“What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” said the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a somber address at this year’s Grammy Awards.
In a prerecorded video aired at the telecast on April 3, Zelenskyy likened the Russian invasion to a deadly silence threatening to extinguish the lives and dreams of Ukraine’s citizens. Over 4.2 million people have fled Ukraine since Putin’s invasion of the country on Feb. 24 and millions more are thought to be internally displaced.
“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway,” he said. “Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks, on TV, support us in any way you can any, but not silence. And then peace will come to all our cities the war is destroying.”
Zelenskyy’s message of hope comes as accounts of alleged Russian atrocities emerge. Graphic images from Bucha, Ukraine, show the bodies of at least 20 civilians with many with their hands bound behind their backs. Women — who consistently experience the disproportionate burden of war’s impacts — are also grappling with the threat of rape as a weapon of war as mounting evidence of sexual violence comes to light from areas liberated from retreating Russian forces.
Grammy host Trevor Noah introduced the president’s message by saying: “Even in the darkest times, music has the power to lift spirits and give you hope for a brighter tomorrow. There’s nobody who could use a little hope right now more than the people of Ukraine.”
Following Zelenskyy's video message, the result of a partnership between the Recording Academy and Global Citizen’s “Stand Up for Ukraine” campaign, John Legend took to the stage for a performance of his new song “FREE,” along with Ukrainian musicians Mika Newton and Siuzanna Iglidan, and Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, who had escaped her war-torn homeland the day before.
It was an honor to perform FREE tonight along with Lyuba Yakimchuk, Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton, and our incredible choir. pic.twitter.com/7zYHep1mJG— John Legend (@johnlegend) April 4, 2022
In a Twitter thread following the performance, Legend explained: “I wrote ‘FREE’ after a week of seeing the horrific images of the senseless, brutal invasion of Ukraine by a regime with no moral justification — no right to kill, dominate, and subjugate the Ukrainian people, no right to silence the will of the people in a democratic nation.”
He continued: “I know I can't end any wars with a song, but I had to write this song as my prayer, my contribution to the chorus of voices calling for peace and freedom for all people. I hope each of us can find our own way to contribute to this chorus. May we drown out the voices and forces of hate, bigotry, and authoritarianism. May we make our world truly FREE.”
At the end of the performance, viewers were asked to take action to support the “Stand Up for Ukraine” campaign and help mobilize billions in funding to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine as well as to address the needs of refugees all around the world.
A “Stand Up for Ukraine” pledging summit will take place in Warsaw, Poland, on April 9 with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at its helm, in partnership with Global Citizen. The pledging summit will be an opportunity for world leaders and corporations to announce funding for humanitarian aid for Ukraine as well as refugees around the globe, including Yemen, South Sudan, and Afghanistan.
A day prior to the pledging summit, on April 8, a global social media rally will take place, supported by Global Citizen — with musicians, actors, athletes, activists, and more, uniting to urge governments, institutions, corporations, and individuals to help fund humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and around the world.
Among the artists, athletes, actors, and creators confirmed to participate are: Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye, Alanis Morissette, Angélique Kidjo, Annie Lennox, Billie Eilish, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, Chris Rock, Demi Lovato, Elton John and David Furnish, Gloria Steinem, Green Day, Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness, Jon Batiste, Jonas Brothers, Kacey Musgraves, Katy Perry, Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Pearl Jam, Pharrell Williams, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Shaquille O’Neal, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder, U2, Usher, and more.
Find out more about how you can join the campaign, see the full list of people supporting the campaign, and take action to Stand Up for Ukraine and all refugees globally here.