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
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
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
because of gender, race, or religion. These kids, with their passion
beauty weren’t performers, they were the life and the essence of the
made together. They have given me so much hope for our world and made
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!!