In a world where a random shooting spree can take away 20 young lives in a Connecticut school, what do we need from not just our law makers, law enforcers, politicians but from our musicians, artists, writers and filmmakers?
Through the ages, the arts have been the human spirit’s alternate escape route from a world where intolerance and violence create havoc.
In the world of cinema, music, literature and theatre there are no dividing lines or ruptures between nations and people.
Pandit Ravi Shankar passed away recently and regardless of the controversies surrounding his personal life and the diluted classicism, we will always celebrate him for showing us that bridges can be built between diverse nationalities and genres with open-minded collaborations. In the ’60s, George Harrison convinced Ravi Shankar to play with him at the Woodstock Festival and in the years to come Harrison’s music and spirit were impacted deeply by India... to the extent that he named his son Dhani, after the sixth and seventh notes of the Indian music scale, ‘dha’ and ‘ni’.
A beautiful example of the almost sublime power of music can be experienced while watching the footage of Concert for George on the first anniversary of Harrison’s death. The concert was organised by guitar legend Eric Clapton and featured many of George’s friends and collaborators, including former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr along with Clapton, Billy Preston,Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Jim Keltner, and Joe Brown. In an industry strewn with warring egos, it was an uplifting experience to see so many legends celebrating a departed colleague and each other.
From the sublime cadences of sitar to A R Rahman’s Grammy and Oscar triumphs to the energetic, compulsively infectious energy of Psy’s global hit Gangnam Style, nothing unites people better than a note that sings to all of us or makes us dance. And sometimes music can do more. Far more.
In 1984, top British and Irish musicians formed Band Aid to raise money for anti-poverty efforts in Ethiopia by releasing the song Do They Know It’s Christmas? and Bob Geldof and Midge Ure will go down in history as two of the most potent influences in using music not just to uplift the spirit but to change lives. In 1985, USA for Africa (United Support of Artists for Africa) brought together 47 musicians led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and the revenues of their hit We Are the World raised $100 million to tackle famine and disease in Africa.
Art spontaneously and effortlessly unites people and that is why regardless of our political differences, Pakistan and India have celebrated voices, poets, television shows and music from across the border. Celebrated Pakistani poet Qateel Shifai wrote extensively for Hindi films and many Pakistani poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ibn-e-Insha, Muzaffar Warsi, Ahmed Faraz have been celebrated by Indian ghazal singers, most notably Jagjit Singh. Nusrat Fatah Ali khan, Noorjehan, Iqbal Bano, Farida Khanum, Reshma, Ghulam Ali, Mehdi Hassan, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and counting have been part of a shared musical legacy.
Fusion of stories, ideas, sensibilities in the arts will make the world a more cohesive entity and even in cinema, be it Richard Attenborough or Ang Lee, cross cultural narratives have found universal resonance.
In a world where mass murder is a way to avenge a minor slight, we need arts, human stories and music to become more defiant of restrictions and boundaries and with the Internet playing a huge part in making every event, loss and triumph universal, we may in the future live in a world that is more united than divided.
(Reema Moudgil is the author of Perfect Eight, editor of unboxedwriters.com and an RJ)