HEARTBEAT Releases Newest Song: Bukra Fi Mishmish

The Israeli and Palestinian youth of Heartbeat released their newest song Bukra fi Mishmish (Tomorrow When the Apricots Bloom), which is an idiom in Arabic for “when pigs fly.” It signifies when the impossible happens.

I am incredibly proud of the Israeli and Palestinian youth I worked and performed with during this song’s development and to see such a great final outcome. Mabrook! Mazal Tov!

Enjoy and check out the lyrics below!

Lyrics:
(Siwar)
Say what you want to say.
I just want to play.
Give me my violin.
Smile for a brighter day!

(Moody – in Arabic)
If there’s hope, the power to work, and art, then there’s life.
My lyrics can move mountains. There’s music and equality.
Without fear there’s no patience, ’cause you don’t know what you would lose.
(That means if you know what you’ll lose, you’ll get scared. Then you know you need to be patient.)
Tomorrow will be better! Try to create and believe, Yes YOU Can.
There’s the sun and its rays, yes there’s hope down here.
The moon and even a bit of light, there’s hope, even if it’s small.
An important step in your life is to hope.
Take your step towards change.
Make your anxiety disappear.
To be free, you have to liberate yourself!

(Guy – in Hebrew)
All day I’m looking through my window and I understand whatever is his is mine and whatever is mine is yours. We are supposed to even be brothers, but to me it seems that doesn’t really matter to you.
We’ll break down the walls, and take down the flags and then we’ll discover a world where everything is possible. When we understand that we’re all human beings then forever and ever we will be able to live.
We will be able to live!

BUKRA FI MISHMISH

A HEARTBEAT Production

Words and Music by:
Talia Ishai, Tahel Garion, Siwar Mansour,
Guy Gefen, Dekel Adin,
Moody Kablawi, Ami Yares,
Ziv Sobelman-Yamin, Hasan Nakhleh,
Yonatan Feiner

Performed by:
Guy Gefen: Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards,
Drum Programming, and Steel Drum
Moody Kablawi: Vocals and Claps
Siwar Mansour: Vocals and Violin
Dekel Adin: Recorder, Electric Guitar, Bass,
Saxophone, Vocals, Keyboards
Ami Yares: Oud
Tamer Omari: Darbukka, Drum Programming, and Claps
Aaron Shneyer: Drum Programming, Claps
Drums inspired by Ziv Sobelman-Yamin.

Directed and Produced by Aaron Shneyer

Additional music production by
Tamer Omari, Guy Gefen, and Dekel Adin

Special thanks to:
The Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Peace,
Noa Yammer, Tamer Omari,
Michal Gefen, Shoshana Gottesman,
Ami Yares, Jon Goldstein,
Am Kolel, Marcia and Ira Wagner,
Cheb Kammerer, Rob and EIleen Coltun,
Avi Salloway, Amitai Gross,
Luz Maria Uribe, Sarina Hahn, Jesse Kahn,
and all who have helped bring Heartbeat,
and specifically this song to life.

HEARTBEAT is an international community of musicians, educators, and students using music to build mutual understanding and transform conflict. Founded in 2007 under a grant from Fulbright and MTV, Heartbeat empowers Israeli and Palestinian musicians by creating opportunities and spaces for musicians from both sides to work together, hear each other, and amplify their voices to influence the world around them.
For more information, please visit: http://www.heartbeat.fm

Bukra Fi Mishmish

© 2012 Heartbeat | New Sound Foundation, Inc.

MusicIntervention Blog: An Adventure of Its Own

MusicIntervention blog is an educational, you-can-change-the-world, musical adventure for curious minds, grassroots practitioners, wacky theoreticians, and of course, music lovers of all kinds. As much as MusicIntervention serves these target publics, it is also an adventure for its writer: me! Without a doubt, I am more knowledgeable about the topic of music intervention than just a mere three months ago. Whether reading a phenomenal article about the power of music to strengthen a community or writing about music’s healing effects on peacebuilders and those traumatized by war, the words and phrases on the page become the building blocks of this new study.

Reaching a decision on what to discuss in these posts is not always straightforward. There are times that I stumble upon a perfect topic for exploration either by word-of-mouth, social media, or reading my daily collection of online newspapers. Other times, I begin to wonder if writing about a nightmarish masterclass experience from my past might be more informing than anything else appearing on my radar (yes, all musicians have sustained traumatic masterclass experiences and I’m not afraid to admit it anymore!). One of the nifty techniques that I use to avoid utilizing embarrassing experiences of mine as “educational material” is to send out Google Alerts every day for the following five search inquires: music and peace, youth empowerment, conflict transformation, music education, and music intervention. The results vary day to day, week to week, month to month. There are days where the level of good content is slim and other days where I cannot find the time to read all of the new articles and resources between my full-time job, practicing, spending time with my family, and having a bit of a life! Notice, I didn’t mention sleep.

Last Tuesday was one of those “slim pickin’s” days. None of the search engine articles were intriguing. Sighing to myself I wondered if I had hit the bottom of the Internet. What if there were no more music intervention youth empowerment and conflict transformation organizations out there that I hadn’t already found? As my bleary eyes skimmed Ha’aretz.com, an article sparked my attention. This article reported on an apparent youth empowerment music intervention school called the Silwan Ta’azef Music School. Ta’azef Music School, housed in the Madaa Creative Center (Madaa in Arabic translates to horizon in English), resides in Silwan, a controversial neighborhood right outside of Jerusalem’s Old City’s walls. What shocked me the most was never having heard of such a school after recently living over a half a year in Jerusalem. If I had known, there is no question that my viola and I would have visited!

The majority of Silwan’s population is Palestinian, with several pocket-fulls of Israeli settlers that live in highly fortified, secured compounds that were until recently Palestinian homes. These homes were either confiscated based upon the Absentee Property Law or sold to the Israeli settlers by Palestinian owners. All of the buildings are basically built on top of each other on the hilly, over-populated land. According to archeologists, it is believed that Silwan is also the location of the ancient city of King David. This is one of the reasons why Jewish settlement in the area is of high priority. To add to the mess, this land is technically a part of East Jerusalem annexed by Israel during the 1967 War. The annexation is deemed illegal by international law and the majority of the international community.

If you speak with government officials in the Jerusalem Municipality responsible for East Jerusalem Affairs, they will tell you that Palestinians (whom they call Arabs most of the time) predominately build without permits because they rather avoid paying taxes. If you speak with members of the Silwan neighborhood, they will tell you that they have tried to apply for permits to build houses and are always denied, hence they build without permits. As the adults bicker about these issues, the children of Silwan grow up in a very hostile place without children-friendly facilities, such as playgrounds, colorful murals, and even at the bare minimum, sidewalks. What a relief to know that at least Madaa is there!

After cutting and pasting in a quick Google Search, Madaa’s website popped up. Unbelievable! As I hurriedly passed through all of its pages and links, I was soon led to other music intervention organizations and then other music intervention organizations and then others. Let’s just say I hit the jackpot for a “slim-picken’s” Tuesday. If only every day could be that productive and full of good news.

And now I would like to introduce the six new music intervention organizations that have been added to the MusicIntervention Blog under Youth Empowerment or Conflict Transformation and two new blogs that can be found on the BlogRoll. Enjoy your perusing!

BlogRoll

Music Bus Goes Africa

Music Bus Goes Palestine (now called Music Bus Goes Middle East)

Youth Empowerment

Empty Vessel Music: Education, Appreciation, Intervention

Manhattan New Music Project

Manhattan New Music Project(MNMP) empowers youth in underserved communities, using the performing arts to develop essential life skills and achieve academic success. We build partnerships among artists, students, teachers and parents that focus on the creation and performance of new works.

Silwan Ta’azef Music School

Since October 2007, weekly music lessons are given by professional musicians to the children of Silwan. The music school offers an introductory course to music for children ages 4-12, and group instrumental lessons to children and teenagers.

The main concept behind the music school is to offer an outlet for creativity and emotions through the playing of music, and to support the personal and musical development of every child. All classes in the music school are held in groups, and much emphasis is given to social interaction and personal social development.

VH1 Save the Music

The VH1 Save The Music Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in America’s public schools, and raising awareness about the importance of music as part of each child’s complete education. Since its inception in 1997, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided $48 million in new musical instruments to 1,800 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of over 1.8 million children.

Conflict Transformation

Face to Face Interreligious Service-Pontanima Choir

Established in 1996, Pontanima is an interreligious choir based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is widely acclaimed as an innovative peacemaking project, a shining ambassador of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a major contributor to the cultural life of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The choir celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2006 in affirmation of the vision shared by the founding group of singers, who allowed themselves to hope in the future and dreamed that spiritual music could heal and reconcile the people of Sarajevo and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Musicians Without Borders

Musicians without Borders is an international network organization that uses the power of music to connect communities, bridge divides and heal the wounds of war and conflict.

Musicians without Borders initiates projects, develops methodologies and organizes concerts and international conferences on healing and reconciliation through music. Since its founding in 1999, Musicians without Borders has organized successful projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and the Middle East.

Musicians Without Borders UK (affiliate organization of Musicians Without Borders)

Musicians without Borders UK use music to reduce the stressful effects of war and to connect people across cultural, political and religious borders for peace and positive change. MwB UK is affiliated to the MwB International organisation founded in 1999 by Laura Hassler and a group of musicians in the Netherlands in response to the Kosovan war. Since then the network has grown with projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Uganda, Rwanda, the Middle East, the Netherlands, the USA and the UK.

Mitrovica Rock School (a project of Musicians Without Borders)

The Mitrovica Rock School restores rock music culture to the ethnically divided city of Mitrovica, Kosovo. Local musicians teach the city’s future rock stars. Throughout the region, the Mitrovica Rock School is known as an example of a new way to bridge cultural differences.

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I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

Meet the Challenge: Amplify a Community with Music

Meet the challenge. Amplify a community with music. Join GOOD March 15-29 by voting for the musical arts proposal with the potential to affect the most social change in a community.

GOOD is a multifaceted social change think-tank that simply “gives a damn.” Don’t worry, those are their words, not mine. According to their mission statement, “GOOD is a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward. Since 2006 we’ve been making a magazine, videos, and events for people who give a damn.” (GOOD) Their bedrock supports four platforms: News, The Magazine, Finder, Maker.

Recently, the GOOD Maker platform opened its gates to proposals of how the musical arts can improve and amazingly, do good, in a community. All submissions must be received by March 15 noontime. With 3 hours left and counting, 95 ideas are already posted awaiting your vote come the afternoon of March 15. Of course like any great idea, funding is necessary to implement the inspiration into action. GOOD is offering a $2,500 award to the proposal that accrues the most votes.

What is special about this modest initiative? Why the focus on music and the community? And where do the two intertwine to foster social change?

To start, GOOD in its marketing and social media savvy understands the “how-to” in presenting innovative concepts. By giving equal opportunity to every community member in proposing their dream concept, GOOD is placing the transformation of a neighborhood in the hands of its members. This furthers grassroots activism at the local level, and yet increases awareness at the national level. In fact, this is the type of enthralling, entrepreneurial platform needed in the arts. Though GOOD’s offering is modest, every penny counts in the music non-profit sector where the first budget cuts usually occur.

Now, why the focus on music and community? The linking factor comes down to communication. There are two definitions of the word communication. In its most familiar form, communication is understood as the sending and receiving of ideas over a distance in space. You send a Facebook message to your friend with a link to The GOOD Fund Challenge: Make Music. Your friend receives the Facebook message and responds in a Facebook message with the link to the proposal he or she will vote for. This is a “transmission view” of communication.

Another definition of communication is a much older version than the latter. In this definition, communication is defined not by the action of sending and receiving information in space, but rather the sharing of a communal act. This “ritual view” of communication is where music and community meet. Individuals communicate through the medium of music in the self-expression of their multiple narratives. As the audience responds to the extension of this message, the sender and receiver are sharing values and moments of meaningful “sound” together.

The sheer potency of this connection is intoxicating and at times life altering. Bolstering a community through the medium of music to improve or support a particular project has the potential of ultimately fostering social change. The remaining question is the rate of its effectiveness, which depends on two factors: the inclusiveness of the musical act and sustainability of the proposal.

Inclusiveness of the musical act refers to centering on overarching ideas that people can relate to and yield a parcel of ownership. This concept is based in protest music subculture. The purpose of protest music and collective singing is to build and empower social movements while framing the discourse to include as many constituents in the movement as possible. This tactic has surfaced as a component during the Civil Rights Movement in America, the New Song Movement in Latin America, and most recently during the Arab Spring Movement.

“This Little Light of Mine” Down on Wall Street, Zuccotti Park 10-29-2011

The Best of the Syrian Revolution, Homs, Syria 11-19-2011

“Collective singing reinforces feelings of belonging to a larger community, something larger than themselves and empowers activists to believe that they can ultimately affect change.” (Brooks 65)  The GOOD: Make Music proposals are not necessarily meant to protest a certain issue. The purpose is to mobilize a community to support a particular neighborhood or grassroots project.

Inspiration fostered by social activism does not only come from the initial act, but from its continued cultivation of relationships within a community. Without a sustainable project, initial community support may dwindle in face of stagnant amounts of change and lack of interactive, transformative elements. After all, empowerment does not occur over night even in the most promising of interventions.

Voting for the best suited GOOD: Make Music proposal will not be an easy choice. In arriving to a decision, keep in mind how well the project you choose can foster social change in a community, which constituents will be empowered, and if the overall proposal is sustainable. By voting for a particular proposal, you amplify a cause. Perhaps you will contribute to a child’s excitement in strumming the first chord on his or her own instrument, to an open-mic/jam session in a city park or theatre space, to music interventions in healthcare or inter-religious relations, etc. Meet the challenge. Amplify a community with music.

FYI: Luckily for us, we do not need to bother with nationally televised debates to make this vote!

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

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1. Brooks, Jeneve R. “”Peace, Salaam, Shalom”: Functions of Collective Singing in U.S. Peace Activism.” Music & Arts in Action 2.2 (2010): 56-71. Music & Arts in Action. University of Exeter, 2010. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://musicandartsinaction.net/index.php/maia/article/view/antiwarsongs&gt;.

2. Carey, James. Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. New York: Routledge, 1989.

3. “What Is Good.” GOOD. GOOD Worldwide, LLC. Web. 12 Mar. 2012. <http://www.good.is/company&gt;.

One Beat, With the Right to Many Narratives

“Art is not an option, it’s a right. That is what I’m working to change here” (El Nabawi).

Quoted in a recent article in thedailynewsegypt.com, Tony Kaldas, Egyptian singer and 2012 nominee for Music Prize in Time for Peace Music & Film Festival, begs into question the bounds of art as a societal change agent through the self-expression of narratives. At what point does the self-expression of the individual chafe against the status quo of the familiar in a community or government, and at what point does community or government infringe on the individual’s right to self-expression? How can music play a role in this relationship by serving as a medium of common ground for government, community, and the individual to explore the right to self expression of narrative(s)?

Based upon his artistry intertwined with humanitarian messages, Kaldas received the nomination for his song, “Anta Akhy (You are my brother).”  The song awakens the lyrics of famed poet and philosopher Khalil Gibran with Kaldas’s warm melodies.

Kaldas’s quote is one embedded with the Egyptian cultural scene in mind. By challenging the concept of religious observance utilized in society to construct one politically enforced truth,  the words of Gibran sung with Kaldas’s sweet voice unveil religion bringing those of different faiths closer in the moments of Egypt’s dire stand for justice. Each narrative highlighted in the song describes the varied practices of bowing in the mosque, praying in the church, and kneeling in the temple coalesced into a vision of one communal future.

     You are my brother and I love you.
     Both of us are sons of a single, universal, and sacred Spirit.
     For we are prisoners of the same body, fashioned from the same clay.
     You are my companion on the byways of life.
     You are my brother and I am in love with you brother.
     I love you when you bow in your mosque, kneel in your temple,
     pray in your church. (Gibran)
 

You may say that Kaldas is an optimist, a little drop of water in a big ocean full of uncontrollable elements. On the other hand, who empowered Kaldas to use the arts to foster transformational change? It is Khalil Gibran in expressing his right to the art of words. Thus, we can see that even a drop of water can produce ripples of change affecting the entire surrounding area. A successful pro-social effect is not stagnant; it must be fluid, connecting many. Music in its multiple forms can serve as a medium for this transformational change.

Let’s take this discussion to the next level. Instead of a singular stream of change, imagine many young musician activists from throughout the world joining in one place to create new music built upon each others’ narratives and shared ideals for a better world?

OneBeat, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recent partnership initiative with Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation, will foster an international music exchange encounter in the U.S. consisting of youth musicians (ages 19-35) from all over the world this September 2012. Lasting a total of 4-weeks, OneBeat will begin with a two-week residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida where the youth musician participants will “write, produce, and perform original music, and develop ways that music can make a positive impact on our local and global communities” (OneBeat). The last two-weeks will consist of a tour along the east coast from Florida to New York City. Besides public concerts, much of the citizen diplomacy element will be instilled by engaging workshops lead by the youth musician participants at cultural community centers along the way.

Sounding like “The Survivor” of all music experiences, sans being voted off the island or perhaps the “Musician Peace Corp” (which might just be the same thing according to some), what is required to make this initiative successful? How will the individual from Kyrgyzstan find his or her right to voice and narrative alongside individuals from Haiti, Hong Kong, Russia, the Czech Republic, Iraq, Panama, Mozambique, amongst  32 other nations? In order for participants to create a pro-social effect in American communities, and yet as well within the communities of their birth country, how and where should the drop of water fall into the big ocean? Advantageous, you ask? Indeed. None the less, success is possible beyond a doubt.

As in any diplomatic venture, creating an environment with a level playing field for each individual to express his or her narrative is crucial. Much like the curriculum of a music intervention program that empowers youth and transforms conflict, the State Department and Found Sound Nation will need to configure into OneBeat an infrastructure that challenges the youth musician participants to push beyond the familiar. The end goal cannot be to simply agree with the status quo, without question or exploration. Searching for the fine lines where dissonance transforms to consonance and consonance transforms to dissonance must be discovered musically and discussed interactively.

Here are 10 suggestions, according to week, to assist OneBeat in producing “a musical journey like no other” (OneBeat). Each suggestion is a summarized statement originating from an in depth curriculum (to access the entire curriculum, please contact me). Though not addressed in the descriptions below, the use of social media is an important facet that should be implemented for PR, networking, and communication.

Week 1

The purpose of the Week 1 is to:

  • Create a safe space for the youth musician participants to learn more about each others’ backgrounds and culture by listening to participants’ narratives.
  • Express personal ambitions, needs, and fears attributing from their narrative.
  • Adopt an interactive process of transforming initiatives that will help the group bond, exchange musical ideas, and converse pertinent social-action issues.

1. Warm Beginnings

Consider all of the possibilities to foster warm beginnings. This might be in the form of icebreakers, eurythmics, group dynamics, jam session, etc. Even one smile is contagious.

2. Partner When Composing the Social Agreement

Every participant must feel comfortable in expressing his or her voice musically and in group dialogue. By agreeing upon a “social contract” written in conjunction with the youth musician participants, every person is included in deciding the retreat’s immediate/long-term goals and methods of engagement. Producing a social agreement is crucial, yet will only prove fruitful if its contents embody the vision of the retreat elaborated by the participants.

3. Explore. Listen. Improvise. Share.

Remember the activity “show- and-tell” from your childhood? Though you may be older, this exercise is without shelf-life. This exercise can provide the perfect opportunity for each participant to introduce their narratives from ethnic and religious allegiances to social issues they care about. In addition, much of this could be discussed in dialogue groups under adherence to the social agreement. I suggest to take this exercise beyond dialogue by including a musical component as well to substantiate the dialogue. This could be in the form of sharing the melodies of one’s culture, the sounds of one’s favorite composer or band, tributes to artists most inspirational, amongst many other creative possibilities. The inclusion of a jam session would also be great.

Week 2

The purpose of Week 2 is to:

  • Build upon the exercises of Week 1.
  • Initiate intensive song writing and rehearsal.
  • Reflect upon the learning experiences thus far to add depth to writing songs and rehearsing.
  • Participate in masterclasses.

4. Adventures in Intensive Song Writing & Rehearsals

There are so many great song writing exercises that provide bonding opportunities, further “out-of-the-box” thinking, and not to mention, are a lot of fun. Once a song is drafted, rehearsing is necessary for accuracy and testing musical ideas. Though musicians may groan at the prospect of rehearsal, it is a repetitive bonding experience that can deepen relationships.

5. Round Table Discussions: Reflections Thus Far of Experience & Its Meaning

Providing time for reflection and group dialogue is essential for such an intensive experience. Participants will need space to digest the new realities they have created, which may be very different from what would usually occur in their birth country. To facilitate this process, I also suggest that each participant consider writing in a small journal to document and express their personal feelings and ideas.

6. Masterclass: Learn From Artists in the Field of Music Intervention & Performance

Masterclasses presume several goals in this case. One aspect is for the youth musician participants to observe well-known artists on stage in the moment. Experiential learning is important in music performance. Secondly, masterclasses provide a great opportunity for performance-practice and feedback from the guest artists and peers. This is also standard music performance teaching, and creates the youth empowerment attribute of putting participants “on edge” to produce an exhilarating outcome in front of their peers.

Week 3 & Week 4

Week 3 and Week 4 both focus on the tour, including public performances and workshops.

7. Grassroots in Action, With the Involvement of “Top-Down” Connectors

The performances and workshops are valuable products of the retreat. In planning, the organizers must strive to make these appearances highly accessible to all communities, and especially those represented amongst the participants. Grassroots, or bottom-up efforts, are meant to invigorate the people by involving them in the act of social change. The rural areas must not be forgotten. None the less, dignitaries, elected governmental officials, and key “top-down” connectors must be involved in a strategic way as well. Ask the question, “Who is our target public(s)?” and from there, set a date and a place for each event, with who to invite in mind.

8. Engage the Audience/Workshop Participants via Interactive Elements

The purpose of the concerts and workshops are not merely for an audience to listen to the presentation and then go home. Both of these community outreach events must be interactive! In other words, the transfer of information should not flow one way, but rather in both directions as in a musical dialogue. Additionally, explain how and why music can be used as a tool for social activism in reference to the newly premiered music written during the retreat, which could add another level of depth to the entire experience. Lastly, include interactive elements, where the audience can join the music-making as well. This might entail requesting audience feedback during the performance, using eurthymics during a workshop to describe a point, utilize a few of the short exercises from the retreat, live-streaming of both productions for watching-parties locally and internationally, etc.

It is also important to consider who is invited to decipher what type of interactive elements are required. For example, specifically invite the music educators of music intervention programs and their students to attend a workshop. Automatically, you know which types of exercises would be helpful for this group and skill level. It might be a good idea to distinguish which exercises are for a beginners group, advanced group, or even at a level the general public can grasp. As a general rule, come prepared with more, than less.

9. Personalize the Message

Though personalizing the message may sound hokey, this is how many audiences will connect with such an unusual project as OneBeat. Similarly to the performed music, bring light to the narratives that exist within the group of youth musician participants. Engender compassion, empathize, and humanize.

10. “Glocal”: Think Globally, Act Locally

After the retreat and tour end, the youth participants may feel like an entire world has been taken away from them as they return to their normal lives. This feeling can be devastating, without suggestion of how to encourage the same creativity and excitement created during OneBeat. Truthfully, the drive for social activism instilled by OneBeat is only part A of the bigger composition. What about part B, C, A1, or leaving the exposition entirely to enter the development? Like in peace education, this type of conflict transformation is successful via long-term goals, rather than short. Luckily, the Internet provides plenty of possibilities to continue the intercultural music exchange, despite borders and time zones. It would be great if OneBeat developed material that addressed the ways the youth participants can continue to share ideas, produce music together from afar, and coordinate local discussions and performances pertaining to their experience with OneBeat. The imparting of one’s narrative interactively through music can go a long way.

Good luck to the many young musicians across the globe auditioning for OneBeat. Remember, even the smallest drop of water will create a ripple effect transforming its surroundings. Every narrative counts; every beat counts. It is your right!

FYI: For more in depth explanation of each suggestion, e-mail me (shoshibee@gmail.com) with your comments, suggestions, and questions any time!

I attempt to cite all of the sources used in my writings and research as correctly as possible, so please adopt the same policy toward the works presented here and as well my own writings by citing this blog’s findings correctly. This blog is meant for sharing, not plagiarism. Thank you for your respect.

_______________________________________________________

1. El Nabawi, Maha. “For Tony Kaldas, ‘art is not an option, it’s a right'”Thedailynewsegypt.com. International Herald Tribune, 06 Feb. 2012. Web. 08 Feb. 2012. <http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/music/for-tony-kaldas-art-is-not-an-option-its-a-right.html&gt;.

2. Gibran, Khalil. “The Voice of the Poet.” 4umi.com. 4umi.com. Web. 24 Feb. 2012. <http://4umi.com/gibran/vision/5&gt;.

3. U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affiars. “OneBeat.”About. U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affiars. Web. 12 Feb. 2012. <http://1beat.org/&gt;.

Ignite the Light: The Jam Session

Imagine, it’s your first day meeting them. You remember the stories told in your childhood that taught you to never trust them. When passing in the street, you were strangers. While buying from the same grocery store, you were still strangers. From your birth in the same hospitals until this very moment, you were still strangers.

But here as youth, you both are finally in the same room face to face with only instruments and voices of all kinds in hand to distinguish one band member from another. No script is available. A count down of, “a one, a two; a one, two, three” signals it’s time to jump in. Sounds melt and mold together, soon to create a semblance of unified ideas. You improvise a line of music in the jam, and to your surprise, so can they, in fact, quite well. A smile appears on your face as you think to yourself, “Let’s see what else they can do. Let’s see what else we can do.”

Welcome back from the daydream! Though you were about to have the time of your life, alas I bring you back to reality to discuss further the power of: The Jam Session.

There is much significance in utilizing jam sessions as an exercise in music intervention programs. In my opinion, a “jam session” cannot be defined in one way, since every jam session holds its own purpose. A jam session could:

  • explore a certain sound, timbre, or feeling
  • search for the next section of a song
  • test the limits of an already established song
  • practice the technique of improvisation
  • challenge musicians by putting them “on edge” to produce new musical ideas on the spot
  • create a bonding experience to connect individuals

One could say that jamming has a place in the creation of most genres of music at least at some point. One genre in particular that places much importance in jam sessions is none other than jazz.

In late January, the importance of jam sessions was brought to light by the current “The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad” program’s resident musical group while on tour in Zimbabwe. Stated by drummer and band leader, Michael Raynor, of The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet,

“To a large extent, the greatest musicians in this music [jazz] learned how to play simply by playing with other great musicians, getting on the band stage and learning right on the spot, and being in there, the atmosphere, hearing players that maybe already know how to play and then stepping up and trying to play what you have learned so far, right in that setting.” (The Zimbabwean)

The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad program is co-organized by the U.S. Department of State and Jazz at Lincoln Center “to share America’s unique contribution to the world of music and to promote cross-cultural understanding and exchange among nations worldwide.” (The Rhythm Road) Essentially, the U.S. State Department is employing music intervention techniques that empower youth and transform conflict as a diplomatic track.

Interestingly enough, this format of outreach combines several tracks of diplomacy. At the top level, there is Track I Diplomacy: government-to-government interaction. At the grassroots level, there is Track II diplomacy: informal interactions by unofficial actors of civil society. In this case, the U.S. State Department and Zimbabwean government of Track I diplomacy are supporting citizen diplomacy  by using The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet as “cultural ambassadors” of Track II diplomacy.

Why did The Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet choose jam sessions, besides the inherent importance of jam sessions in jazz, for their workshops with Zimbabwean youth? What are the benefits of using jam sessions in a music intervention setting?

For a music intervention program to succeed, the youth participants must be “put on edge” to deliver an accountable product in front of their peers and family. This is why much emphasis is placed on the importance of providing frequent performance opportunities, besides the essential purpose of performance in music. Not only must youth participants feel challenged by the responsibility of producing an exhilarating outcome when placed in front of peers and family, but as well consider what is required to plan that success. Am I improving in my daily practicing? How can I implement the instruction from my teachers? Do I feel good about the sound I’m producing? What can I do to improve my ensemble while playing/singing/rapping? How do I feel about my fellow musicians? These questions must be identified and asked. Sometimes the answers are not fully discovered until the performance.

This is where jam sessions can serve the benefits of in-the-moment, interactive music making. In the same fashion as a performance, jam sessions will put youth participants “on edge” to produce an accountable product on the spot, while flexing their creativity.When applied in a setting of conflict transformation, the results are of high-potential  with the ability to ignite further engagement and reconciliation. Many youth involved in peace education who have participated in a jam session identify the experience as memorable, enlivening, meaningful, and of course, a whole lot of fun! They speak of an energy created immediately upon playing music together, and the surprise of how easy it is to musically interact with the “other”. By the end of the jam session, the conflict’s uneven plain dividing society is muted in comparison to an established space of equality. Subsequently, an individual is not initially recognized with the prescribed title of ‘Type A’ or ‘Type B’, but rather entrusted with the same inalienable humanistic needs for security and prosperity.

Want to know more about the Dennis Luxion + Michael Raynor Quartet and their travels? Check out their blog: http://michaelraynor.net/dlmr4/
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1. “Commonly Used Terms.” Search for Common Ground. Search for Common Ground. Web. 06 Feb. 2012. <http://www.sfcg.org/resources/resources_terms.html&gt;.

2. “Letter from Jazz at Lincoln Center.” The Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad. Jazz at Lincoln Center. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://jalc.org/theroad/about_letterfromjalc.asp&gt;.

3. Staff Reporter. “Jam Sessions a Big Part of Jazz Education: U.S. Jazz Quartet.” The Zimbabwean. Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwea, 30 Jan. 2012. Web. 31 Jan. 2012. <http://www.thezimbabwean.co.uk/entertainment/music-and-dance/55912/jam-sessions-a-big-part.html?utm_source=thezim&utm_medium=homepage&utm_campaign=latestarticles&gt;.

Peace-building with Music for the Peace-builders

Peace-building is a transformative process that requires daily objectives met with long-term goals. Though the gun shots may have ceased, bitterness and distrust between communities in conflict can be a narrative just as strong as before. Those who dedicate their lives to peace-building search for ways through which a post-conflict atmosphere transforms into a sustainable, equitable future for all parties involved. Many times, peace education, community engagement, interfaith relations, economic incentives, etc., are all utilized to establish democracy, equality, and social justice in the adjusting society.

In case you are wondering, it is no easy job! As my good friend and peacemaker Aziz Abu Sarah always says (in summary), “You have to wake up every day and decide that you will continue to do this work.” His statement is not one of reluctance and dismay. No. His invigorated words are those of determination and hope.

It is true that peace-builders devote their lives to the improvement of society. Still, do peace-builders need to consider the importance of building peace introspectively? In light of the allegiance to altruism, how should peace-builders consider their needs and continue to be altruistic? Let me introduce you to Reverend Donald Reeves who utilizes the music of J.S. Bach to heal and alter the way he sees his world as a peace-builder in the Balkans.

“During ten years of peace-building in the Balkans, I have been nourished by the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, particularly his organ music, which I perform. Playing his music is helping to change the ways in which I see the world. It redresses the balance from a bleak view of human affairs to a saner and more hopeful perspective.” Rev. Donald Reeves (“Peacebuilding and Bach”)
 

Rev. Reeves is a practitioner in a peace building initiative bringing together Orthodox Serbs in the monasteries  of Pec and Decani with Kosovo Albanians in the surrounding area to strengthen inter-religious, inter-ethnic, and inter-cultural understanding. He concludes that Bach’s music has assisted him during the course of his work. Beside the technical details of visiting the organ every practice session to work on advancing its production for performance and musicality with such concentration and emotional acuteness, Rev. Reeves relates to Bach’s life story.

” Bach’s life was punctuated by the devastation of death. Orphaned at the age of ten, thereafter one member of his family died after the other. So much of his music expresses a long­ing for death, as if his death were a way of escaping his grief and of being reunited with those he has loved. I can relate this to the longing and hope for peace, for union with God.” (“Peacebuilding and Bach”)
 
 

What is it about the practice and performance of music that is so meditative and cleansing to the mind and the soul? Beyond the feelings expressed, there is scientific evidence that proves music’s intoxicating effect.

Scholars at McGill University completed a study in 2011 stating, “our experience of the music we love stimulates the pleasure chemical dopamine in our brain.” (“Turns Out Music Is Really Intoxicating, After All”) Scientists tested subjects with MRI imaging while they listened to a song they loved that created ‘chills’ or ‘musical frission’ and as well, while they listened to a song of neutral response. Then by looking at the brain patterns created during the imaging, scientists “identified  dopamine streaming into the striatum region of their forebrains ‘at peak emotional arousal during music listening’.” (“Turns Out Music Is Really Intoxicating, After All”) Thus, the human brain reaches a musical high.

The participants, who answered an advertisement to undergo the study and were checked for mental illness before hand, were requested to also keep tract of: the number of chills, the intensity of chills, and level of pleasure they felt during certain passages. These observations were then matched to the brain patterns in the imaging. The writers of the study concluded,

“If music-induced emotional states can lead to dopamine release, as our findings indicate, it may begin to explain why musical experiences are so valued. These results further speak to why music can be effectively used in rituals, marketing or film to manipulate hedonic states. Our findings provide neurochemical evidence that intense emotional responses to music involve ancient reward circuitry and serve as a starting point for more detailed investigations of the biological substrates that underlie abstract forms of pleasure.” (“Turns Out Music Is Really Intoxicating, After All”)
 

In my personal experience as well, the listening, practice, and performance of music creates a space and intensity of feeling beyond the justice of words. I find certain genres and composers more stimulating at times than others, though as Rev. Reeves, I can always turn to Bach. One of my previous music teachers explained to me in a lesson that the little bit of space between Man’s finger reaching out to G-d’s finger in the painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel can be filled with Bach’s Chaconne.

There are many tough choices peacebuilders face every day that have nothing to do with their own well-being. Some burnout eventually. Others may continue, but do so unhealthily while resorting to releases that may not support their desired lifestyle or reflect their public image. It is a struggle we all face, no matter peacebuilder, community leader, music director, activist, etc. Undoubtedly, this includes music intervention practitioners,  affecting their success rate in teaching music, empowering youth, and transforming conflict.

Out of all the daily tough choices, the inclusion of oneself in the process of healing should not be withheld. My choice of healing is through the power of music.

  1. Lasar, Mathew. “Turns out That Music Really Is Intoxicating, after All.” Ars Technica. Conde Nast Digital, 18 Jan. 2011. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/01/turns-out-that-music-really-is-intoxicating-after-all.ars&gt;.
  2. Reeves, Rev. Donald. “Peacebuilding and Bach.” Transconflict. Transconflict, 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Jan. 2012. <http://www.transconflict.com/2012/01/peacebuilding-and-bach-231/&gt;.

A Language for the Unspeakable

In describing a situation of conflict, words detailing traumatic events can be hard to find. The thoughts and feelings evoked by the conflict may remain dormant for many years when no language of words exists to reflect upon the experience! How do we create a language for the unspeakable?

Professor John Paul Lederach of the University of Notre Dame explains how to create a language for the unspeakable, among other conflict transformation topics, in his recent radio interview  with NPR reporter with Krista Tippett, “The Art of Peace.”

To listen to the full podcast, please click here.

The highly praised work of Professor Lederach deserves a closer look for its encouraging contributions to music intervention theory that empowers youth and transforms conflict. This is apparent in his compelling interview.

After discussing the abstract of creative process in peacemaking, Lederach points to a very common human behavior that is within the realm of the familiar: habit. It is the shpilkes* of human behavior, where an individual constantly repeats a cycle of actions sans conscious decision. Routine may get a bad rap as signaling a lack of change or imagination, yet what if we alter our thinking of what constitutes routine? Ledearch gives an example in the interview of what he jokingly says to his colleagues about attending mass,

“Imagine for a moment if the funding agencies were coming here to Notre Dame and were inquiring about your behavior that they are noticing, which is that you keep doing mass, some of you every day, most of you at least once a week- is there something that is not effective about how you’re doing mass?

With this example, Lederach identifies a repetitious human action that is not linear with steps 1, 2, & 3. Rather, it is ritualistic and circular. Instead of thinking of a circular motion as inert going no where, he describes it as “a deepening.” Imagine a corkscrew. Its shape is circular but not static. Lederarch continues by stating that music or sound falls into this category of ritualistic, circular “deepening”. This is where we can find a language for the unspeakable.

There are many ways to define what music is on the basis of its multiple identities. One fact that musicians, educators, and theorists can agree upon is that when the sound is, as my mom calls it, pulled out from an instrument, the body of the instrument vibrates. In particular with string instruments, if you place the bow on the string (let’s say at the Frog which is at the bottom of the bow) and pull a long down-bow stroke rubbing against the string until the bow’s tip and then take the bow off the string, you can see the string vibrating in a circular motion. If a person placed their fingers on the backside of the instrument during the stroke of the bow, he/she would feel the instrument slightly vibrating. The vibrations give feeling.The repetition of doing this movement over and over again creates sounds of consonances and dissonances forming melodies and motifs in a piece of music.  The ritualistic practice of playing the instrument every day actualizes a circular pattern of action or habit.

Lederach claims that violence numbs an individual “destroying a person’s capacity to perceive themselves as an integrated part of a whole.” (“The Art of Peace with John Paul Lederach”) Playing an instrument, singing, raping, humming, etc., creates a means of expression that can not only help a person awaken through feeling, but as well find a means to express experiences and emotions for which there are no words. Lederach calls it a “whole body experience” that “connects the mind and the heart” towards healing and reconciliation. (“The Art of Peace with John Paul Lederach”) This holistic approach creates a language for the unspeakable.

You can guess what the next two books are on my reading list!

  1. The Moral Imagination– John Paul Lederach
  2. When Blood and Bones Cry Out– Angie Lederach & John Paul Lederach

“The Art of Peace with John Paul Lederach.” Interview by Krista Tippett. On Living. NPR. KUHF, Houston, Texas, 12 Jan. 2012. Radio.

*Shpilkes is a Yiddish word that describes the nervous movement that one does unconsciously when speaking in front of a crowd. For ex.: the unconscious swaying back in forth from one foot to the other while speaking in front of the classroom.