Sunday, July 4, 2010

In review--tsunami music (The Way the Wind Blows)

Laya Project

In 2004 before the tsunami hit South Asia and East Africa, animals and indigenous people fled to higher ground. There intuition had saved them from one of the greatest disasters to happen in the last decade. The aftermath brought much needed attention to the poorer communities bordering the Indian Ocean and climate change, and also exotic music that might not have been brought to the world’s attention had the tsunami not struck ground in this region of the world.

Laya Project’s Tsunami Music: Sounds Embrace Survival from the Maldives to Myanmar, from India to Indonesia, spearheaded by Patrick Sebag and project producer and director (both a documentary and double CD) Sonya Mazumdar, the repertoire here comments on the musical vastness of this planet. While the CDs contain plenty of tabla beats, Indian twang, bansari flutes etc, listeners also hear Buddhist chants, love songs for the departed, and the rich polyphony gamelan of Indonesia. The vocals of many villages and countries share their laments and hope as they rebuilt their communities and shared their culture through music. After all, music has the power to heal individuals, community, and the world as it sends out its message of love.

I was expecting a field recording that gathered traditional music from the Asian, East Asian and African villages affected by the tsunami, but instead my ears adjusted to field recordings combined with programming and orchestral arrangements. At first I didn’t care for the processed music, but after subsequent listens, I think the producers have done a fabulous job combining sounds of the modern world with traditional music. And only a few of us would pick up a field recording anyway, whereas, I admit this more modern approach will reach the ears of younger generations which include the world’s future leaders, future grassroots organizers, and future music producers.  These are the generations that need to learn about world hunger, climate change, and the economics of developing countries, not that such a hefty burden should be thrusts upon their shoulders, but that they inherit the burden regardless based on the time in history in which they were born.

Besides, the healing power of music happens on many levels, including the level of building community through music. No one is going to mistake the music on these CDs for relaxing and de-stressing music. What is offered here provides a different kind of therapy and that is the healing of an entire planet by recognizing other nations and communities through their music. And who is to say that the music provided on these disc doesn't heal the grief faced by the families who lost their homes and loved ones during the 2004 tsunami? The song In the Sky features a singer lamenting about the wife he lost (Sri Lanka) and various religious chants (Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and indigenous) on the CDs offer solace and hope.

The scope of Laya Project, both musically and socio-politically is too large to review in its entirety as are the healing results of such a project. I can only hope that the musicians on the project, who listeners might come to love, have rebuilt their lives during the past 6 years, that hearts have healed, and that this gorgeous music reaches a wider audience of caring folks.  And kudos to the caring hearts that produced this enormous project. and

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