Play It from the Heart, Play It for Change

30 04 2009


How many times have I said in this blog that art heals? That when politics fail, art can bring people back to the light? I think I’ve said it a little too many times. But I’m going to bring it up again in this post.

Playing for Change is a multimedia organization, with a non-profit branch, that believes in unity through music; peace through music.

The idea came up four years ago by a few Californians. Today, they roam the streets of the world looking for musicians from all different backgrounds to join their movement, putting together CDs and DVDs and donating money to music advancement (whether through schools or just a helping hand for individual musicians).

Here are some powerful words from the organization:

“The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world.”

Bono is one of the 40 musicians and participants that are part of this project. They have musicians from so many countries: from Nepal to India to South Africa to Ghana to Italy to Spain to Argentina, all the way to Michigan, U.S.A.

And guess what, there is beautiful Tula from Tel Aviv, The Edward Said Conservatory for music in Bethlehem and the Nazareth Orchestra from Nazareth

The curious thing is that most of these musicians have never actually met. How about a joint concert in all areas of conflict, seriously? 

You can buy their album “Songs Around the World” on iTunes, Amazon and their official website.

Check out their video.. really. And if you want HD videos, go to their website. This is really cool stuff.


Strings of Freedom Disbanded

29 03 2009


Strings of Freedom - AP

Strings of Freedom - AP

I suppose that the international hype over a Palestinian youth orchestra performing for Holocaust survivors last Wednesday was not matched by Palestinian enthusiasm.

On March 25th, a group of 13 young musicians from the Jenin Refugee Camps in the West Bank performed for Holocaust survivors in the Israeli city of Holon. It was part of the annual “Good Deeds Day” celebration. See my post “Yes, We Can Do It Through Art.”

A friend alerted me to a follow-up article in the New York Times, about anger among Palestinians in Jenin over this “exploitation” of children. The anger was strong enough to disband the group, and ban the conductor, Arab-Israeli Wafa Younis, from the camp and the apartment where she taught.

News sources report that Holocaust denial is common among Palestinians. The anger here, stems from the idea that performing for Holocaust survivors represents an acknowledgment that undermines Palestinians’ own plight caused by Israel.

This is idiotic chaos.

People seem to be competing over who suffered more; who has more right to be acknowledged. It was a musical performance. The point was to bring people together through music, not politics. Those Holocaust survivors must have learned something about the Jenin Refugee Camps and the harsh life in it, and those young Palestinians must have learned something about the suffering of Jews and those who survived it.

The real victims here are the young students who gave much of their time and passion to Strings of Freedom. The Palestinians have effectively punished their own.

We need more brave acts like that of Wafa Younis and the Holocaust Survivor Center organizers. Acknowledging and sympathizing with the Jews who have suffered DOES NOT negate or undermine the suffering of Palestinians. It is NOT an either-or situation.