Quincy Jones Arab charity song goes viral

Story highlights

  • Quincy Jones' charity song "Bokra," has gone viral after launching in Dubai earlier this month
  • The star-studded international collaboration has already attracted two million YouTube hits
  • Twenty-four artists from across the Arab world contributed to "Bokra"
  • Jones has worked with Michael Jackson, Dizzy Gillespie and many other legendary musicians
A charity single made by legendary music producer Quincy Jones featuring some of the Arab world's top recording artists has become an internet hit.
The official video for "Tomorrow/Bokra," (Bokra is the Arabic word for tomorrow) has been watched more than two million times on YouTube since it was released earlier this month. The album released last week.
"People gave their soul to this project," said Jones. "This is not about records and money. This is about the young kids."
The star-studded international collaboration features 24 artists from across the Arab world and proceeds will go to fund musical, artistic and cultural projects for children in the Middle East.
"Tomorrow/Bokra" was adapted from Jones' melody of the same name by Iraqi singer and composer Kadim Al Saher, who himself has been heavily involved in charitable music project since the 1990s.
It's not the first time Jones and Al Saher have worked together, Al Saher told CNN's Inside the Middle East during a Morocco recording session in May.
He said: "He called me personally to ask for my help in doing the song in Arabic with an eastern melody and I was very happy."
"Tomorrow-Bokra" includes contributions from artists as varied as legendary Lebanese singer Majida Al Roumi, who wrote the Arabic lyrics, Senegalese R&B artist Akon, Tunisian singer Latifa, and Grammy Award-winning Moroccan-born producer RedOne. Columbian-Lebanese pop princess Shakira recorded an intro to the song.
None of the artists, managers or producers were paid for their contributions and many of the recording and production needs were donated by associate producers like the Mawazine Music Festival and the Doha Film Institute. CNN is a media partner of the "Tomorrow-Bokra" project.
Jones and Emirati social entrepreneur Badr Jafar produced the song through their joint venture Global Gumbo Group, created a year ago to initiate the project, which they've discussed as a concept for years.
Better known for his business ventures in heavy industry like oil and gas, Jafar refers to his social projects (which also include the Middle East Theater Company set up with the help of actor Kevin Spacey) as the "triple bottom line" -- profit, people and planet.
"I sensed that the entertainment business has a phenomenal ability change people's minds beyond any other business," he said.
YouTube ad revenues, donations and pledges from corporate sponsors, individual donations through the website, and proceeds from album sales and iTunes downloads will be donated for distribution by the Beirut-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture and to cultural projects of the U.N. World Food Programme that are specifically aimed at children.
"My dream is for these kids to be free to dream for themselves," said Jones.
In his six decades in the music and entertainment industry, Jones has worked with Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson among many others. Jones says he always feels "like a family guest" when he comes to the Middle East. The first time he visited the region was in the 1950s on tour with Dizzie Gillespie.
With 27 Grammy Awards to his name, Jones is probably one of the few producers who could get away with a sign outside the recording studio reading "Check Your Ego at the Door."
It worked in 1985 with his iconic charity hit "We Are the World" to help famine in Africa, and it seems to have worked again.
Jaafar says donations and support has already exceeded $3 million, not including profits from YouTube ad revenues and iTunes downloads which are posted monthly. "The Haiti version of 'We Are the World' raised $5 million," he said. "We'll beat that."
Jafar and Jones both say this is only the first step, and they have plans to record new versions of the song with a host of new artists -- Jones says Paul McCartney has already expressed interest. There are also plans for a concert tour some time next year.
The "Tomorrow-Bokra" project, described by Jafar as "a beacon of solidarity and unity" was planned before the Arab Spring uprisings began almost a year ago.
Reflecting on this historic year, Jafar told me "as much as there have been exciting changes, there has been a lot of hardship, grief, loss of life, a lot of pain. So this project is not at all trying to overshadow that but to try to express a spirit of solidarity."
For his part, Jones thinks that the project coinciding with the Arab Spring is something divine: "I believe in divinity and they say coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.