MUSICIANS WITHOUT BORDERS: WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS

Before talking about the NGO Musicians Without Borders , it’s worth talking a little about the history of its founder, Laura Hassler . Daughter of pacifists, she grew up in a community created by her parents, close to New York and inhabited by activists, artists and musicians, in an environment where all diversity was respected, children learned music and grew up listening to stories about civil rights, anti movements -apartheid and how music is a powerful tool for connecting people. After living in several countries, Laura moved to the Netherlands, where she built a career as a choir director and cultural organizer, always using music as an instrument of social inclusion and cultural diversity. “In 1999, when asked to produce an annual concert in memory of World War II, Laura chose to perform traditional Balkan songs, drawing attention to the victims of the bloody wars that were going on in Europe at that very moment,” says Eefje Wevers, of the NGO's communication team. The impact of this performance was so great that after a short silence, the audience applauded for more than twenty minutes and there Laura realized that she could use the connecting power of music for reconciliation and to heal the wounds caused by the war.

 

Laura then sought out human rights organizations, contacted socially engaged musicians and in less than a year, Musicians Without Borders was active and had already toured the postwar Balkan countries, connecting musicians and local organizations. They also made presentations to Kosovo refugees who were welcomed in the Netherlands, in addition to promoting activities with children and donations to musicians who lost their instruments during the war.

Soon came MWB's first long-term project, the Music Bus, which took place in war-torn eastern Bosnia, bringing music, dance and theater to children in Srebrenica and refugee camps. With the success of this action, Musicians Without Borders was invited to conferences and cultural events in Kosovo and Palestine, which would later lead to major long-term programs: a Mitrovica Rock School and Palestine Community Music .

 

“War and armed conflicts leave behind traumas and feelings of loss, anger and grief, both at the individual and collective levels. People often remain fearful, isolated and separated from others, and are reduced to that part of their identity that defined them in the context of the conflict: whether ethnic, religious, racial, historical - or simply as a victim. This mentality can be passed on from generation to generation, even long after a specific war or conflict has officially ended ”, comments Eefje. “Music can help people rediscover their complex identity, allowing them to reconnect with others through positive shared experiences. Music can provide a way to develop creativity and talent, process negative feelings and experiences in a non-threatening way and build connections between people in divided communities. These are essential elements of peacebuilding that can help transform relationships and redefine communities ”, concludes.

Today MWB operates in several countries, through close collaborations with musicians from around the world and partner organizations. Projects are evaluated to see if they fit the mission and experience of MWB, and that can be carried out in a way that ensures sustainability and sustainability. local ownership. Several actions have already taken place in Latin America, including the project Soy Música , in El Salvador, a partnership with Unicef ​​and the local government, which trains teachers and educators to use music as a stimulus to creativity, social cohesion, and to promote a culture of non-violence. In Mexico MWB is collaborating with the organization CCompaz , in a program to protect children and young people from impacts the extreme violence to which they are exposed in their daily lives. Laura Hassler has also participated in conferences organized by Fundación Batuta , from Colombia, and in 2018 she was in São Paulo, participating of an event promoted by Projeto Guri .

With the arrival of the pandemic and the impossibility of travel, many projects had to be rethought and transformed into online actions. “Now more than ever, people in conflict-affected communities need music to stay connected at a time when we are all unexpectedly isolated. We are doing everything we can to make this happen, ”says Eefje.

When asked how to contribute to the organization's actions, Eefje suggests inviting Laura or other MWB representatives to speak at conferences or platforms where people can directly support the work through donations or by organizing fundraising events on behalf of the organization, but he remembers something fundamental: “An even more important role for people in the music community is to become transforming themselves, knowing how to use the power of music to strengthen the bonds in their community, to build resilience and to heal the wounds left by the global issues that impact today's world ”.

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