Songs across Walls of Separation
Norwegian record producer and founder of the label, Kirkelig Kulturverksted, Erik Hillestad and I had previous conversations about a project involving nations with walls that keep loved ones apart. Similar to an earlier peace project, the album, Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, Hillestad set out to make a political statement via music.
He found vocalists from both sides of several national walls, from countries as far-reaching as Morocco and Cyprus to Kashmir, Palestine and Mexico. While some people thought that the crumbling of the Berlin Wall was the end to this type of divide and conquer practice, need to reassess the type of world where we choose to reside. Once Hillestad found these vocalists, he asked them to sing the same songs then later he would meld those vocal tracks together, thus bringing loved ones torn by politics-as-usual and social conditions, together again. In the case of Palestinians Rim Banna and Jamil El Sayeh connected over the Internet.
So Hillestad found musicians from the countries divided by walls and he also enlisted some of the same musicians that appeared on Lullabies from the Axis of Evil along with such luminaries as the Egyptian-English Natacha Atlas.
While the recording acts as a perfect cultural exchange and peace project, as someone into sound healing, I don't necessarily find this recording healing for the mind-body, even if it acts as a cathartic experience for those divided by walls of separation. I say this because I find that programmed music, (drum machines, Pro-Tools and synthesizers), to create disturbances with the nervous systems of sensitive people, such as myself. The opener track, the rocker, The Only Passport You Have/Shalaban feels too tense to me. While I understand the frustration people feel around the planet, do I really want to invite that tension into my body?
We not only preach at the choir, we shout at members of the choir too. I don't want to feel angry, just because others do, but listen to music that creates a peace of mind so that I can go out in the world and provide some healing from a centered place. (This is a general statement that I make towards all forms of media).
On a brighter note, this recording includes more soothing pieces too, such as Same Song featuring Ulviyeh Arsehit, Mikhalis Tterlikkas from Cyprus and Katia Cardenal (Nicaragua), I Go to the Top of the Hill/A'lyadi featuring Natacha Atlas, Eiad Mdah and Esmaeel Mdah (Syria), the folk tune, Lonely Traveler.La Enorme distancia with Amalio Martinez, Leonor Almanza of Mexico and Mimi Goese (US). The Bi-Communal Choir and Peace Choir of Cyprus also bring us a gem, I Love My Country.
What I would like to see with peace project are ones that employ sound healing principles such as performances on acoustic instruments, even traditional instruments and some a cappella performances. The vocals on Songs Across Walls of Separation in themselves prove healing. Some of the most exquisite vocalists in the world music arena appear on this recording and their vocals and the vocals of the other singers carry this album. The programmed elements act only as sugary icing on an otherwise nourishing cake. I would love to hear an acoustic versions of these songs because they provide us with some beautiful melodies and heartfelt emotions.
It breaks my heart to critique the album in this way. But if I am going to take sound healing and music consciousness seriously, I must make these remarks. I have read too many articles and books by experts such as Joshua Leeds and Marjorie de Muynck, that have mentioned the ill effects of rock music and programmed drums. So it is my hope that as musicians and producers, we will eliminate programming from musical production and focus on healing vibrations. It's hard to imagine what that alone can do to healing suffering and dis-ease in our world.
It's time for sound healers and music producers to form a bond to take us into the next era of music. Are there any takers for this proposition?