"Music can change the world because it can change people." Bono
The Arab-Israeli conflict has been described as the "most intractable conflict" between the Jews and the Arabs due to the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
How do we change a narrative of violence and pain?
Daniel Barenboim, famed pianist and conductor of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, gives the answer to that question: through music.
This Seville-based orchestra of young Arab and Israeli musicians is...
"...a human laboratory that can express to the whole world how to cope with the other."
The purpose of the ensemble as stated by Barenboim is as follows:
"to promote understanding between Israelis and Palestinians and pave the way for a peaceful and fair solution of the Arab–Israeli conflict.
The Divan is not a love story, and it is not a peace story. It has very flatteringly been described as a project for peace. It isn't. It's not going to bring peace, whether you play well or not so well.
The Divan was conceived as a project against ignorance. A project against the fact that it is absolutely essential for people to get to know the other, to understand what the other thinks and feels, without necessarily agreeing with it.
I'm not trying to convert the Arab members of the Divan to the Israeli point of view, and [I'm] not trying to convince the Israelis to the Arab point of view...
I want to create a platform where the two sides can disagree and not resort to knives."
Today's featured artist, Bassam Nashawati, has been a violinist with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for the last 16 years.
Bassam has toured the world with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra during the summers since 2004. He has also played several chamber music concerts in Argentina and as part of the Salzburg Music festival in Austria.
He states that the concept of the orchestra is to promote dialogue and mutual understanding of the narrative of the other as well as to make music.
His most challenging and inspiring experience with the orchestra was in the journey leading up to the concert in Ramallah they performed on the West Bank.
"It was literally a logistical nightmare since the Israelis were frightened and strongly discouraged by the Israeli government to go into Palestinian territories. On the other side, many of the Arab musicians were also forbidden to go to the West Bank since it is under the occupation of Israel.
This did not deter Maestro Barenboim who often says: "the impossible is easier than the difficult."
It took the personal protection of the United Nations...to make the concert in Ramallah a reality. This incredible trip and concert were recorded in the documentary film "Knowledge is the Beginning" which won an Emmy in 2006."
I am delighted that my good friend Bassam agreed to join us on Sonrie! 12 Musical Days of Christmas to help Raise Our Resonance together.
Click the video to hear a message and Christmas carol he recorded, from his heart, just for you.
Enjoy the Corrente and Double/Presto from Bach's Partita No.1 in B Minor performed by Bassam.
About Bassam Nashawati
A native of Damascus, Syria, Bassam Nashawati studied with the late Isadore Tinkleman at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and subsequently with renowned professor Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music earning Master of Music and Professional Studies degrees.
After performing with the New World Symphony with Michael Tilson Thomas, Mr. Nashawati joined the San Antonio Symphony’s first violin section in fall 1999 and held a position as an adjunct faculty at St. Philip’s College for several years. He has appeared many times as a recitalist and soloist with the Syrian National Symphony in his native country performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto, which took him on a tour to the US in 1998. Mr. Nashawati has been part of the Palestinian National Orchestra since its founding year in 2011 and has toured with them in Indonesia, Jordan and the West Bank.
Bassam has also pursued a theological degree in Orthodox Christian Studies and has been serving as a deacon since 2005 at St. Ephraim Orthodox Church in San Antonio, Texas, of which he is a founding member.
He recently founded a piano trio group called “Ariosa Trio” which offers free chamber music concerts in the San Antonio Area.
The Power of WE:
As we have seen in the blog celebrating Beethoven and we see in the long-standing work of Daniel Barenboim, and many other artists throughout time:
WE can make a difference. WE have the power to change the narratives of violence and pain that destroy.
Music, and all the arts, help us to create a different conversation.
Please support all the fine arts during these challenging times. Hire someone to do a live streaming concert, teach you a lesson and support your orchestras.
Please support the fine arts programs in the schools. They are more critically necessary than ever at this time of great change. #amillionvoicesfreed
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Violinist: Bassam Nashawati
Video Production Team: Shafique Pappa
"Tale of Two Symphonies" by Bassam Nashawati for Backstage Pass, Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony.
"West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London by Arnold Schönberg for the Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/ce004b18-465a-11e5-b3b2-1672f710807b
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict on Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli%E2%80%93Palestinian_conflict#:~:text=The%20origins%20of%20the%20conflict,Gaza%20Strip%20reaching%2053%20years.
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