1 July 2020
Last week, somebody gave me the greatest gift an artist could ever receive.
On the 15 March 2019, (which seems like a long time ago given what the world has experienced since), my home country, New Zealand was rocked by a terrorist attack which killed 51 people and injured dozens more. It was the act of a white supremacist against Muslims during their weekly prayer.
On 15 March 2020, on the one year anniversary, I released a song called ‘Your New Home’, a tribute to the victims of that day, but also to immigrants everywhere. I actually wrote the song the day after the attack took place but thought the one year anniversary would be a good time to release it.
I worked my ass off to promote this song. In January and February this year, I sent the song accompanied by a music video I cut together from news footage, to every media outlet in New Zealand, and many international. Newspapers - national, local and regional, magazines, radio stations, social media outlets such as the Huffington Post, Unilad and Buzzfeed, etc. I reached out to influencers, bloggers and youtube channels. I approached TV, current affairs and news stations, not just the official way but through friends and family I knew who worked for these companies. Of course there was a part of me as an artist that wanted exposure from this song, but I thought it held an important message that needed to be spread. I also knew that in NZ there would be one year anniversary stories on the attack.
The results were appalling. It is more than 3 months after that launch and as I write this it has a measly 2,400 streams on Spotify, whilst the music video has just over 500 views. Out of the 4 songs I’ve released, it’s the least successful by a long shot despite being my most heartfelt.
The Corona-virus was picking up during this time, and perhaps that had some influence on the result, however the last few months I have been feeling pretty frustrated. I feel like I did everything right and yet didn’t have the results to show for it. I felt cheated.
Then I got a message from a woman called Alta. All she said was:
“I just found “Your New Home” and just wanted to say thanks for writing it <3”
I’ve had a few messages of thanks from New Zealanders and thought it was another person who appreciated the song’s sentiment. I replied with thanks and said it meant a lot her reaching out, and that it was a song written from the heart.
She elaborated and explained that her husband and son were victims (and thankfully survivors) of the attack. Shortly after the 15 March there were vigils and ceremonies to honour those who lost their lives. People all over New Zealand and the world showed up in their tens of thousands. The world came together. However, while this was happening, Alta was sitting in the hospital caring for her husband and son, trying to survive as a family. She missed all the tributes, and though the world may have come together, she felt alone.
Alta shared with me an article that was published by the New York Times about their story and I was overwhelmed by what I read. So much has happened since the attack (Raging forest fires in Australia, the Corona-virus and now the Black Lives Matter movement), it’s easy for the world to move on and forget. The article showed that one year is such a short time for those directly affected.
Alta’s husband saved their son, Roes’ life by wrapping himself around him and shielding him from bullets. Roes was hit with shrapnel whilst his father suffered multiple gun wounds. It’s plain and simple, he saved his son’s life, yet he still feels guilt, like he didn’t protect him enough, despite being a hero. He knows this feeling is irrational but it just shows how complex these situations are.
Alta had to deal with Conspiracy theorists online, claiming the whole attack to be a hoax and accusing her husband (using his picture) of being an actor.
She had challenges with the NZ healthcare system. They meant well, but she felt like she was in a battle with bureaucracy the whole time.
Roes is only 3 years old and needless to say he has been traumatised by the attack. Certain things trigger him. He is a Muslim, but when he sees someone who looks Muslim, he reacts as it brings back memories. When he sees his parents lying on the carpet, it reminds him of that day in the Mosque. One day the police returned his shoes, and that was enough of a visual trigger to cause a reaction.
I won’t go into too much depth as the article summarises it well. What I will say is that we often find it easy to move on from tragedies when we’re not affected directly by them. As society it feels like we just move on to the next one. It’s not just this day specifically, many people go through hard times, causing deep emotional scars that don’t heal overnight. I personally needed to be reminded of this and I thank Alta for sharing her story with me.
Last week I was sitting, looking out the window in frustration, upset that my song that was written with the best of intentions was not seeing the success that I had hoped. This week, after speaking with Alta, suddenly metrics like streams, plays or view counts seem unimportant. She says my song among a few other pieces of art created in tribute has helped her process, heal and finally feel like she’s not alone. That is something that no statistic can compete with. I know that ‘Your New Home’ is a success because of the impact it has had.
Thank you Alta, for reaching out, for your honesty, openness and courage. You’ve given me a new perspective and the greatest gift an artist can receive.