IN RUSSIA, GERMANY, AND THE UNITED STATES
Released May 3rd to coincide with World Freedom Day, “Toast To Freedom” has since been reinterpreted by a remarkable range of artists moved by the song’s indefatigable spirit. “I am surprised how many professional and semi-professional musicians have contacted me to see if they could produce cover versions to become part of this special initiative,” says Jochen Wilms, who executive produced the original track with Art For Amnesty founder Bill Shipsey. “Musicians from many different backgrounds are connecting with ‘Toast To Freedom.”
A companion video for “Svoboda” was filmed in a variety of locations across Russia, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Rostov-on-Don. The powerful clip is now streaming at YouTube, where it has already drawn over 600,000 individual views. View it at www.ToastToFreedom.org .
One of modern Russia’s best-known artists, Vakulenko has earned notoriety and acclaim for his three distinctive musical projects: Basta, Noggano, and N1NT3ND0. His blend of socially provocative lyrics with massive melodies has unified countless fans in Russia and Eastern Europe, earning him sales exceeding 3 million albums, innumerable musical awards, and sold-out audiences at the more than 150 concerts he performs each year at home and abroad.
“Svoboda” was executive produced by renowned Russian music journalist Boris Barabanov in collaboration with Shipsey, who notes, “There is a hunger for freedom and human rights in Russia that is palpable, more urgent and ‘real’ than anything we can know or feel.”
What’s more, an additional version of “Toast To Freedom” was performed live on Russian TV by the vocal collective of Pavel Artemiev, Jenia Lubich, and Russia’s top a capella beatbox group, The Jukebox Trio. The performance, which was initially broadcast on the Channel One late night show, Evening Urgant, can be viewed now at www.ToastToFreedom.org .
Meanwhile, students at Germany’s Hochschule Osnabrück gathered on Wednesday, May 16th, for a communal performance of “Toast To Freedom” by the many visitors to the city’s annual “Maiwoche in Osnabrück” celebration. Inspired by Osnabrück journalist Heinz Rebellius and organized by Institut für Musik director Martin Behrens, the event saw hundreds of voices ringing out in the Osnabrück town center, infusing the song’s indelible chorus with joy, power and intensity. A recording and video of the performance will be unveiled soon – please visit www.ToastToFreedom.org for details.
Music lovers everywhere are now invited to record their own versions of “Toast To Freedom” for entry in the just-launched “Create Your Toast To Freedom” contest. For contest details, please visit www.ToastToFreedom.org.
Written by veteran guitarist/producers Carl Carlton (Robert Palmer, Eric Burdon, Keb Mo) and Larry Campbell (Levon Helm Band, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello), “Toast To Freedom” sees contributions from nearly 50 artists, performed by nearly 50 artists, including, among others, the late Levon Helm, Kris Kristofferson, Carly Simon, Angelique Kidjo, Ewan McGregor, Donald Fagen, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Florent Pagny, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Jimmy Barnes, Rosanne Cash, Shawn Mullins, and the Blind Boys of Alabama.
“Toast To Freedom” immediately began receiving extensive international radio airplay upon its arrival. The single’s release date saw unprecedented dual performances of the song on both Russian and American television. The very same day “Toast To Freedom” was being performed on Russia’s Evening Urgant, the all-star “Art For Amnesty Band” heralded the song with an amazing live rendition on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” The performance – which featured bandleaders Carlton and Campbell teaming with such luminaries as Kris Kristofferson, Shawn Mullins, Theresa Williams, Essie Jain, and Jonny Lang – can be viewed at www.ToastToFreedom.org.
“Toast To Freedom” has drawn widespread global media attention, including an Associated Press feature that appeared in over 100 newspapers worldwide. “Toast To Freedom” has also reaped critical acclaim from all corners, with the New York Times hailing it as “a heart-warming single.” In the U.K., The Sunnamed “Toast To Freedom” as its “Single of the Week,” awarding it 4.5 of 5 stars and noting that “this brilliant charity single brings together a formidable congregation of talent… making up one hell of a supergroup.” Other press highlights include prominent coverage on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as well as Rolling Stone‘s online sites in North America, Germany, and Italy.
“Toast To Freedom” has received loud applause from some of the world’s top artists, including such longtime Amnesty International supporters as U2, Peter Gabriel, Sting, and R.E.M., all of whom heartily endorsed the track on their official websites. The song is also being played live in concert by musicians everywhere, including the song’s co-writer, Carl Carlton, who has been performing it nightly while on tour with German rock icon Peter Maffay. Furthermore, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet stated, “Human values like democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of the individual, these are changes whose momentum cannot be stopped.”
“Toast To Freedom” was inspired by the 1961 inception of Amnesty International, born when British lawyer Peter Berenson launched the worldwide “Appeal for Amnesty 1961” campaign by publishing an article in the Observernewspaper telling of two Portuguese students imprisoned for raising a toast to freedom. Reprinted in newspapers across the world, Berenson’s call to action resonated with the values and aspirations of people everywhere and marked the beginning of what has become a global movement of more than 3 million supporters, members, and activists in more than 150 countries and territories. For more information, please visit: www.amnesty.org.
For up-to-the-minute news and information, to view the “Toast To Freedom” music video, as well as an exclusive “Making Of” documentary, please see www.ToastToFreedom.org .