Harmony Beat

William Harvey's thoughts about cultural diplomacy and news about Cultures in Harmony, the non-profit he founded in 2005.

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Location: San Juan, Argentina

violinist, violist, educator, composer, conductor, arranger, cultural diplomat

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Egyptian version of "Happy"

The Nour Project, an Egyptian band that includes many musicians we performed with in 2012, has this catchy new version of the Pharrell Williams hit song "Happy."

Here's an interview with the band leader, saxophonist Nour Ashour, pictured below teaching a song to CiH flutist Allie Deaver-Petchenik in 2012.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Farewell to President Karzai

No leader of Afghanistan since King Zahir Shah (r. 1933-1973) has remained in power for as long as President Hamid Karzai. I wish that during his farewell address, the President had acknowledged that he was only in power thanks to the United States, which overruled the Afghan delegates in 2001 who wished to see the monarchy restored. No Afghan should have more reason to be grateful to the US than Karzai, and no Afghan not actually a member of the insurgency is less grateful to the US. 

Yet during his 13-year presidency, Afghans saw girls return to school and music return to society. They saw Afghanistan become an integrated member of the international community, complete with modern telecommunications, industry, and business. Many of these changes would not have occurred without the Western partners Karzai loved to insult, but also, they occurred due to his peerless and irreplaceable skill at managing former Taliban and former communists, republicans and monarchists, Pashtuns and Hazaras, Americans, Pakistanis, Iranians, and Indians. It is impossible to imagine his predecessor, the Taliban's Mullah Omar, publicly shaking hands with Afghan girls who had just performed music for him, and although his commitment to women's rights was sometimes superficial, he must be commended for the tremendous progress represented in my new cover photograph (from March 2013). 

Over the eight times I conducted for him, he came to know me, although he wrongly believed that I was German, one time looking around for me and asking, "Where is that German conductor?" I never had the guts to set him straight, figuring that since he liked the orchestra and valued the work of Dr. Sarmast in founding ANIM, he assumed that I was German, since Germany is the most popular Western country in Afghanistan. 

Now that he is leaving office, even though he is unlikely to ever read these words, I want to say: Your Excellency, thank you for your service. Thank you for doing the most difficult job in the world with grace, courage, and intelligence. Thank you for leaving the presidency when you said you would. Thank you for leaving Afghanistan infinitely better than you found it. But Your Excellency, I am not German. I am a proud citizen of the United States of America, a country that has done a lot for yours. May you enjoy the same life now, in your post-presidency, that all Afghans deserve: long, dignified, healthy, and peaceful.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Philippines articles and report

The Cartwheel Foundation has this article about our work with them in the Philippines. Here is a review of our gala concert on August 21 in Manila.

Finally, here is the Cartwheel Foundation's report about the project.

Check out these articles and the report!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

"It is beautiful because we learned together"

The Cartwheel Foundation, our partner in the Philippines, put together three short videos documenting Cultures in Harmony's recent collaboration with them. In the first video, Tagbanua and CiH musicians discuss their musical ancestry. In the second video, they show the process by which the Tagbanua musicians taught their songs to the CiH crew. In the third video, Tagbanua elders and musicians reflect on the importance of the collaboration. I particularly appreciated the reflection I used as the title for this blog entry. Learning together shows that despite superficial differences, we are all students of life.

The videos were shared publicly in Manila at our August 21 concert with the Manila Symphony Orchestra at the Ayala Museum.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Final post from Philippines

Written by CiH Deputy Director Danielle Kuhlmann

There was a bit of culture shock coming back to Manila after being on Culion Island for a week. We kept marveling at the luxuries that were suddenly available to us: electricity, flush toilets, espresso... But we got right back to work for our partnership with the Manila Symphony Orchestra.

We coached groups and taught lessons to musicians of all ages. We invited a violist from MSO, Jaydee De Ocampo, to join us for a performance of the Mozart Horn Quintet. We held masterclasses and prepared pieces to be performed at our culminating concert at the beautiful Ayala Museum.

The concert itself was electric. There were passionate performances intertwined with the Cartwheel Foundation's moving video accounts of our time spent with the Tagbanua tribe. The concert featured all of the CiH artists playing Filipino folk solos with the MSO. Directly before I performed Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan, a Filipino lullaby we had played in our concerts in Palawan, clips were shown of some of the Tagbanua musicians reflecting on our shared experience. Kennedy, a very quiet guitarist and singer, spoke intently as he committed to sharing his knowledge of music, and the passion of our exchange, with his children and the youth of the tribe. He said "Let us not be ashamed of our music and our culture." I was so moved by his words that I barely had time to wipe away my tears before stepping out to perform with the MSO. 

Our grand finale was an arrangement for the MSO, CiH, and the MSO Youth Orchestra. We played the Tagbanua Paalam, or Farewell, that we had learned in Palawan. We created an arrangement for string orchestra in which the cellos slapped their instruments like a Tambol (drum) and the violins soared above the orchestra, playing the melody of Diostado's Flauta. The players were ecstatic and played with vigor while images of our time with the Tagbanua flashed behind us on a screen. We all turned to watch as we played the Paalam together for the very last time. It was such a joyous experience to share the music we learned in Culion with the musicians of Manila. I kept thinking about how much the Tagbanua musicians would have enjoyed hearing their song brought to life by a full orchestra. We all felt immense pride and fulfillment as the audience applauded and we realized our incredible trip was finally coming to and end!


On my last day in the Philippines, I said goodbye to the other three musicians traveling with me. Frank, Rebecca, and Kim were a real dream team. I could not imagine a more dedicated, passionate, talented, open, and kind group to have shared this experience with. 

After their send-off, I had the pleasure of spending the day in the province of Batangas, south of Manila. Some of the musicians from the MSO, all of whom I coached in workshops, invited me for a day at the beach. I thought that it would be just a relaxing day trip, but it turned into one of the most poignant and meaningful days of my life. We throw out those kinds of terms often, but sometimes the experience truly rises to the meaning of those powerful words. 

The trip began with a three hour drive down to the coast. We talked and shared stories and interests, and I really got to know the musicians on a personal level. We passed the city of Alfonso, the hometown of Sylvester, one of the trumpet players in the orchestra. We continued down a winding road with beautiful views of Taal volcano, which CiH visited in 2007, until we reached the town of Lian. We were invited to eat at the home of Arvin, an oboist from MSO. He has a rich sound and plays musically, with so much life. I was so honored to be invited into his home, where his brother had prepared a meal of prawns, grilled squid, and fresh veggies. Jedi, a close friend and violinist in the MSO, showed me the proper way to eat rice with your hands (scoop and roll the food in your four fingers, then push it forward with the thumb). We visited the local "wet market," or farmer's market, to pick out fresh veggies and fish to eat on the beach. On our drive to the shore, we stopped at the side of the road to cut a banana leaf to use as plates at our picnic (it had to be sliced in half to fit in the car...). 

We arrived at a beautiful white sandy beach with clear waters and a covered area with picnic tables. Although the beach was amazing, it really served as a backdrop to the incredible experience we had together. I watched as the men prepared the dishes- a fresh Filipino-style ceviche, a vinegar-based soup filled with greens, beans, and onions, and whole grilled fish from the wet market. There was pineapple juice, and, of course, San Miguel, the local pilsner.

The best surprise was the mobile videoke (karaoke) machine that was wheeled out onto the sand. The Filipinos are the only people who actually love karaoke as much as I do! Though we were at a gorgeous beach touching the South China Sea, we spent most of the day at covered picnic benches, talking, eating, and singing videoke for hours. 

We crooned American power ballads (a favorite in the Philippines) and I listened as they sang Tagalog love songs, which Jedi translated for me. After some prompting, they convinced me to sing Sa Ugoy Ng Duyan, the Filipino lullaby I had just performed with the MSO. It was really wonderful to sit with all of my new and old friends and sing one of their most beloved songs together. 

Although many of our CiH interactions take place in formal sessions and workshops, sometimes the casual downtime can be the best time for trust-building and real cultural exchange. I learned so much about the Filipino culture, and the everyday lives of these musicians. We talked about different international cultures and what life is like in America. We talked about the differences in our cultures, and the things we respect or dislike from each. They asked me candidly about my impressions of the Philippines and its people. Our conversation went a lot deeper than the usual "They're so friendly!" We spoke about the mindset of colonization and how that affects the psyche of the Filipino. We compared the indigenous cultures of the Philippines to those of the United States, and discussed the ways that our societies interact with theirs. We talked about making a living (or trying to!) as a musician, and the different struggles we face. We talked about the nature of our own cultures, and how we each fit into them, or don't. And all the while we're snacking on fresh mango and dragonfruit and sipping homemade Sinigang soup. 

At one point, Arvin, an oboist with the most warm and contagious smile,  made this genuine observation about the Filipino culture: "We don't have many things- but we're happy!" Everyone was smiling. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Four American Musicians Found an Unofficial Grandfather in the Philippines

Written by Cultures in Harmony Deputy Director Danielle Kuhlmann

Yesterday we traveled to two of the island communities where our Tagbanua musicians live. We woke up early, and set sail for Chinonden, a tiny village that was hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan. We arrived by banka boat, but couldn't approach the shore because of low tides (the tides are particularly low because of the recent supermoon!), so the community sent out a couple of smaller boats to shuttle us (and our instruments!) to the shore. 

We set up in an all-purpose open air structure, and were soon joined by people from the village of all ages. As we proceeded with our presentation, we were often visited by some other locals- a hen with her chirping chicks in tow, and few stray pigs! When I demonstrated the French horn, the pigs squealed and all ran away! We all shared a good laugh at my expense. 

It was particularly wonderful for us to get to see some of the Tagbanua musicians in their hometowns. We met many of their wives and even children. They spoke with pride about their instruments and their music. With every day and every performance they gain confidence- speaking louder, longer, and with more excitement every time. 

I'd like to digress from the play-by-play kind of updates to reflect a bit on our time spent with the Tagbanua musicians of the islands of Coron, Alulad, and Chindonen. 

We spent 5 days getting to know the musicians of the Tagbanua Tribe-eating with them, talking with them, and living with them as friends and equals. 

Sometimes it's easy to overlook or take for granted the personal connection we can create through the arts. As seasoned performers and teachers, it's easy to forget what a privilege it is to be able to express ourselves in a creative way, and furthermore, to be appreciated and compensated for it. For indigenous people, and musicians, even acknowledgment and respect can be an every day struggle. Rodolfo, one of the musicians, communicated to us that he'd had many negative interactions with foreigners, tourists, and Americans. He had felt taken advantage of, disrespected, and treated as a lesser human being. It's hard for me to even type these words, knowing how special and important Roldolfo is in his own community, and now to ours. Every country struggles to navigate the difficult history and current hardships of our indigenous communities. It's important to see indigenous people as fellow human beings and legitimate communities and nations, instead of exoticizing them as colorful tourist attractions and props. 

The bond that we formed and felt with these musicians is hard to describe. It might be best summed up on some of the words that we spoke to each other during our final day. Francisco, who arguably has the biggest personality of anyone I've ever met, talks faster than anyone I've ever heard, and can make an entire room laugh even though none of us speak the same language, told us that the feeling he felt after working with us and with his fellow Tagbanua- that feeling, to him, was happiness. 

Diostado, our Flauta player, and sort of unofficial "Lolo" (grandfather), told us he could not accept that it was coming to an end. We couldn't either, and as we played our last Paalam song of farewell at our final performance on Culion Island, we all felt the joy and sadness that the experience had happened, and was coming to and end. Once again, Diostado was overcome with emotions and could not continue playing. He sat down and looked off into the distance, tears streaming down his face. Rebecca walked across the stage, still playing, and sat with him. He started up again, and then he refused to stop! We played until we couldn't play any more.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kimberly's update from Philippines

Cultures in Harmony cellist Kimberly Patterson has this update from our ongoing project in the Philippines:

This trip has been one of the most emotionally poignant trips I ever taken. I think I can speak for all four of us and say that the bond we forged with the Tagbanua is sound. 

The Tagbanua transformed from shy men to confident musicians who were immensely proud to share their music with other Tagbanua and the people of Culion. Each concert became more lively, with the men barely speaking about themselves to the audience, to speaking about detailed histories about themselves and the instruments.  

I could tell that something special had happened during our time when we were performing the last piece of the last concert: we played the traditional Farewell song. After Danielle and Rebecca played their answer solos, Diostado, the flute player, was supposed to take the melody over. However, he couldn't find the strength to play because his emotions were getting the best of him, which led to a chain reaction with every musician, including us. When we finished, the Tagbanua, all grown men of vastly differing ages, hugged each one of us with tears streaming down their faces. Something truly special had taken place over the past few days.  

Diostado and Frank had such an incredible bond because of music. Diostado, a man in his late 60's, hugged Frank while crying for a solid minute, calling him his friend- all because of connecting with him through music. Frank would eagerly learn Diostado's flute melodies which granted him an incredible amount of respect from Diostado. 

On a side note, Frank's new nickname should be, one who makes grown men cry. Then again, Diostado made Frank cry. I think this trip truly defines the name, Cultures in Harmony.

Photos by CiH violinist Rebecca Schlappich