The ability to listen, learn and contribute are 3 factors required in any form of dialogue. With music this happens naturally. The initiative ‘Jesser Al Wadi’ will focus on musical collaboration and education, working alongside Musicians, Politicians, Leaders and local people throughout the Middle East and the wider world. Projects will include collaborative concerts, discussions and educational workshops. Through my personal contacts with Governments and Institutions worldwide, I will build a foundation for the future based upon dialogue through music and trust.
I have seen, first hand, how music can bridge the divide between peoples. My role as a musician in the 80 or more countries I have performed in, has been one of facilitator, building trust and engaging local culture. In Bahrain, Shi’a and Sunni Muslims gathered in the same place for my concert with the Bahraini Pearl Divers in 1999. This was the first time that many of them had faced each other since the tensions of the 90’s. After a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia in 2004, music brought peace, healing and closure to many people in Al Khobar. In Afghanistan the Taliban banned all forms of music. Musicians were forced to burn their instruments publicly and take jobs as taxi drivers, shoe shiners and cleaners. In Kabul, people queued for hours amidst very high security to be able to attend my concerts with Afghan musicians. In North Korea I performed to 15,000 North Koreans over the space of 5 days. Presidents and World leaders are not allowed to address public gatherings in North Korea, but as a musician this is possible. The North Korean Government forces Military style music and propaganda in the streets via megaphones on a daily basis, songs in praise of their leader, Kim Jong Il. Why is music used as a tool to control certain societies? Because music gives us the space to dream, the desire to enquire and offers a platform for dialogue, to challenge and celebrate culture.
Kings have been known to have made inspired decisions during and after music sessions. In times gone by, the arts were integral to all levels of society from the lowest classes to the elite. I would like to see musical dialogue interact with Politics, Science and Education. Music and Politics have been separated over time, and we are learning once again, how to bring these two elements of dialogue closer together. In Helsinki I played a 20-minute concert during a Parliamentary debate on Education. The sense of relief and peace grew as the concert developed, giving people space to breathe and think. Imagine the implications of such a musical interval during the next nuclear debate with Iran?
The Gulf has seen economic growth like nowhere else in the world. In the West, the Arts are often the first area of study or practice to be financially compromised, which in reality is like cutting off the blood supply to the heartbeat of society. For decades, the Gulf has been a leader in terms of development and could also be the forerunner of creative peace initiatives, proving that it really is the heart of the Gulf. ‘Jesser Al Wadi’ has the potential to become the trademark in terms of Cultural Dialogue and will make a difference throughout the region and the wider world..