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Interview: Art Department's Jonny White Talks New Music Against Animal Cruelty (MAAC) Charity

Jonny White dishes on his new charity using music to help endangered species
Jonny White

Human activity is dramatically changing the world and the ecosystem that we and other life forms live in. Countless species have gone extinct from issues linked to human activity in some way or another. Art Department’s Jonny White wants to try and remedy that by starting his own charity Music Against Animal Cruelty (MAAC) with the help of music industry veteran Wade Carwood and Tears for Tigers founder Jack Baucher. Before a launch party for the charity tomorrow in Kenya, we were able to chat with White about the charity, his love for animals and what his goals are for MAAC.

The charity will curate high-profile music events to link music performers and fans with organizations to try and save endangered species. Tomorrow, July 1, White will celebrate with an official launch party at The Alchemist Bar in Nairobi. All of the proceeds from the night will go to The Lions Guardians Foundation, which aims to find a long-term solution to cohabitation between lions and human.

MM: When did the idea for MAAC first spring up and when did you and your partners start to really make it a reality?

As silly as it might sound, the idea really just came out of a couple of conversations that Wade and I shared over a barrage of news articles depicting various types of animal cruelty that we had both seen on Facebook. I think we both just noticed each other commenting on the same articles and realized we had this frustration in common. The unrealistic idea of joining some type of anti-poaching team or something so that we could take out our anger on them was sort of the joke that lead to more serious conversation about more realistic ideas that weren’t going to land us in jail or get us killed.

Shortly after that we created the Facebook page MAAC and began working on getting the charity set up which was quite a process. As we did more research and began to educate ourselves we realized that we needed someone onboard who had more hands on experience and who was educated in the field of wildlife conservation so we were very fortunate to have Jack Baucher of Tears For Tigers become interested in what we were doing and join the team.

MM: What is your goal for the charity?

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Our goal is to support wildlife conservation and initiatives against animal cruelty in any way we can really. Ultimately the idea is to rally the support of the music industry and culture at large and raise substantial amounts of money that will allow us to fund major projects that can make a huge difference. For now, as we build the foundation for that were looking to our segment of the music industry for support and work on some grass roots initiatives that will create a lot of awareness amongst electronic music fans and artists.

I was actually overwhelmed by the positive response we’ve had since the pre-launch panel that we did at IMS Ibiza. I was expecting to really have to dig in and set up meetings with all of my peers in order to explain the MAAC Ambassador program to them and whey they should want to get involved. But since the panel and news release I’ve just been fielding calls and emails from everyone asking me how they can get involved, so that has been hugely reassuring that this is going to be successful.

MM: Why are you choosing Kenya as the first place to have an event?

There are many reasons. Obviously Kenya is home to a ton of wildlife, and many species have been persecuted for years as a result are now dangerously low in numbers. Obviously that isn’t a situation exclusive to Kenya. Kirsten Trophy, a safari guide and owner of The Nile Culture introduced me to the promoters of the event, ‘Midi Minds Kenya’, who were really eager to do a show and 100% behind the idea of using the event to promote the charity and act as a fundraiser here.

One of the other reasons was that they have several organizations here such as Lion Guardians (which is where all proceeds from this event will go to), LEWA and the Borana Conservancy, who take conservation very very seriously, and I wanted to come down here and learn about what they’re doing and how these initiatives might differ from those in South Africa, which I was able to visit and learn a bit about on my last trip.

MM: What were some of your favorite animals growing up?

Growing up? I don’t really know. I only had the opportunity to have relationships with dogs growing up so I loved dogs. That’s actually kind of a funny question because it raises another point. So many of these wild animals who live here and whose populations are diminishing feel so far away for most people and children, that they basically become something of fairytale for them in Western civilization. They know of them through storybooks, movies, or worse, zoos. That in itself cultivates this disconnect that ultimately leads to this passive attitude about the animal’s need for help.

For example, it’s why people are so shocked and outraged when they hear of dogs being mistreated versus a rhino being poached. It’s a different kind of feeling because we see these animals that are more familiar in a different light. Of course any compassionate person sees the horrible tragedy in a rhino being killed for its horn, but there is a different emotion attached to the abused dog for so many, and I include myself in that group prior to educating myself just a bit about what’s going on here. I think that’s one of the reasons its important to get down here and connect with this reality, because that is exactly what it is. This is actually everyone’s reality. 

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