On the occasion of his 48th birthday – April 25th, 2010 – and in support of a key message in his song’s lyrics, “life goes on,” openly-HIV positive singer/songwriter/activist Nicholas Snow and his acclaimed collaborators are proud to present the world premiere of the HIV testing/safer sex awareness music video, “The Power To Be Strong,” online at Fridae.com, and theatrically with Hindi subtitles at the Kashish – Mumbai International Queer Film Festival.
“’The Power To Be Strong' song and music video campaign has been created to reach millions of people around the world about the importance of voluntary HIV counselling and testing and increased adherence to safer sex, and to empower the valiant efforts of any organisation or individual participating anywhere in the battle against HIV/AIDS,” explained the campaign’s founder, singer/songwriter and openly-HIV positive activist Nicholas Snow.
“I am both honoured and thrilled to have the video’s theatrical premiere at the Kashish – Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, and on the same day, worldwide at Fridae.com, Asia’s leading gay community web site. It is also particularly powerful that the world premiere features Hindi subtitles, a language common among 40 percent of India’s population of 1.2 billion people,” said Snow.
On January 3, 2008, Nicholas Snow tested HIV positive, having become so because of a collision of circumstances in a moment of passion which resulted in his poor decision to have unsafe sex in August of 2007. He told Fridae in an interview published in October 2008 that he believes he was infected by one of two men he met on the internet.
“I became HIV positive decades into the AIDS epidemic, completely armed with the knowledge to protect myself. It’s still a bit shocking to me,” explained Snow. Determined to prevent as many people as possible from making his same mistake, and well into his journey as a person living with HIV, Snow and his impassioned friends are presenting to the world “The Power To Be Strong.”
“A lot of people at risk for HIV are isolated, lonely and disenfranchised; and have subconsciously disqualified themselves from life in general,” explained Snow. “I want to get their attention and empower their self-esteem with the lyric, ‘No matter who you are, no matter what you feel, this is your moment now, and your life is real, so get tested and live longer and be strong.’”
With music and lyrics written by Snow in 2009, “The Power To Be Strong” was produced and arranged by Bruno Brugnano, one of Thailand’s music industry leaders who has created over 100 albums for Thai and International artists, including Bird Thongchai McIntyre, Tata Young, Christina Aguilar, and His Majesty the King of Thailand’s oldest daughter, Princess Ubol Ratana. It was Brugnano – who has won several of Thailand’s equivalents of the Academy Award and the Grammy Award – that suggested the song’s opera-backed chorus, provided beautifully by soprano Ayano Kimura who was recommended by Somtow Sucharitkul, conductor of the Bangkok Opera.
The video and song can be viewed and listened to for free at a variety of web sites including www.YouTube.com/ThePowerToBeStrong and it is hoped that the song will be shared liberally by the world’s online community. The mp3 single, and soon the video, may be purchased worldwide at iTunes.com, Amazon.com and at most other digital music portals. All proceeds from the sale of the song and other revenue generated by music licensing, etc, will be used by Nicholas Snow Productions in a transparent fashion to advance the overall campaign. Snow hopes to create a foundation or NGO as well.
The music video was directed by acclaimed film and video director O Nathapon, who was born and raised in Thailand, has lived in Los Angeles, and now resides in London. Nathapon’s first short film, Bicycles & Radios, was nominated for a student Academy Award. He was awarded the Best New Director from the South Festival, Norway, for his feature film A Moment In June, which he wrote, produced and directed – and he was one of the winners of the IWC/Channel 4 “Coming Up” program in the UK for which he directed Saving Baby Rio, selected by the UK’s leading newspapers a “must watch” the night it aired.
About the music video, Nathapon explained, “I hope it will change peoples’ perspectives on knowing their HIV status.”
Power to 1.2 billion people
With the world premiere at Kashish, the message of “The Power To Be Strong” has been subtitled in Hindi and can now potentially reach hundreds via the internet or on television programs and networks that broadcast the music video. The post-production was in fact completed in Mumbai by a team of filmmakers associated with Kashish.
“It is a honour and privilege to be presenting the World Premiere of 'The Power To Be Strong' at the Kashish - Mumbai International Queer Film Festival,” stated Sridar Rangayan, one of the festival’s directors and also the head of Mumbai-based Solaris Pictures.
“The lyrics of the song express many of the feelings and emotions that resonate with Kashish. The song is inspirational and motivational and demands action and acceptance. Kashish queer film festival too, through cinema, hopes to initiate attitudinal changes and shift in perceptions towards queer persons. Kashish unequivocally supports Nicholas Snow's music video 'The Power To Be Strong'.”
Saagar Gupta who beautifully wrote and crafted the subtitles, expressed, “With Hindi subtitles now, the appeal of ‘The Power To Be Strong’ can reach and motivate all those Hindi-speaking people to live safely and healthily. I feel humbled to be part of an appeal which sounds so simple, yet is so deep.”
At the four-day Kashish, "The Power To Be Strong" was paired with one of the "10 must watch" feature films in the festival, "Oh Happy Day," screening April 25, 2010, at the PVR cinemas in Juhu, Mumbai.
Festival Director Vivek Anand explained, “The film festival is an attempt to encourage greater visibility of Indian and International queer cinema among both queer and mainstream audiences as a means to foster better understanding of queer thoughts, desires and expressions.”
An international, multilingual campaign
“Openly HIV positive people are virtually non-existent in many parts of the world,” explained Snow, “and most people don’t know they know someone who is HIV positive. And tragically, most people who are HIV positive learn they are because they become ill and seek medical attention way past the point at which medical interventions could have helped prevent illness to begin with. The key is for people who have HIV to know it, to stop spreading it, and to seek early interventions – and for people who are HIV negative to confirm this, becoming further empowered to maintain or even increase their adherence to safer sex practices.”
“Many people still wrongly associate being HIV positive with a death sentence,” said Dr Stuart Koe, CEO of Fridae.com. “With access to modern medical treatment, this is no longer true. Nicholas Snow's song and video are a brave and powerful testament about living with HIV, which we hope all Fridae members will take the time to watch and share with their friends.”
As to why a video was created and not just the audio single, Snow explained: “The audio song would be limited to reaching those who understand English. However, the video can be subtitled in many different languages and reach people all over the world, many who live in countries where I am not allowed to travel as a person living with HIV. Research shows that HIV is often transmitted in an environment of ‘love’ and ‘trust’. My hope is that people will share my song instead, as a way of reaching out to and protecting those they love and trust – also empowering people to think twice, if not three times, when having sex with a stranger.”
“It is my firm belief that ‘The Power To Be Strong’ will make the topics of HIV testing and safer sex more accessible than ever because of the universal power of music. As a first step, the mere fact that the song is already subtitled in Hindi and had its world premiere in India gives every Hindi-speaking person with access to the internet the opportunity to share the power to be strong, and I invite media throughout India to broadcast the video, many outlets of which can share the message with hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of minutes.”
Because Action Equals Life!
As part of his visibility campaign, Snow founded the not-for-profit web site ActionEqualsLife.com with the stated mission of “empowering people from all walks of life and sexual orientations to create HIV/AIDS awareness; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer civil rights, and human rights for all.”
To an online user group in an email about ActionEqualsLife.com, Aditya Bondyopadhyay – an activist and lawyer from India – wrote, “This website by Nicholas Snow is about one empowered educated informed and economically stable gay man turning HIV positive in spite of all these advantages, and that Man's personal 'movement' to ensure that it does not happen to anyone else, through the almost Gandhian manner of making himself and his life the example through sheer truth and transparency.”
Bondyopadhyay continued: “I understand that this takes courage, and a very determined kind of conviction. I also understand that this is bound to attract criticism, especially from those who do not do anything, but establish their self-worth by being critical of anyone who tries to do anything. I would suggest that we should all visit this website at least once.”
Only the beginning
Having exhausted his personal finances to complete the project, Snow was unable to go to India for the premiere, but holds strongly to his vision of traveling the world as a Global Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Awareness.
Also on the musical agenda – a dance version of the song which Snow hopes to release on or before December 1, 2010 – World AIDS Day – as a call once again for people to have an HIV test as a New Year’s resolution.
Asked about his views on whether or not HIV positive gay men should reveal their status to their friends and families, Snow said: “Revealing one’s status is a very personal decision that one must consider quite carefully, especially when and if they are at risk of losing their home or job in the absence of laws and cultural or familial compassion and understanding. For these reasons, both in person and with my song, I have chosen to speak out on behalf of those who can’t in parts of the world where they can’t.”
“But for those who can and are so inspired,” continued Snow, “remember – as they said so astutely in the early days of ACT-UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) – ‘Silence = Death.’ My manta and advice – when you are safely able to do so – ‘express the truth of your life to the people whom you can influence, because Action Equals Life!’”
Snow has dedicated “The Power To Be Strong” music video to his late mother, Elizabeth “Liz” Milstead Magnuson. “She gave me life to begin with, and she loved and accepted me just as I am, both as a gay man and as a person living with HIV,” expressed Snow.
Snow concluded, “I will be incessantly in search of creative, new, enlightened, empowering ways to carry my message of experience, strength and hope as a person living with HIV and I fully intend to reach millions if not tens of millions of people in doing so.”