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: Mumbai, India

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

In Mumbai

From May 24 to June 27, I will be in Mumbai, India, teaching at the Mehli Mehta Music Foundation at the suggestion of Maestro Zubin Mehta. I am very excited to help prepare the children in the program for a side-by-side concert with Maestro Mehta and the Australian World Orchestra in October 2015.

I'm also thrilled to live in Mumbai, the amazing city memorably described in Suketu Mehta's magisterial tome Maximum City. Mumbai produces the movies I love so much, such as 2012's Agneepath...check out my version of the hit song Chikni Chameli from that film!

Although Mumbai is a very high-tech city, the place where I'll be living does not have WiFi, so I may be more out of touch than usual. Nonetheless, it is more important to be fully present in the opportunity I will have than to fret about a type of contact with the outside world that did not exist for most people within the memory of even this young 32-year-old!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Passacaglia Project page updated

Check out the updated page for the Passacaglia Project! Now updated with the most current information.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Strangest Ask Letter You Will Ever Read

Dear friends,

When I announced that Cultures in Harmony would celebrate its 10th anniversary with a major project involving travel to all 13 countries where we have ever been, I knew that it would be an ambitious project, but one worthy of our goal: bringing people together through music.

Regardless of their religion.

Regardless of their nationality.

Regardless of their race, or any other superficial factor which may appear to divide us from each other.

The project’s budget of $100,000 didn’t seem like a lot. From 2010 to 2014, I had worked as an employee of Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and while there I helped raise money for projects that cost a lot more. I knew that this project would take a lot of work, but I figured that Cultures in Harmony was a good team of musicians, partners, supporters, and friends. We would all help. 

However, our tenth anniversary year is nearly half over. We have raised only $20,000, a fifth of the original goal. Through brutal cuts, I have been able to get the budget down to $37,000. That said, we are still $17,000 short.

I maintain a database of 25 possible institutional donors. I would love it if even one of these donors would respond with a letter stating, briefly, why they are not choosing to fund Cultures in Harmony. 

That is not what tends to happen. In the last few days, I finally received rejections for our requests for funding from a foundation based in the Middle East (that I emailed on 10/27/14, 11/24/14, 1/29/15,  4/23/15, & 5/8/15), a US Embassy in a Muslim-majority country (that I emailed on 1/8/15, 1/20, 3/5, 3/24, 4/23, & 5/8), and a private US foundation (that I emailed on 10/1/14, 11/24/14, 1/29/15, 4/23/15, & 5/8/15). 

I cannot continue doing this. I have raised money for the projects of Cultures in Harmony for 10 years without collecting any salary. It can feel at times as though I’m the only one who believes that Cultures in Harmony projects have value, but this is contradicted by thousands of testimonials we have received over the years from people our projects touch. 

People like the audience member at a concert in Karachi, Pakistan, who said, “Don’t just make a link. Build a relationship. You are feeding an entire nation.” People like the underprivileged girls in Alexandria, Egypt, to whom we taught composition in 2009 but with whom we have been unable to work since then for lack of funding. Their smiles in the picture accompanying this email clearly shows how much they appreciated the connections our work with them forged.

At a time when the US-Pakistan relationship is a worse condition than ever, doesn’t it make things even worse when one of the few positive examples of that relationship—the connections our 5 musical collaborations there have facilitated—cannot be consistently maintained due to a lack of funding? 

Those of you who know me well know that I am not an expert at raising funds. I’m a violinist, and experience with Cultures in Harmony and in Afghanistan taught me a lot about fund raising, but I will never be as passionate about sending emails to people who never respond as I have always been about sounding the strings of my violin in harmony with an extraordinary musician on the other side of our planet as our shared melody somehow, improbably, points the way towards peace. 

I realize that this is a strange “ask letter.” It probably flies in the face of what anyone conducting a seminar for non-profit leaders would recommend. Too personal. Too emotional. Too bleak, in its acceptance of realities that I have a hard time accepting. Hey, at least you’ll never get another mass message exactly like this one, right?

But I had to write this letter, because I don’t want to write one resigning from the non-profit I founded 10 years ago. I don’t want to write a letter indicating that Cultures in Harmony will be formally and legally dissolved in accordance with the procedures outlined by US law for the dissolution of non-profits. Giving up would be a disservice to the many people our projects have touched, from the young Tunisian violinist we found in 2005 who has now graduated from Indiana University, to the indigenous groups in the Philippines whose culture we have championed and celebrated.

Thank you for reading. And if at any point in the last 10 years, you have shared Cultures in Harmony’s vision for a world where people from different cultures make harmony together rather than fighting one another, please donate now

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Assassination of beloved arts advocate and icon in Pakistan

I am devastated by the assassination of Sabeen Mahmud, the founder and director of The Second Floor in Karachi, Pakistan. I performed with Pakistani musicians three times at T2F, most recently in 2012 with the Viccaji sisters (Zoe & Rachel) and fellow CiH musicians; here is an article about that concert

Sabeen was one of CiH's most important partners anywhere. She was unfailingly kind and attentive to detail, but most importantly, in T2F she had created a warm, welcoming place that mirrored her personality; a brightly lit art gallery and café that served the best (indeed the only) bagels in Pakistan; an open and non-judgmental space whose motto is "Bring Your Brain." T2F was, and hopefully will remain, one of the few places where young people could be free to explore and experience art, music, and literature; she also hosted evenings dedicated to airing views on controversial or sensitive topics, like the event "Unsilencing Balochistan" after which she was killed. 

To me, she represented the Pakistan I wish more people in the US knew about, and now she has been brutally taken from us. I hope that others draw example from her rare combination of courage, warmth, vision, and backbone, but it's hard to be optimistic right now. One of Pakistan's brightest lights has been extinguished.

BBC article
Al Jazeera article
Dawn article
Time article

Performing with Zoe Viccaji at T2F in August 2010

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Nuclear deal with Iran

These views are William Harvey's personal views and do not represent the position of Cultures in Harmony, which as a 501(c)(3) does not take positions on political issues.

After many years of enmity and mistrust, we have reached a nuclear deal with Iran that our Congress should support.

First, our country has a long-standing tradition of granting the president authority to conduct foreign policy. In 1948, a Republican senator, Arthur Vandenberg, overcame his political differences with the Democratic Truman administration to support the creation of NATO, famously declaring that “politics stops at the water’s edge.” What has happened to Sen. Vandenberg’s legacy of bipartisanship? 

Sadly, Sen. Tom Cotton’s letter has already eroded that legacy. How would Republicans have reacted if anti-war congressional Democrats had written to the President Chirac, or even to Saddam Hussein, to communicate their lack of support for President Bush’s war against Iraq? Yet it is not too late to remember the spirit of Sen. Vandenburg and the patriotic American tradition of presented a united front abroad, provided that Congress takes no further action to prevent negotiations from proceeding.

Second, if we cannot support our president in foreign negotiations, we damage our relationship with our allies. We have no better friends than the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Their trust in our integrity will suffer if, after they have stood by us throughout difficult negotiations, opposing elements within our own government block our ability to honor the commitments we have made. 

Third, if other world leaders sense we are once again a “house divided against itself,” as Lincoln put it, they will exploit this internal division to further weaken us. If they don’t like what our president and State Department offer them, they’ll simply shop around among members of the opposing party to try to get a better deal.

Fourth, if our country and Iran can overcome a difficult history, we might find that we have more in common than we think. Yes, they took over our embassy in 1979, but we overthrew their democratically elected leader in 1953 and shot down their civilian airliner in 1988. For four years, I had the privilege of living in Kabul while teaching violin in Afghanistan. While there, I got to know several Iranian people and learned to love the beauty of the Persian culture and language. Without hesitation, I can assure you that Iran and the USA can work to overcome this history and build a future based on shared values and interests, such as our common goal of defeating the Islamic State. There are many countries with which we exchange ambassadors (Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China come to mind) with which we have more insuperable cultural and political differences than we do with Iran.

Finally, Republican opposition to the negotiations appears to be primarily based on concern over what would happen if Iran got a nuclear weapon, a desire to protect Israel, and disgust at anti-Jewish statements made by Iranian leaders. Iran would not be able to build a nuclear weapon under the new deal, and furthermore, Ayatollah Khamenei has already issued a fatwa stating that nuclear weapons are prohibited in Islam. If members of Congress wish to show concern over foreign states’ nuclear weapons, they would be wise to raise their voices about the nuclear weapons that Israel probably has and that Pakistan definitely has, rather than weapons Iran does not have and does not seek to produce. 

Iran’s leadership, though clearly not in agreement with Western allies on many issues, is ultimately pragmatic, and would never risk a crippling war with Western powers by threatening Israel. They suffered enough during their catastrophic war with Iran, instigated by Saddam Hussein, then an ally of the US. Many of our current allies, closer geographically to Israel than Iran is, routinely voice and act upon anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments.

If we base our foreign policy on isolating countries whose governments or populations oppose Israel, we would be unable to sustain relations with any Muslim-majority countries, which would be a foolish proposition. Indeed, Iran has a larger Jewish population than any Muslim country except Turkey and Azerbaijan, and Iran guarantees a seat in its parliament for Jews, ensuring that we will have a voice. This is clear evidence that Iran makes a distinction between Israel and Jews, whom it protects better than any Arab country.

As a person proud of my Jewish ancestry, I assure you that Israel does not speak for all Jews, but also that I am as concerned for Israel’s security as you are. The tentative peace reached at Lausanne protects Israel far better than war or continued sanctions. 

As a patriotic American, I am grateful to my government for working to create a more peaceful world.

As a voter, I urge Congress to respect the American political tradition, so beautifully embodied by Sen. Vandenberg’s famous saying, of delegating to the president the authority to conduct foreign policy. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Video about our deputy director in Pakistan

Check out this video by the US Consulate General in Lahore about CiH Deputy Director Kimball Gallagher's recent trip to Pakistan!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Congratulations to Gulalai!

Congratulations to Gulalai Ismail, founder of Aware Girls, for winning the Commonwealth Youth Award for Asia! Cultures in Harmony partnered with Aware Girls on last month's project in Pakistan. Gulalai also got to meet HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Gulalai (center of photo) meets with HM Queen Elizabeth II after winning the award

Me with Gulalai after the CiH benefit concert for Aware Girls at Kuch Khaas in Islamabad, Pakistan, on February 1, 2015