Make Music, Not War – I

New York, July 27, 2014. Luckily, like most of us – I never had to experience any war zone or heinous crime directly – but the last two weeks probably there were some of the most depressing and horrific events featured in the news one after another, with no end in sight….and all of those caused by the barbarism, territoriality and deliberate cruelty of humans. Large number of pedophiles working in children’s amusement parks, the never-ending Middle East conflict, more murder/kidnappings in Mexico, child rape in India, the new horrors in Ukraine – and then as the finale – the horrendous Malaysian airline shooting due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. 

If some universal force or system of justice existed (and it does not – no matter how much some self-soothe through the placebo effect of a non-existent entity) then instead of peaceful citizens, innocent children on the beach, the AIDS researchers on the plane, and the countless individual and collective innocent victims who died of murder, war, missiles and rapes, it’s the murderers, kidnappers, pedophiles. fanatics, violence-provoking fundamentalists and cold blooded killers who should have died instead.

No man/woman is perfect (and even our so-called “great leaders” or “saints” have had appalling personal failures and hypocrisies especially when it came to their sex-life hypocrisies or messiah-complex ruthless narcissism) but in the last few days that saying by Mohandas Gandhi (who alas, also had some lapses in his public preaching vs. his private weaknesses) keeps running in my head: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And then that inner Seinfeld/Monty Python part of me thinks – well, logically if that quote’s taken literally- if it’s “an” eye, that will just leave tons of one-eyed people – with eye patches, and they won’t quite look or feel like Sir Stuffington (see link here)…….. and then I find myself looking at the faces of puppies, kittens, baby animals and baby humans, and flowers – to remember there is still such innocence and beauty in the world……..which, for petty reasons, the miserable destroyers of peace and life wish to take away…

A gentle little bunny reaches out on my lap at an animal farm in Wisconsin.

A gentle little bunny reaches out on my lap at an animal farm in Wisconsin.

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Make music, not war.

And so, it is with a heartening sense of relief that I find myself (since the summer of 2012) being heavily involved in a wonderful world music project started by jazz/metal/world/any-style guitarist Alex Skolnick.

What had begun as an idealistic, optimistic and genuinely concerned project about environmental and social issues and bridging the gap between different countries, cultures and topographies through music – and which was first showcased in Union Square in NYC on June 21,2012, in the annual Make Music festival on summer solstice day – has now grown into an exciting saga, with nearly 30 diverse musicians from all over the world joining in and contributing to musical tracks with traditional instruments and rhythms which Alex has incorporated in his compositions.

I have been both elated and exhausted documenting the project, discussing musical ideas and line-ups, designing the upcoming album cover, sitting in the recording sessions and editing process and very excited at how this project has grown into something truly global in line with its initial goal.

This summer in Union Square, as there was another performance with a limited set of musicians, the crowds went wild and there was joyous dancing to the melodies. We now have stellar and multi-award winning musicians (including a legendary drummer from Cuba, a renowned Palestinian oud player, an eminent Israeli percussionist, a Grammy winner who played along side Yo Yo Ma and a two-time Indo-Canadian Juno award winner who is renowned for her vocal chops, as well as a dynamic guitar duo who have played for President Obama himself) among the many musical artists ranging from countries such as Argentina, India, Turkey, China, Mexico, Mali, Israel, Palestine, Cuba and the Balkan region who will feature in the project.

Good music is truly healing and brings unity in diversity like no other tool. Why can’t we all make music, not war? Why can’t we celebrate our musical diversities and soak in its beauty and creativity instead of the digging deeper of discord and disparities which lead to so much violence and destruction?

In the coming weeks and months a lot of my focus will be on this project, besides the time and energy that goes in my day job as an architectural/interior/landscape planner and designer.  So I will have to meld my projects into this blog and will feature some of the videos from the project Planetary Coalition. There is still time to support the project through our ArtistShare website http://www.artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6 or directly contact Alex or me if you’d like to help us out. Or at most, even get the word around.

The following video features a rehearsal with renowned Kora player Yacouba Sissoko of Mali who has played with stalwarts like Paul Simon, and Harry Belafonte among others. The final recording (not featured here, where he also sings) is one of my favorite tracks from our upcoming CD.

These videos are very exclusive and have not been released yet to a larger audience as we are waiting to do so after the release of the CD. But since I made them, I am showcasing it in a very limited platform through this blog, as a glimpse of what is taking shape.

More importantly – these are about documenting how musical melodies take place, the dynamic between the artists and the process that goes into the making of a finished product, from rehearsals to recordings. It’s more the behind-the-scenes look at the process of music-making rather than the smooth, CGI-effect “final product” of a music video. And there will be others featured in the coming weeks with other artists. Spread the word about the project and the upcoming CD, and as mentioned above with the link – there is still time to support the arts!

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Once again, make music, not war.

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