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Citizenship

Global Citizen Festival 2016: Major Lazer Is Doing Major Good in the World

This weekend, Major Laser is headlining the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in New York City's Central Park. If you can't make it in person, find out how to you can watch and follow along with all the action here.


Major Lazer’s infectious songs get crowds around the world up and dancing, but if the title of their latest album, “Peace Is The Mission,” is any indication, the group is about more than just danceable beats. They’ve collaborated with several Global Citizens in the past — Ariana Grande and No Doubt — but this year they’re taking over the festival stage themselves to help end global poverty.

New York City won’t be the first city the group has brought to its feet for a good cause. The talented trio, currently comprised of Diplo, Jillionaire, and Walshy Fire, recently rocked Havana, Cuba, during a free concert. The historical concert marked the first performance by a major musical act from the US since the two countries reinstated diplomatic relations.

Learn More: Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and More Headline Global Citizen Festival 2016

Though the performance was presented by the Musicabana Foundation, a project sponsored by the non-profit Fractured Atlas, which aims to support cultural ecosystems, the group actually paid its own way to be there. The president of the Cuban Institute of Music commended the group for having “established a very respectful relationship with the Cuban public and [being] really respectful toward Caribbean roots in general.”

While in Havana, the group also met with Cuban music students and participated in a cultural exchange panel with local musicians and producers.

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A photo posted by MAJOR LAZER (@majorlazer) on

Major Lazer fuses different styles of music together, taking inspiration from indigenous musical sounds from all over the globe, and its members’ backgrounds give it an additional global edge.

Learn More: Who's Hosting the 2016 Global Citizen Festival

Diplo, a self-professed “nerdy guy who just works on his computer and writes songs,” was born in Mississippi, while Walshy Fire and Jillionaire come from Jamaica and Trinidad, respectively. And though they’ve made it a point to give back to communities as a group, they’ve supported other causes independently.

In 2012, Diplo contributed to a charity compilation album called Dance (RED), Save Lives in support of (RED), an organization focusing on ending HIV/AIDS.

However, the DJ was involved in philanthropic work well before then.

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A decade ago, Diplo began the Heaps Decent initiative with two fellow DJs. The organization supports the artistic development of underprivileged and Indigenous young people in Australia. Heaps Decent runs workshops with youths at high risk of juvenile detention and in schools, teaching them to channel their energy and expression into music.

But Diplo’s desire to help others pre-dates his DJ-ing days. Before either Diplo or Major Lazer was an internationally recognized name, the DJ was known as Thomas Pentz (his real name) and worked with inner-city school children. He taught reading, filmmaking, and songwriting.

“The social work was about making people’s lives better instead of making another old person rich. When you think that way, your motivation is different, and you want to do things to help people,” he said in an interview. Though he later changed career paths, it’s clear that he maintained that motivation.

Learn More: The Many Ways Kendrick Lamar Is Giving Back

Diplo isn’t the only charitable member of Major Lazer.

Earlier this year, Jillionaire performed at a benefit show supporting the charity One For The Boys. The UK-based organization aims to raise funds for cancer research and increase awareness of cancer forms affecting men.

If “Peace Is The Mission,” then the world has its work cut out for it. But the members of Major Lazer are doing their parts as Global Citizens to make the world a better place while getting the party started.