Freedom of expression in the music industry can be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, and in theory, it’s important for people to express themselves free of censorship. But not all expression is good or authentic. In fact, artists are often encouraged to do whatever it takes to cause a spectacle and sell records, concert tickets, merchandise, or whatever else is bringing in the revenue.
There’s a significant audience of people who don’t wish to view the kind of content that’s been manufactured for shock value and contains explicit messages or inappropriate visuals– people who are parents, or who simply uphold a system of morals that doesn’t include the kind of content present in today’s average music video or TV program.
It was with this audience in mind that the Ontario, Canada-based streaming platform ICTV Network was created. According to Salwa-Lauren, the voice of the streaming network, the purpose of ICTV Network is to bring people together and showcase true talent, bringing about a resurgence of morals-based art.
The morals that ICTV Network stands for are simple: fair treatment for everyone, the promotion of talent (rather than image), and upholding ethical standards, plus clean song lyrics and visual content that’s suitable for everyone. Through the network, viewers can enjoy music videos, talent programs, movies, documentaries, and much more– all suitable for the whole family.
The music industry has a very long history of valuing image over talent– there are countless artists who started their careers as “themselves” but weren’t able to get a real foothold without a complete change in image and lyrical content. ICTV Network’s aim is to change that.
One of the ways ICTV Network, and Salwa-Lauren, are challenging this all-too-frequent occurrence is through their current talent program IC Star. Created in a similar vein to shows like The Voice and The X Factor, IC Star is a search for talented individuals– but it differs from the other shows by virtue of its focus on morals.
Salwa-Lauren explains, “It gives talented people a voice, without making them compromise their values.” It’s also truly diverse, featuring talents from around the world– the 32 finalists who appeared on the show were from 28 countries. People from Canada, Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Zanzibar and more got the chance to showcase their talents on a global platform.
The judging panel for IC Star was also diverse, including globally-recognized musicians like Humood Alkhudher (from Kuwait), Ilyas Mao (from Canada by way of Somalia), Najam Sheraz (from Pakistan), Mesut Kurtis (from Macedonia by way of Turkey), and Salwa-Lauren, from the UK.
These judges were faced with the daunting task of choosing just 32 finalists from a staggering 60,000 applications. From those 32, they chose just 3 winners, all of whom have a bright future ahead of them thanks to the guidance they’ve received from the expert judging panel.
Judge Salwa-Lauren certainly has a lifetime of experience to impart to contestants. She’s a singer-songwriter who has toured the world and shared the stage with global superstars; she also holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts degree in Jazz music and has studied classical piano and vocals. She was also the vocal and percussion chair of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Great Britain, and has produced soundtracks for Bollywood and Asian films and TV advertisements.
The judges on IC Star are committed to discovering new talent and supporting up-and-coming stars in their careers while allowing them to remain true to themselves. Salwa-Lauren sums it up best, explaining “One of the best pieces of advice I could give is to be yourself, don’t try to fit in a box for someone else. If you write and perform from your heart, it will always be better.”