At the end of a gruelling day of discussions at Cop28 on Sunday, the lights at Expo City Dubai dimmed as 13 singers arrived on stage to perform the charity single Lasting Legacy.
The official song of Cop28, now available on major streaming platforms, served as a rallying cry to delegates to put aside differences for the greater good of our planet. A music video will be released soon with all proceeds going to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee.
Performed in 12 languages, including the six official languages of the UN – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – the lyrics point to how meaningful change is made only through a collective effort.
"Lasting legacy, we all have our role to play," the chorus goes. "Now we can all make a change, for better ... together."
The international artists include Emirati singer Balqees, Saudi Arabia's Dalia Mubarak, Congolese pop star Gims, Indian actress Anushka Sen and Chinese pop group Boy Story.
Corralling all that talent together is Taymoor Marmarchi, the Iraqi-British music industry veteran who pulled off similar feats with Right Where I Am Supposed to Be, the official song for the Special Olympics World Games, hosted in Abu Dhabi in 2019; and 2011 charity single Tomorrow/Bokra, which features 24 Arab artists.
In an exclusive interview with The National, Marmarchi recalls receiving the commission from Cop28 advisory member and Emirati entrepreneur Badr Jafar six weeks ago.
“From the beginning, I was immediately focused because of the time frame,” Marmarchi says.
"And since the song needed to have that anthemic and global appeal we knew there was really one producer we should go to."
That person is RedOne, the Swedish-Moroccan producer and songwriter, who recorded the Qatar World Cup's official song Dreamers with K-pop star Jungkook.
With his services secured alongside Irish lyricist Pat Devine, the next step was to assemble the required talent.
"We began with the notion that the impact of climate change will be most felt in the global south and by that term I mean countries across the equator from South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East," Marmarchi says.
"So we wanted to find artists representing some of the countries from this area."
A positive aspect of such an approach, Marmarchi notes, is that he didn't have to spend valuable time searching for an A-list name.
"Going that route was not going to work because I would say the song would have taken on a more commercial feel," he says. "Also, we simply didn't have the time to go back and forth with agents."
Voices from the Global South
That said, the artists featured in Lasting Legacy have their own share of star power.
Gims is one of the biggest-selling acts in the Francophone market and has collaborated with the likes of Sting, Maluma and Sia.
Cantonese-singing Boy Story are viewed as China's answer to K-pop behemoths BTS with last year’s WW cracking the Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs charts.
Emirati singer Balqees is a dynamic artist, with songs ranging from polished Khaleeji folk to electro-pop while Mubarak is viewed as the next big name to follow from Saudi Arabia.
Different acts from different time zones and languages meant a methodical approach to building Lasting Legacy was necessary.
Lebanese lyricist Nizar Francis penned the Arabic words alongside Divine's English lyrics.
Other artists were entrusted to translate their parts in their respective languages.
"All parts were recorded in their countries and were sent back to me last week,” Marmarchi says. “Myself and the engineers then spent about 18 hours stitching the song together. We prioritised certain vocal sounds with different ranges to make sure it all just blends together well.”
With the project officially released and the live debut performance well received, Marmarchi is now beginning to catch his breath.
But was all that effort worth it, considering event anthems generally have a spotty record when it comes to becoming global hits?
“That’s not what we are doing it for," he says. "It’s more about unifying people from different backgrounds and cultures together for a cause and providing that sense of inspiration.
“I remember when we did Right Where I Am Supposed to Be for the Special Olympics, I had so many people call and message me saying how the song became a beacon of inspiration for them and gave them some hope in their own struggles.
“This is what music does. It transcends everything and its message will always shine through because it comes from the heart.”