The Music Action Women Collective’s debut—a suite of powerful original compositions singularly focused on empowering women and advancing the causes of women worldwide—celebrates the millions of women working to improve their lives and their communities. We honor their resolve, courage, and audacity, and we are so proud to be able to stand in solidarity with the amazing musical minds we convened for our inaugural all-women’s social impact residency, Music Action Lab Women.


Breathe was conceptualized with the weary heart in mind. In times of duress we often forget the most important reaction to have while “going through” is to “Breathe.” It's often "something so simple yet it’s something so essential” that can give us the strength and courage to carry on.

Nazeni, which means “pretty” in Armenian, is a liberation song to the countless girls taught to act a certain way and accept a restricted role imposed by patriarchal structures. Nazeni is a clarion call for girls to stand up for their passions and ambitions.

The undulating tones and soothing melodies of Lullaby mimic a mother’s care for her future daughter in the womb before birth. The gentle caress of spoken truths work to prepare girls for the discrimination and hardship they will endure.

Rules Change uses a compositional metaphor and transforms exotic odd rhythms and scales of Balkan traditional music into 4/4 meter as a representation of individual freedom, attesting the power of women to rise above traditional gender roles in modern Balkan society.

Derived from the Armenian expression for “I want,” Uzumem is a universal freedom song that speaks to the innate power we all have within to follow our dreams.

Fusing contemporary classical composition technique with modern jazz improv and circus folk, Hide’s waltz theme represents the masks that many women hide behind to fit into society’s prescribed roles and expectations.


The Music Action Collective’s “What If” is a sonic exploration of global cultures that features vocals and beats from the Balkans and Caucusus, hip-hop in four languages, contemporary pop, traditional Tanzanian folk, Afro-Latin rhythms, and jazz-inspired song forms and improvisations—addressing issues of gender inequality, human rights, neocolonialism, and more.




Inspired by the global human rights framework and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, What If is a call to each and every one of us to actively work, support, defend, uphold, and persevere to protect the fundamental rights of all. This melodic ballad integrates spoken word in the spirit of African-American civil rights leaders to both point to the possibilities of fulfilling the human rights mandate—while freely revealing its shortcomings without a legal mandate to uphold it.

Overlooked is an upbeat, uplifting representation of women in society—and the courage, strength, and resolve to face the indignity of discrimination and inequity with power and grace.

What defines—and who decides—the importance of an event, a person to be erected as a monument? In this haunting jazz-inspired groove, the odd meter challenges the concepts of monuments as physical structure, cautioning the celebration of war and violence over the fragility and transience of life.

Written as a tribute to Ghanian rapper Delasi Nunana, who was refused entry to the U.S. after his selection to the Music Action Collective, New Babylon speaks to the inequities intrinsic to the nation-state system, and the inequality between the rich and developing countries, the global North and the global South.

Agua is a love song—to water. The flowing melodies of cello, flute, and vocals interweave with Latin percussion elements to consider the most precious resource on earth as if she were our mother, lover, spouse, our friend.

This traditional folk harvest song from Tanzania, arranged by the Music Action Collective, is a percussive, upbeat, uplifting celebration of people working together as community to create safe, vibrant relationships and ways of living in unity.

The melodic lines of Right Again were created in a workshop with incarcerated men in San Francisco Jail #5, as part of Giant Steps’ Music Action Lab global music residency for social change. The funky hip-hop groove centers the song’s powerful statement on the American justice system, while the rap in French and Swahili speak to the shared human experience that underlies unlawful behaviors.

This Afro-Latin composition is a living testament of the power of preserving culture and heritage while embracing modernity and change through globalization.


“Foundation” is the debut album of Giant Steps Music. Rather than focus its musical and lyrical content on a single social issue or range thereof, this suite of ten boundary-breaking compositions, infusing hip-hop, Afropop, Pakistani folk, and Brazilian rhythms with jazz, contemporary, and Arabic music eloquently speaks to the foundation that underlies the essence of social justice: human values.



Over 30 years of ethnic discrimination that led to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda caused millions of deaths—and a loss of identity and belonging. Being Rwandan in exile became taboo, forcing many people to change their names simply to access basic services, like education and healthcare. This song is a reflection of lead singer Teta’s life journey as an exiled, orphaned Rwandan—a metaphor and message for millions of Rwandans—who has gained her freedom through music.

Imagine the world without music or imagine a world where we are told what to play, what to sing and even what we may listen to in the privacy of our own homes—that world already exists. This peaceful Pakistani folk song explores artistic censorship and provides an opportunity to show solidarity with artists all over the world to encourage artistic freedom and freedom from censorship locally and globally.

Beautiful is about the conflict between what society thinks of as beauty and how we perceive ourselves. It’s about believing that you are beautiful no matter how much pressure there is from the outside world to conform to a certain standard. By extension, self-acceptance and self-love becomes a metaphor and call to action for recognizing and respecting difference, and the shared humanity within all of us. It stands as a call for universal love and challenges oppression and discrimination.

Dance Joint is an anthemic song about letting go of your fears, your inhibitions, your perceived sense of limits, and embracing yourself and your inner, innate joy and creativity. It’s a meditation on enjoying the moment and celebrating the inherent joy of the human experience. Regardless of your socioeconomic background, the acknowledgement and gratitude of the present moment—and opening yourself to living fully within it—is central to leading a happy and healthy life.

Share is a plea for unity—sharing ideas, sharing richness, sharing our hearts, minds, and our resources to helping people who are less fortunate, such as those suffering from diseases and poverty. In many countries music is something that cures people from illness. That gives joy and hope for those who feel hopeless and restless. Music is a river that flows on regardless of the profits that make us shiver.

A melodic, haunting ballad, Life is a testament to the preciousness and fragility of life—its fleeting moments of joy and beauty, its transcience. The song is a tribute to the late Lucas Harashima, who was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal brain cancer, diffuse instrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), at age 5. The song brings us deep inside the human experience to discovery and retrieve what is truly important.

Build is an exploration of self and other through the challenge of violence, acts of injustice, and war—and how such threats to the relationships and lives we have built—test our character and resolve. In relationship, in community, we all must build a strong foundation for a healthy life and to realize potential, and often must continue to build and re-build during the hardest of times.

The world is rife with animosity, ignorance and hatred, and the only way to combat that is with love. The rhythmic cycle, 17 beats in length, is derived from the Morse code spelling of the word ‘love’. It moves through different “movements” to take listeners on a journey of seeing love from different angles and different lenses. Love can show itself in many ways. It is sometimes direct, sometimes confusing, and sometimes it can be lost in chaos, but it persists, and it triumphs.

Rubab master Farhan Bogra traveled nearly eight thousand miles not just with his musical instruments, but also with a bag full of tea and fresh cardamom, to be part of Giant Steps Music. Every morning he would prepare delicious Chai for anyone and everyone. After many epic Chai fueled jam sessions, King Cardamom was born. King Cardamom is a musical exchange between Farhan’s deep understanding of Pakistani traditional music and trumpeter Will’s eastern European.

Release is a story of self-discovery, self-affirmation and self-actualization—set amidst life’s highs and lows, it’s often those moments which challenge us most deeply that we become who we are meant to be.