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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Article about work

Video of Pakistani national anthem dedicated to victims of extremism

Salman Taseer was assassinated right there,” my friend Junaid said, pointing to a tree a couple yards from the table in an outdoor cafe in Islamabad. A chill ran up my spine. Salman Taseer was the governor of Punjab province. After raising the idea of revisiting Pakistan’s blasphemy laws so that they would not be abused to target the innocent, his own bodyguard gunned him down. An idea occurred to me, a way to pay tribute to Mr. Taseer and to all the victims of extremism in Pakistan. 

“Could we record a video of me playing the Pakistani national anthem at this very spot?” I asked him. Cultures in Harmony recorded a well-received video of the national anthem during our first project here in 2009. Junaid agreed and got out his iPhone. A few waiters gathered to listen, and shook my hand afterwards.

In just one day, that new video was viewed 2,888 times and shared 84 times. The Pakistani community on Facebook has received it very well, with one young woman commenting, “Thank you for playing the Pakistani national anthem in Islamabad. You may not know me but i thoroughly appreciate what you did. With so much going on in Pakistan it is nice to see people like yourself do something commendable for us. We thoroughly appreciate it. You will always have a friend in us.” 

In the evening, Junaid and I went to The Hot Spot, Islamabad’s famous café built in a converted rail car. Colorful posters from D-list horror movies from Pakistan, India, and the US crowd the walls, alongside kitschy 1950s advertising images slyly revised with subversive feminist captions, like the one with a smiling housewife thinking, “Men have feelings too, I suppose. Who cares?” Particularly intriguing were the Pakistani horror movie poster of a woman in a blood-covered white burqa carrying a machine gun, looking ready to take on the world, and another poster showing a woman in a burqa carrying a mace and chain. I enjoyed the bagel melt with chicken and cheese, a carrot juice, and chocolate lava cake with ice cream.

We later headed to the home of a policeman for tea and conversation about the importance of preserving traditional musical culture. I look forward to doing just that when I play a concert with folk musicians from IPAC here in Islamabad this weekend.

Monday, January 26, 2015

From Dubai airport: your donations got us this far!

Do you believe music can transcend cultural and national barriers? Then donate today to support Cultures in Harmony! Our 10th anniversary project will send musicians to 10 countries, and in each country, they will work together to create a piece of music called a "passacaglia." Do you want to hear the 10 awesome passacaglias that will result from this process? Then donate now!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Passacaglia Project begins...in Pakistan!

In 2012, Cultures in Harmony conducted two projects in Pakistan involving our musicians from the US playing concerts for children alongside Pakistani musicians. The photo above shows a girl at a concert in Karachi trying my violin!

Tomorrow, I leave for Pakistan, which will be the first country in our 10th anniversary tour of 10 countries: the Passacaglia ProjectI'm looking forward to a gala concert with musicians from all of Pakistan's provinces. The process of collaborating with the Pakistani musicians will mirror the mutually respectful, egalitarian relationship that we believe should be a model for the Pakistan-US relationship. Entitled "Building on a Common Ground," the concert will promote the unity of Pakistan and raise funds for Aware Girls. We are privileged to partner with IPAC to present the concert, with additional funding from the US Embassy.

I can’t wait to work with these musicians to compose the passacaglia on a bass line of four descending notes, but I wonder: will we be able to go to the other countries in the passacaglia project?

Will we return to a center for leprosy victims in Cameroon, to perform alongside musicians there?

Will we once again teach young pianists in Tunisia, a country where we have gone annually without fail since 2007? 

Will we return to work with the Tagbanua indigenous community in Philippines? Check out the documentary about our work there on our new media page as you ponder this question.

The answer to these questions rests with you. Please donate now to Cultures in Harmony. The world needs a message of unity, respect, and cooperation now more than ever. 

For your consideration: shukria. Shukria is Urdu, the language of Pakistan, for "thank you."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Media page

A new media page at our website keeps all the cool articles and videos about us in one place. Check it out!

The Creative Wealth of Nations: A Review

Patrick Kabanda’s policy research working paper for the World Bank Group, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: How the Performing Arts Can Advance Development and Human Progress,” is essential reading for anyone interested in culture, cultural diplomacy, economics, or development. 

After four intense and wonderful years teaching violin at Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), funded by the World Bank, I became determined to do what I could to convince the World Bank to include culture in development. ANIM was one of the first cultural projects the Bank had ever funded. I didn’t want it to be the last.

I had to chuckle ruefully when I saw the name at the top of this magisterial monograph. This was the second time that Patrick had first articulated an idea I thought was my own!

Back in 2005, as a student at The Juilliard School, I wanted to use their Summer Grant Program to fund the first project of what became Cultures in Harmony. They told me that one other Juilliard student had previously used the grant for a big international project: Patrick Kabanda. They urged me to connect with him.

Patrick grew up in Uganda and walked a great distance on a regular basis to practice organ. Eventually, he got himself into Juilliard. He was very friendly to me and helpful, but we lost touch several years ago. Now that I’ve read his paper, it turns out that I am not the first Juilliard-trained classical musician to try to convince the World Bank of the invaluable role that culture can play in a country’s development strategy: I am the second. But Patrick argues his case more forcefully and eloquently than I could, and with far more extensive research and connections!

I was pleased that he gave a prominent mention to ANIM and to our tour of the US in February 2013, a tour for which I raised the funds, coordinated the logistics, and arranged and conducted the music. I didn’t get the impression that Patrick has visited ANIM, but I hope ANIM Founder & Director Dr. Ahmad Sarmast gets to read the report, and I know that Patrick would be welcome at ANIM, should he choose to visit. 

Though I urge you to read his full report, I’ll summarize a few key points. He emphasizes the importance of translating the considerable creative wealth of poor nations into economic wealth. He connects the inclusion of culture to the aim of development, quoting the Bank’s own 2013 strategy: “[r]educing extreme poverty and sharing prosperity is ultimately about enriching the life and enabling the potential of every human being.” The relationship between self-expression and interpersonal trust is a key theme, as is the role of culture in building social cohesion internally and externally (relations between culture). Social cohesion is a necessary prerequisite for development.

Can developing countries create their own Nashville, he asks, citing the economic success of America’s country music capital. He explores both what they would need to create their own Nashville and the obstacles in their way.

Patrick’s own life story is a powerful supporting argument for one of his theses: namely, that we need to overcome the thinking that arts education is a luxury for the rich. He also asks us to reach beyond the easy categorization of people into cultural groups, a categorization which tempts politically correct thinkers to assert that people will generally prefer the cultural products of their own culture, and that attempts to provide people from developing nations with access to Western cultural products amount to imperialism. He quotes the Nobel Prize winning economist, Amartya Sen, who also wrote the forward to his essay: “To overlook the inescapable plurality in our identities and to place us into a singular box of one identity – be it race, or religion, or community, or whatever - is a remarkably efficient way of misunderstanding nearly everyone in the world.” 

Kabanda notes that inconsistent means of data collection result in under-representing the monetary value of cultural products. Perhaps this is one reason culture has not always been taken seriously.
Sometimes, it feels like Kabanda is preaching to the choir. I want to believe all his assertions, but would a development expert with no personal connection to the arts and no reason to include culture in a development strategy? Kabanda believes that developing nations could look to printed music as a revenue source, but admits that it contributes only $25 million to the economy of the USA (a drop in the bucket in an economy valued in the trillions of dollars).

He occasionally diverges from the main theme in tangents I found hard to follow, such as the role the arts could play in reducing the trade in illegal ivory (an idea that may never come to fruition as long as violinists are unfairly victimized by existing crackdown efforts). He correctly notes that arts jobs are greener than resource extraction jobs, but so is a job in nearly any service industry. He states that trade follows the arts, but does not show how, when, and why this happened. 

He states that the arts can promote social inclusion, but again, would the evidence he presents convince a skeptic? “The practice of earnest contributions or investments in social projects is actually good for business in the long run,” he asserts. I want to believe that this is true! Patrick cites a great quote by former Bank president James Wolfensohn, who included performing artists at receptions and believed in the inherent value of building and maintaining relations with the cultures of countries where the Bank operates. Why should other economists, who are not amateur cellists as Wolfensohn is, share his view that where “arts lead, relationships follow”?

Kabanda notes a lack of research in the role of music in tourism and then points to the need for culture’s role in nation branding to be explored more. In fact, there are many areas where the paper seems to ask for additional research to prove points it only suggests, points which true believers like myself happily embrace, but which may require more support to convince the skeptics. 

Yet these are minor quibbles. Kabanda brilliantly showed how the history of intellectual property demonstrates that creativity has long played a role in economics. Countries for which a higher percentage of GDP comes from copyrighted industries tend to be more developed. I remember ANIM Founder Dr. Sarmast telling me of the importance of copyright legislation. Frequently in Afghanistan, popular musicians pay the TV channels to broadcast their songs; it should be the other way around.

Kabanda has numerous excellent recommendations, including:
  • Creating a database for WBG-funded arts initiatives
  • Fund arts education
  • Build more projects modeled on ANIM
  • Revive the infrastructure for music (theaters, recording studios)
  • Start a WBG performing arts series at the headquarters in Washington, DC
  • Invest in cultural diplomacy due to culture’s role in nation branding and nation branding’s role in economic health
  • For countries with a poor image or economy, cultural strengths should be converted to economic strengths
  • Improve the ability of musicians in developing countries to understand/negotiate contracts
  • Engage Ministries of Culture
  • Create a service called “dTunes,” similar to iTunes, in which artists in remote areas of developing countries could easily share their creations with the developed world
This last idea is one of Patrick’s best and must be implemented ASAP! Indeed, although Patrick got there first, I’m proud a fellow Juilliard graduate first articulated the ways in which culture should be an essential part of any development strategy, and I’ll be eager to help him and the Bank in any way I can.

His report is at its best when he uses the Bank’s own strategy documents to show why it should support culture. The Bank’s 2014 strategy calls upon the Bank to “undertake measures based on pilot work already underway to help identify engagements with potentially transformational impact...In many instances, transformational activities originate from outside the WBG—that is, the WBG is not the source of the transformation but helps scale up success or play a connector role, communicating a successful experience to other clients. The WBG can expand its role as a platform to disseminate and/or scale up the impact of external development innovations with transformational potential.” 

A clear example of an external development innovation with transformational potential is Patrick’s articulation of a reality as old as civilization: culture is both the reason for which we develop and progress, and the means enabling us to arrive at where we want to go while never losing sight of where we came from. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Cultures in Harmony's 10th birthday!

Happy New Year! Ten years ago today, I founded Cultures in Harmony with the goal of bringing people together through music. Our first concept paper, dated January 1, 2005, proposed a project in Moldova and Tunisia. According to that paper, the proposed tour would, "provide further proof of the powerful role music plays in reminding people of the glory of which humanity is capable and the bonds we all share."

I did indeed go to Moldova and Tunisia from June 14 to July 10, 2005, and since then, our 32 projects in 13 countries have indeed affirmed music' connective and transcendent power. We have taught young musicians from the Tunisia to Belize. We have co-composed with indigenous groups in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. We have collaborated with local musicians from a renowned sitar teacher in Pakistan to an mvet virtuoso in Cameroon. According to Dr. Solomon Guramatunhu, an eye doctor we met in Zimbabwe, Cultures in Harmony forms "the beautiful face of America that the world is yearning for."

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we have initiated the Passacaglia Project. With a cost of $90,000, it will enable us to travel to all 13 countries and maintain the connections our music made over the last decade. "Don't just make a link. Build a relationship. You are feeding an entire nation," a student at Pakistan's National Academy of Performing Arts told us.

That relationship depends on you. To celebrate our anniversary, please make a tax-deductible contribution to Cultures in Harmony. If you're a musician, please organize and play a benefit concert to raise funds towards the cost of the Passacaglia Project. A concert I just organized with the help of my parents here in Indianapolis raised $3,618 in contributions from 67 audience members. If you are a musician and would like to help in this way, please contact me.

Thank you to the many donors, participants, partners, board members, students, and musicians who have supported us thus far. May your 2015 be filled with joy and success, and may Cultures in Harmony look forward to many more decades of bringing people together through music!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Articles about music's role in our lives

A strong role for music at a charter school in Queens has improved test scores to a point significantly better than the New York average, according to a front page story in the New York Times. Music Mic has a handy list of 12 amazing things scientists discovered in 2014 about people who listen to music.

Cultures in Harmony has always believed in music's ability to improve people's lives. If you share that belief, please donate now to support our 10th anniversary project in 2015. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Condemnation of attack against concert in Afghanistan

I am devastated to learn that in Kabul, a performance at the Institut Français d'Afghanistan featuring students from Afghanistan National Institute of Music, where I worked from 2010 to 2014, was attacked. ANIM's fearless and courageous leader, Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, suffered a head injury. 

We are all Ahmad Sarmast, all of us who fight for the rights of girls to go to school, who believe that children everywhere should benefit from the joy of music. May his recovery be swift and complete, and may the thugs, extremists, and militants who disfigure Afghanistan be exterminated before they take more innocent lives. Just as Dr. Sarmast has already told the media that this attack only doubles his resolve to commit to the musical education of Afghan children, so does it double mine. 

Conducting the Afghan Youth Orchestra at the French Institute in February of 2012

I had planned on returning to Kabul from January 23 to February 13, and will not waver in those plans. These so-called terrorists do not deserve the name: Ahmad Sarmast and the brave girls, boys, and teachers of ANIM refuse to be terrorized, and so do I. May ANIM long hold aloft the lights of education, music, gender equality, and peace, beating back against the darkness.