In Action: Hanson helps children in Africa

By Kevin Hollander


Published: May 6, 2008

Updated: 05/05/2008 07:25 pm

When it comes to fighting poverty and AIDS in Africa, the band Hanson doesn't just talk about doing something to help -- they actually do it. And the musical group is encouraging their many fans to do the same.

"Young people have huge power," said Taylor Hanson, 25, the middle brother. "The goal is to talk about the basic needs of children in Africa -- access to clean water, education, medicine and specifically even to a pair of shoes." Before Hanson's concert at the Carolina Theatre in Durham on Wednesday, brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zack will lead fans on a one-mile barefoot walk, as they do before each of their concerts.

But "The Walk" (which also happens to be the title of their latest album) is no publicity stunt. The brothers are involved in fundraising for the cause.

After a visit last year to Mozambique and South Africa, where they a recorded track for The Walk album with a local children's choir, Hanson partnered with TOMS Shoes, a California shoe company.

"Every time you buy a pair of their shoes, they donate a second pair to a child living in extreme poverty in Africa," Taylor Hanson said. "Our goal has been to invite people to join us for one-mile barefoot walks. As you walk barefoot, you recognize this ability to make an impact, and you understand that a pair of shoes can really change a life." Isaac, Taylor and Zack Hanson were 16, 15 and 11 respectively when they entered the international music scene in 1997, although they first appeared professionally five years earlier in their hometown of Tulsa, Okla.

Hanson has since matured musically and navigated vast changes in the music industry. In 2001, they left Island Def Jam Records and to form their own label, 3CG Records, named for the three-car garage in which they first rehearsed.

Concertgoers in Durham will experience what Hanson believes is a key to their continued success 10 years after their debut.

"The live touring is just so important (to our longevity)," Taylor Hanson said.

"Our concerts are eclectic. We play everything from the first record to brand new songs," he said. "And we'll throw in covers that show our influences, such as U2, Otis Redding, Radiohead or Lenny Kravitz."

Hanson approaches concerts by keenly understanding the task at hand, and having plenty of fun doing it.

"The biggest thing about our shows is we really believe it's about getting people going, getting people involved," Taylor Hanson said. "When people see that you are enjoying yourselves, that you are creating a head space that is different, then they feel like they can do that. That's our job -- to let people come in and walk out charged."

Hanson's own "walk" to relieve poverty and cure AIDS continues 24/7. Proceeds for iTunes downloads of their new single, "Great Divide" are donated to a hospital in South Africa.

For Hanson, whether in the live shows, or the charitable work, it's all about getting people involved.

"Everybody has the power to make a difference by taking simple actions," Taylor Hanson said. "We have music, but everyone has something they can use."

¦ Kevin Hollander is a sophomore at Mount Tabor High School.