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Songs for Social Change: Berklee’s 2023 Songwriting Contest Winners

A Celebration of Artistic Expression and Social Activism.

Proving the enduring strength of arts as catalysts for societal change, Berklee College of Music lauded its 2023 Songs for Social Change (S4SC) contest winners: Longhai Zheng, Varsha Krishnamoorthy, and Lester Wong. Their resonating words and melodies filled the Red Room at Cafe 939, highlighting music’s transformative role that extends beyond simple performance to engage with social conversations at their core.

Annually, Berklee’s Songwriting Department, in collaboration with the Songs for Social Change initiative, organizes the “Song for Social Change” contest. This platform encourages students to compose songs that advocate for constructive change. Submissions undergo evaluation by Berklee faculty members, who assess each entry based on its content, theme, musical arrangement, lyrics, and uniqueness.

Longhai Zheng, known by his stage name OTIZ, claimed the first-place prize with a performance of his song “Good Boy” that resonated both as a spectacle and a revolutionary statement. By presenting a unique blend of electronic hip-hop, he addressed pervasive gender inequalities. “Good Boy” is more than just a song – it’s a call for a societal reevaluation of the damaging gender norms we unwittingly uphold.

“This song means a lot to me, because in China, especially when people talk about women’s rights, there’s a stigma that males are an enemy of the topic. As a male artist, I want to help promote gender equality and to show that men are also supporters and allies of women’s rights”, OTIZ

Second place was awarded to Varsha Krishnamoorthy for her song “Woman,” which painted a nuanced picture of womanhood through the prism of the Hindu goddess Durga. In a performance as powerful as the goddess she drew inspiration from, Krishnamoorthy’s “Woman” was both a personal journey and a universal narrative – a tale of femininity that resonated across cultural boundaries.

In third place, Lester Wong, under his stage name Astor Walk, left a lasting mark with “Rings.” His song transformed past ridicule into a celebration of self, proving that the traits others might mock can indeed become our greatest strengths. Wong’s performance was a testament to individuality and the embrace of unique artistic expressions.

These artistic triumphs were acknowledged not only with applause and acclaim but also with substantial monetary rewards: $1,650 for first place, $1,375 for second, and $1,100 for third. Moreover, songs selected for inclusion in the contest’s SoundCloud playlist received $225.

The S4SC contest served as a platform for students to address the pressing issues of our time. Through their evocative melodies and profound lyrics, they incited hope, empathy, and action within their communities, reminding us of the transformative potential that art holds for social progress.

TopicsBerklee’s Songs for Social Change, 2023 S4SC Contest Winners, Social Justice in Music, Songwriting for Social Change, Impact of Music on Society, Berklee College of Music Events

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