Idea and vision
Why did we decide on this project?
We believe that music can be a powerful tool for intercultural understanding and peace. Music allows people to communicate and share emotions even when they don’t speak the same language. It can unite people or divide them. All over the world there are songs spreading messages of peace, humanity and solidarity. But everywhere one will also find songs with nationalistic, militaristic, racist, sexist or other discriminatory contents. One aim of the project was to work with the constructive power of music which is not self-evident; it needs to be reflected upon and elaborated.
Another important aspect of music is its role in shaping and reinforcing the identity of a group, society or nation. The music of a country reflects its history and mirrors the diversity of its people. However, in nationalistic environments, influences from other cultures tend to be neglected even if they are obvious. It is fascinating to explore how many similar tunes (in different languages and variations) can be traced all over South Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean area. There is little awareness that the same traditional melodies are also sung by the neighbours who sometimes were or still are considered enemies. Some people tend to claim that certain tunes belong exclusively to their group or nation and others have no right to adopt them. But we believe they are everybody’s songs because music belongs to all of us.
Shared musical heritage
By exploring shared and diverse cultural heritage in the region, we wanted to scrutinise simplistic constructs of ethnic or national identity and culture. Our aim was to contrast nationalistic or exclusively folkloristic approaches with “ethnic” music.
Realising that those who used to be regarded or treated as “the others”, “the foreigners” or even “the enemies” sing the same songs but in their language or listen to the same melodies but in a different style can be irritating. It can be either shocking or relieving because hidden aspects of one’s own identity suddenly appear on the surface. People might react with anger or aggression as it was the case in the documentary “Whose is this song?”, the award-winning film by Adela Peeva of Bulgaria, which was one of the main inspirations for this project.
But such a reaction is not the only one possible. In advantageous conditions, it might also end with enjoying the common language of music and the shared heritage of tunes in a joyful atmosphere where for example one verse is sung in Greek and the second one in Turkish. Therefore another aim of our project was to explore ways in which such advantageous conditions for intercultural dialogue can be created in youth work with diverse groups.
Finally, musicians can reach out to an audience which is much bigger than the one usually attracted by civic organisations. The cooperation with musicians added new creative elements to the work of the youth NGOs involved and helped to increase their visibility and popularity.