Aired 2013-14 on ABC. Daunting headlines come from Egypt, from Syria, from Lebanon: another day, another bombing. Where are the encouraging examples of people of faith and conscience working together for the common good? [un]CommonSounds follows musicians and scholars eager to create a new song that crosses religious and cultural barriers. They gather in Beirut, Lebanon and Yogyakarta, Indonesia for concerts and conferences, to perform rock, folk, pop, classical, and Arabic music together. What happens when we listen closely to one another’s songs? [un]CommonSounds explores how music can foster sustainable peace amongst Muslims and Christians. This endeavor is led by ethnomusicologist Roberta R. King, PhD and scholar Sooi Ling Tan, PhD from the Brehm Center at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. As an international, interdenominational school, the Seminary is familiar with the crossing of cultures and traditions. Yet, the challenges of securing visas and gathering the musicians prove daunting. If we struggle to get to the same location, how difficult will it be to get on the same page for peace? Can the deep listening necessary for making music together enhance our ability to understand each other’s beliefs and practices?
With eighteen faith traditions recognized by the Lebanese government, we see a country striving to overcome the regional conflicts that press in from multiple sides. In Beirut, signs of hope emerge from the Classical Arabic Music Ensemble led by Dr. Nidaa Abou-Mrad. They demonstrate how the sacred chants of early Christians sound remarkably similar to Muslims’ enduring call to prayer. The Watar School for Music taps into the shared folk songs that unite the Lebanese people. An all ages choir led by Nizar Fares, of SuperStar fame (American Idol in Lebanon) illustrates how voices and faiths can merge into one united song. The silience of the Lebanese people shines through.
While we often associate Islam with the Middle East, Indonesia is the country with the largest population of Muslims. The Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies in Yogyakarta hosts a diverse cross section of arts, faiths, and practices. In Bandung, Irfan Amalee leads a team who work with high school students to reclaim the meaning of Islam as “peace.” A punk rock band, The Mahad, rehearses their positive anthems that echo bands like U2. Sumatran ethnomusicologists Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu lead the world music group, Suarasama at a closing night concert that lifts up Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad. Commissioned to write a tune that captures the heart of the conference, Irwansyah unveils, “We Share.” With Rithaony on lead vocals, musicians from the United States, Egypt, and Indonesia gather to celebrate the things “We Share” in common. Space is created for each performer to offer praise to their God in their own language and yet, the music comes together in soaring, swirling harmonies. This is the hope embedded in [un]Common Sounds: people sharing a song that elevates their beliefs while honoring and listening to each other.
For more info: www.songsforpeaceproject.org