The compilation album Arise Together – Children of the World is a sprawling twenty-three-track release with an agenda. Producers Kevin Mackie and Rupam Sarmah, among others, helm a collection that intends to promote global awareness about ability in disability, diversity, and inclusion. The songs include children from the United States, Mexico, Ukraine, Uganda, South Africa, India, and other locales to push this charitable project. We’ve heard such releases before, without question, but rarely has an outing of this nature spotlighted such a range of across-the-board excellence.


Sarmah produces the opening track “You Never Know” and it sets a standard for every succeeding song. The lyrics are a bit unwieldy in their literalness, but the message is unquestionably timely and heartfelt. Vocal harmonies aren’t omnipresent, but they stand out in this piece and the complementary acoustic guitar adds a leavening effect. The Kare Afrika Kids Chorus shines during the album’s second track “Let Us Come Together” and Sarmah once again excels with his warm and inviting production. The Kids Chorus sounds like a well-tested vocal unit rather than glorified amateurs and their performance lingers with you long after the song concludes.

Another African contribution “Kwanzaa’s Pure Light” brings together spoken word and singing over a distinctive world music arrangement. Yocontalie Jackson and the Jennifer Tibbetts Singers manage the vocals with emotive, even soulful, skill. The spoken word portions of the song do a good job of introducing the concept of Kwanzaa to newcomers without ever belaboring its meaning. “Friends at Heart” is another strong track that sees Randy Sharp returning after his contributions to the opener alongside Dave Kinnoin and Paul Jost. It’s an excellent song testifying to the transformative power of brotherhood without ever lapsing into sentimentality. The steady beat of the arrangement generates appealing energy.

Steve Elci’s “Dreams” is another uplifting track replete with tasteful acoustic guitar and strong lyrical content. The vocal harmonies pair well with Elci’s voice and it’s another song benefitting from a restrained, yet energetic push. Veteran singer Stacey Peasley’s contribution to the album “Let’s Celebrate” is a rousing entry in the album’s track listing and its celebratory mood never goes overboard. Peasley’s voice navigates through the song’s changes with the sturdy assurance of an experienced performer and delivers conviction with each line.

Three-times Grammy-nominated artists the Alphabet Rockers, anchored by Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, contribute one of the album’s best performances with “I’m Proud (Say It Loud Remix)” that conveys a message of self-empowerment full of delight and imagination. The call-and-response passages, the vocal harmonies, and the exhortative nature of the number help make it one of Arise Together’s most memorable moments.

Manhattan’s award-winning singer/songwriter Esther Crow also makes an important contribution. “Leader in You” features the Kare Afrika Kids Chorus and Father Goose Music, but Crow captures our hearts with her earnest, beaming vocals and the message she communicates. The finale “Voices Arise Together Again” is a dramatic ending for the album. Featuring the Chernivtsi Music School Chorus along with, for a final time, the Kare Afrika Kids Chorus, it has a classical arrangement driven by strings and woodwinds while incorporating spoken word messaging over the top. This positive, hopeful conclusion to Arise Together – Children of the World brings the album to a moving conclusion.

Garth Thomas