If you are fortunate in life there will be love where you expect it, and if you are really fortunate, there will be love where you don’t expect it. This was my theme for 2018 and I was really fortunate. This year I made music with hundreds of young people in unrelated projects on three continents. Among them there were the Nusaybin Choir in Turkey with a dozen children, mostly girls displaced by war, two hundred girls of the SF Girls Chorus, young musicians of Mikka Quartet in NYC who I had met before they were teenagers, and students from the music high school I attended 30+ years ago in my hometown Novi Sad.
Rehearsals: Nusaybin Youth Choir in Mardin, Turkey, and SF Girls Chorus with Kronos Quartet in San Francisco
All brilliant, eager to participate and engage, these young people come from the widest possible range of backgrounds and life experiences: from the Middle East and not knowing where their family members are, to Manhattan and San Francisco, living the liberal values of the Western world. Traveling as much as I have this year, I often have the urge to connect those experiences, to integrate the worlds and knowledge, not only for myself but for others too, in hope of better understanding the complexities of our time. So in one of my such fantasies, I imagined that ten years from now somewhere in the peaceful world some of those kids’ paths cross. They have a conversation and of course they immediately feel close. They realize what they have in common: the love of music and the experience of making NEW music. As they relay their specific memories of performances they gave a girl says – once we shouted our names and words like love and freedom and peace in an outdoor concert; it was in 2018, in a war zone, a town where I was a refugee, where concerts would get interrupted because of Azaan and women covered their heads.
Well, says the other, we have lived in peace all along, but it’s funny, it was also 2018 and two hundred of us shouted Holy All for about three minutes in a concert in my hometown, San Francisco. As I contemplate that fantasy I am profoundly grateful for every moment of connection with those young musicians. I asked girls from Nusaybin to shout their names into the open sky above Mesopotamia. In rehearsal they giggled and spoke them shyly, and with every repetition there was more exuberance and power in their voices. We also called for what we desired most – peace, love, and freedom, in Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish, English, and it was profound and urgent. Similarly it felt crucial to proclaim us all holy in Allen Ginsberg’s San Francisco while in the US and across the world we get divided, excluded and killed because of gender, race, or religion. These kids, with their passion and beauty weren’t performers, they were the life and the essence of the music we made together. They have given me so much hope for our world and made 2018 unforgettable for me.
Mardin, Turkey, music lesson and lunch with children at the Flying Carpet Festival directed by Sahba Aminikia
I am also grateful to all of you who in many different ways made these experiences possible. 23 ensembles played 17 pieces of mine in 13 different countries in 70 performances registered this year. From those of you who I have worked with for many years to those who I never met in person – THANK YOU.
Here’s a video from one of the performances with the Nusaybin Choir and the Kurdish bard Abdurrahman Ciziri at the Flying Carpet Festival in Mardin last September.
I wish you a healthy, happy, and filled with love 2019!!