Mustafa Eshanzada and Tarick Rockn began performing as under the moniker Digibot in 2011, and in less than a year the Inland Empire producers organized their inaugural Music For Humanity benefit concert. The fundraiser makes its way to Orange County this year with Music For Humanity: Syria, delivering a diverse lineup to The Yost Theater in Santa Ana on August 9. The upcoming show will bring back repeat performer and globally recognized hip-hop artist Omar Offendum, Digibot, and a handful of support that includes Ted Z and The Wranglers, Evertheory, and Italix. "The way I look at it, this is a non-profit, smaller, local version of Coachella," Rockn says. "[The atmosphere] is like a rock show, but there's something for everyone. Everybody's there to have a good time."
Each incarnation of Music For Humanity aids a new cause, and this year's event for Syria raises awareness and funds for people impacted by the war torn region. All of the proceeds from ticket and merch sales will go directly to Islamic Relief USA, a non-profit organization that will assist Syrians in need of food and medical supplies. Eshanzada and Rockn note that a recent shift in border conditions will allow Islamic Relief to take supplies directly into Syria, versus aiding refugees in neighboring countries. The duo chose Islamic Relief because of their positive interactions working with them in the past, and the organizations ratings from non-profit watchdog site Charity Navigator.
This year's Music For Humanity marks the third event in four years for the hopeful philanthropists, and by their assertion, is the biggest yet. And while both men share that their experiences with helping people through non-profits has been inspiring, the pair of California natives agree that their time living abroad also played a role. Rockn lived in Egypt for four years and Eshanzada spent time living in Afghanistan, additionally fueling their desire to make a difference.
"The poverty [in Egypt] is more than what you can imagine here in America," Rockn says. "I lived there for more than four years and I saw people on the streets day to day, people working 16 hours a day and making roughly two or three American dollars." Rockn revisited Egypt in 2010, reaffirming his calling to give back and stirring his childhood memories. "I can't turn my cheek to what I experienced," Rockn continues. "So many people there would kill to have any of the things that we take for granted here. Hot water to wash your face in the winter, food, fair wages. These are just some of the reasons we started Music For Humanity."
Rockn and Eshanzada currently operate as a fundraising team, but hope to gain enough support and attention to register Music For Humanity as an official non-profit organization. Support for merchandise and various costs for their events come courtesy of private donors, and both men express gratitude towards the artists on their bill for rallying behind their cause and performing pro bono. The ultimate goal for Music For Humanity is to raise awareness and funds, but in an environment where people want to come back and do it again.
"I've been to so many benefits where people are giving $50 to attend a charity event, but they just end up listening to some boring speech," Eshanzada says. "We wanted to give people an alternative to help out, and let them have fun at the same time."
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Both Eshanzada and Rockn are passionate about taking gaining exposure for Music For Humanity, and continue to apply their experience with non-profit organizations to their own project. With enough momentum and consistency, their aspirations have the potential to become a reality.
"You have a certain responsibility as a human being to help others,"Eshanzada, says. "It doesn't matter what country you're giving your time and energy to. Whether it's your brother or sister, someone here in the states or far away -as long as you're giving."
Digibot, Omar Offendum, and more perform for Music For Humanity: Syria at The Yost Theater, 307 N Spurgeon, Santa Ana (888) 862-9573; www.yosttheater.com. Saturday, August 9. 4 p.m., $15 - $50, 18+. For more information on Music For Humanity: Syria visit www.facebook.com/Musicforhumanity11.