the Kremlin, following President Gorbachev's historical environmental speech at the 1990 Global Forum in Moscow and in 1991 on CNN's "Earth Matters" program.
2. Your efforts have gone beyond Native American concerns and now include Indigenous people from around the world. Tell us about that.
In 1993-96 on behalf of NCS, I created a stereotype-breaking campaign on MTV Networks with my music singles and videos, "Prayer Song" and "Heartbeat," and a Rockumentary film "Makoce Wakan: Sacred Earth" to introduce the music television generation to contemporary Native Peoples and to help support legislation then in Congress to protect Native Peoples Sacred Sites and Freedom of Religion. The legislation was successful, the campaign won the industry's prestigious Cable Ace Award and the rockumentary film generated the highest viewer response of any show MTV Networks had aired to date at that time.
Today, life as we know it is threatened by global warming and climate change. There are about 370 million Indigenous Peoples around the world. In most places Indigenous Peoples live on the front lines at the point of impact. Indigenous Peoples are among the first to experience the unnecessary destruction of land and life, and the devastating impacts of climate change. Most of the world's natural resources are found in Indigenous Peoples lands and territories. The fossil foolish and extractive industries will stop at nothing to obtain these resources. Rather than heeding the warnings of Nature and Indigenous Peoples and learning from their experience and wisdom in adapting to the impacts of climate change, Indigenous Peoples are being murdered, imprisoned and relocated. Our lands and territories, some of the world's most pristine and last remaining wild places, are being raped and poisoned causing irreversible damage for bottom line profits for the 1%. This global criminal activity violates the rights of Mother Earth and all her children and will produce devastating effects not just for Indigenous Peoples, but for all. We are all connected and what we do now in this moment, or fail to, will be humanity's defining legacy.
3. How is that reflected in your band?
The lineup of my band, Red Thunder, began with Indigenous musicians from the Americas (American Indians) weaving together traditional and contemporary instruments into a sound I call Native Rock. The new single and the singles to follow from this project and awareness campaign feature a lineup of Indigenous musicians from around the world, playing traditional instruments from every continent. The live show is an amazing musical experience for me and the audience reaction amplifies it.
4. Tell us how your films fit into the overall vision.
The international language of music and film is a powerful tool to help spearhead the message and campaign and motivate people into action.
5. How long have you been associated with United Nations as a U.N. Ambassador of Youth?
In 1990, our first music picture, "Is It Too Late." screened at the United Nations General Assembly, UN Headquarters in New York City during the Children and the Environment project. At this event I was presented the title of United Nations Ambassador of Youth for the Environment and a certificate of appreciation from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) signed by Exec. Dir. Mostafa K. Tolba.
6. What does that entail?
What one makes of it!
7. How did the idea for your Project Protect campaign come about?
The need to unite, connect and inspire Peoples Power. The need to further share and present the warnings of Nature, Indigenous Peoples, and the Spirit of our Ancestors in another way. The need to shift the paradigm for the restoration of life in balance.
8. Tell us about the song, "Who's Gonna Save You," and how it is a spearhead for the Project Protect campaign.
At the suggestion and request of my elders, colleagues and members of the U.N. Permanent Forum On Indigenous Issues, I wrote and produced "Who's Gonna Save You" with musician/producer/engineer and Grammy winner Steve Addabbo (Susan Vega, Shawn Colvin, Eric Anderson, etc, etc.) to help generate an open conversation on a global crisis -- climate change. The song spent 20 weeks on the Aboriginal Music Charts and we believe it will do well on Triple A, if given the chance.
9. There is also a DVD of the "music picture" correct?
Yes. "Who's Gonna Save" will be released in a DVD/CD eco package this summer. The two-disc set is available now and for a limited time exclusively at the Project Protect website: http://projectprotectawarenesscampaign.com.
10. Are you planning more songs to tie in with the Project Protect campaign?
Yes. "Who's Gonna Save You" is the first in a series. The next music single and music picture, "All Our Colors," is currently in production and being filmed on location around the world.
What other things does the Native Children's Survival organization do?
Native Children's Survival (NCS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about critical issues facing Mother Earth, her children and the seventh generation to come. For more than two decades, NCS has created award winning music, music videos, music pictures, public service announcements, and rockumentary films that have reached millions of people from all walks of life through broadcasts on CNN, MTV, VH1, Sundance Channel, and many other networks around the world.
NCS has also created and developed internationally successful products that have supported the traditional values and sustainable practices of Indigenous Peoples. In addition to raising awareness, NCS is dedicated to supporting children's programs, and grassroots Indigenous organizations that are working on the front lines to protect and support Mother Earth and all her children. Through our projects, we have successfully raised millions of dollars to aid these organizations.