Pro­mot­ing peace through the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of Mu­sic

The Myanmar Times - - Metro - NANDAR AUNG

Mu­sic is a uni­ver­sal lan­guage that is un­der­stood by peo­ple speak­ing in dif­fer­ent tongues. And for four years now, a group of in­ter­na­tional per­cus­sion­ists have been play­ing in Myan­mar to pro­mote peace and un­der­stand­ing among the 135 eth­nic groups in the coun­try.

Ini­ti­ated in 2015 at the Na­tional Theatre, “Gongs and Skins” – an in­ter­na­tional per­cus­sion project – brought mu­sic and eth­nic di­ver­sity to­gether through in­stru­ments, lay­ing down a marker for way they think mu­sic should be played. This year, from Novem­ber 8 and 12, they will en­ter­tain Myan­mar ci­ti­zens in open air con­certs with the un­tir­ing and un­wa­ver­ing mes­sage of peace.

Their per­cus­sions will be pre­sented to the peo­ple of Yan­gon and Hpa-An in a fresh per­for­mance that is ex­pected to be both en­ter­tain­ing and at the same time ed­u­ca­tional. The Myan­mar tra­di­tional Hsaing Waing and eth­nic per­cus­sion in­stru­ments will lead the in­ter­na­tional team, which fea­tures per­form­ers from Asia, Africa and Europe.

Ger­man per­cus­sion artist and artis­tic di­rec­tor of the project, Pro­fes­sor Bern­hard Wulff told a press con­fer­ence on Mon­day that the project will bring a lot of sur­pris­ing mu­sic that no one has ever heard be­fore.

“Cul­tural di­a­logue is more im­por­tant than ever to­day” Wulff, who leads the mu­si­cians, told re­porters. “We can find a fam­ily of per­cus­sion­ists from around the world and it’s very easy to com­mu­ni­cate even if they are speak­ing in dif­fer­ent lan­guages. They un­der­stand each other through their in­stru­ments.

“We in­vited mu­si­cians from 10 dif­fer­ent coun­tries to come here not just to make mu­sic but to cre­ate a peace­ful model for so­ci­ety with their in­stru­ments. We met some of the tra­di­tional mu­si­cians here sev­eral times and we know there is some­thing grow­ing. Each mu­si­cian un­der­stands the mu­sic much bet­ter than be­fore”

Per­cus­sion­ist troupes from Canada, China, Den­mark, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan, Malaysia and Poland as well as Africa, along­side groups from Kayin, Ba­mar, Shan and Rakhine states, will be tak­ing part in the week-long mu­sic fes­ti­val, play­ing new forms of mu­sic, which sub­sti­tutes for lan­guage as a means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“I’m very glad to join this con­cert by rep­re­sent­ing our Rakhine eth­nic peo­ple” said Tun Win, leader of the Rakhine Per­cus­sion Ensem­ble.

“Peo­ple from the world have their own cul­tural mu­sic. In­stead of play­ing their own mu­sic in front of their own peo­ple they share it with us. It will be a peace­ful di­a­logue among cul­tures if the dif­fer­ent cul­tures and mu­sic per­form to­gether in front of the peo­ple and cre­ate a new form.”

Rakhine in­stru­men­tal­ists will present their tra­di­tional drums on stage along­side with the other tra­di­tional or in­ter­na­tional per­cus­sion in­stru­ments such as Hsaing Waing and vi­bra­phone as well as the in­stru­ment from Wolof peo­ple, a West African Eth­nic group found in North-west­ern Sene­gal.

Per­cus­sion tra­di­tions are one of the trea­sures of South Fast Asia and Myan­mar adds its own dis­tinc­tive part to this out­stand­ing va­ri­ety of per­cus­sive forms. Drum­ming fig­ures promi­nently in the tra­di­tional Myan­mar folk or-ches­tra Hsaing Waing that have al­most all de­vel­oped their own per­cus­sive in­stru­ments and forms, adding to the rich­ness of Myan­mar mu­sic.

Gongs and Skins is or­gan­ised by the Goethe In­sti­tute, in part­ner­ship with the Euro­pean Union Del­e­ga­tion in Myan­mar and with sup­port from the em­bassies of Den-mark and Italy.

Gongs & Skins III in­ter­na­tional per­cus­sion fes­ti­val opened on Novem­ber 1 at YMCA and al­ready held a con­cert at Goethe Villa yes­ter­day with free en­trance. An­other free out­door con­cert wifi be held at 6:30pm in Maha Ban-doola Park on Novem­ber 8. Af­ter that, the mu­si­cians will travel to con­clude the fes­ti­val with a con­cert on Novem-ber 12 in Hpa-an.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit Goethe In­sti­tute' Face­book page at www.face­book.com/goethe­in­sti­tut.myanma.

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