Italian concert raises euros 1m for Sri Lanka's conflict and tsunami victims

A star-studded concert featuring Italian artistes like Andrea Bocelli, Claudio Baglioni and Zucchero has raised 1 million euros for the UN refugee agency's assistance to people affected by the conflict and tsunami in Sri Lanka.

Claudio Baglioni accompanying a children's choir at the "Music for Asia" concert in Milan.   © UNHCR/V.Di Cillo

MILAN, Italy, March 22 (UNHCR) - A star-studded concert featuring Italian artistes like Andrea Bocelli, Claudio Baglioni and Zucchero has raised €1 million for the UN refugee agency's work for victims of the conflict and tsunami in Sri Lanka.

On Monday night, "Music for Asia: Not to Forget" drew a galaxy of Italian stars together for the first time to raise funds for a humanitarian crisis. Some 10,000 people turned up at the FilaForum of Assago in Milan to support the event, which was organised by Media Friend.

Singer Antonella Ruggiero said, "The tsunami was a dramatic event that hit the sensitivities of everyone, including artistes. That's why we felt we had to help not only as individuals, but also to get together and help in a bigger way."

Among the highlights of the three-hour concert were a piano and guitar duet by Bocelli and Mario Rejes, and a virtual duet by Zucchero and the late Miles Davis. The artists, who also included Alexia, Biagio Antonacci, Gigi D'Alessio, DJ Francesco, Negrita and Velvet, were accompanied by an orchestra conducted by maestros Fio Zanotti, Lucio Fabbri and Peppe Vessicchio.

A video reportage shot in northern Sri Lanka was screened during the concert, giving the audience a glimpse of the situation on the ground - the destruction and how people doubly hit by the conflict and the December 26 tsunami are trying to rebuild their lives.

"We met families who had just returned home after years of displacement, only to see their houses washed away by the waves. It was so sad," said UNHCR's Laura Boldrini, who just returned from a mission to Sri Lanka.

She added that the funds raised will help support the most vulnerable people hit by both the conflict and the tsunami, specifically on projects involving shelter, medical assistance, legal assistance and reconciliation in Jaffna, Trincomalee and Ampara districts.

By the end of the concert, €1 million had been raised through ticket sales and donations through credit cards, SMS and landlines. "It was quite revolutionary how the small donations through SMS and phones expanded the width of our donor base," said UNHCR's Lionello Boscardi.

"This first joint effort between UNHCR and Media Friends was very successful and we hope to continue such cooperation in the future," said Boldrini. Media Friends is part of Mediaset, the media group owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Anna Tatangelo and Gigi D'Alessio were part of the star-studded event.  © UNHCR/V.Di Cillo

The Sri Lankan Ambassador to Rome ended the evening by thanking the artistes and audience for supporting his compatriots.

The UN refugee agency has been in Sri Lanka since 1987, assisting people uprooted by the civil conflict and more recently, those displaced by the tsunami.

Andrea Bocelli (left) and Mario Rejes performing a duet for victims of the conflict and tsunami in Sri Lanka.  © UNHCR/V.Di Cillo