On Wednesday night, April 9, the Darfur Action Committee, a campus student activist organization, held its second annual Rock for Darfur benefit concert for refugees in the Darfur area of western Sudan. In the past, the DAC has donated the proceeds to international refugee aid groups and has persuaded the UC Regents to withdraw aid from the Sudanese government, which supports the Darfur genocide.
Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Molly Marlette opened the concert with well-crafted indie-folk-pop songs from her EP “The Allumette.” Her bluesy, folksy vocals were reminiscent of Sara Bareilles and Jenny Lewis, and her expressive lyrics transcended typical, sappy, bubblegum-pop lyrics. UC Irvine rock band Nouveau captured the crowd with its catchy, upbeat pop-rock tunes and sense of humor. Second-year Ashley Holm’s smooth, indie-meets-country vocals and energetic keyboard melodies created catchy tunes.
Another UCI band, Jebel, closed the show with fast-paced, hard rock songs. It blended several musical styles, including metal, 1960s hard rock and progressive rock to create a funky, Tool-meets-Smashing Pumpkins-meets-Deftones-meets-Radiohead sound. Long instrumental solos reminiscent of Incubus, squealing guitar riffs and psychedelic videos playing on a background screen characterized the band’s performance. “We joined the Darfur Action Committee when it formed a few years ago, so we’re pretty dedicated to this cause,” said fourth-year Jebel bassist Robert Petrossian. “We had a lot of fun playing this event last year, so we decided to do it again.”
In 2003, two African rebel groups began fighting the Sudanese government under the claim that the government favored Arabs over non-Arabs. Sudanese government officials responded by sending an Arab militia group, the Janjaweed, into Darfur to bomb, burn and commit mass murder and rape of non-Arabs in the area; this ethnic cleansing led to between 200,000 and 500,000 victims. Darfur refugees have set up camps across the Sudanese border in Chad, but recently the Janjaweed has infiltrated these camps, leaving thousands of refugees with no safe haven. Pastor Harun Kimani from Kenya spoke of the dire situation in Darfur and of the physical and emotional trauma the refugees are struggling to survive. “They are really, really traumatized,” Kimani said. “Their destiny and identity have been robbed of them.”
All proceeds from the event will go toward the purchase of fuel-efficient stoves for the refugees. Currently, refugees spend countless hours in a futile search for scarce firewood; the solar stoves, which cost $30 apiece, will burn 75 percent less wood, allowing the wood to burn up to seven hours longer. The stoves will be assembled in Darfur, creating jobs for the impoverished refugees. Last year, Rock for Darfur raised roughly $1,000; this year, the group expects to exceed that amount.