Issue No.
166, February 2012 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Solidarity Concert in Palestine

featuring John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain
Hosted by Al Mada for Arts-Based Community Development
in partnership with UNRWA

Art for Life

The new year in Palestine kicks off on a decidedly positive note with a visit by some of the world’s finest musicians to the Ramallah Cultural Palace to play a solidarity concert. World-renowned jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time, will play together with legendary tabla player Zakir Hussain and the members of fusion jazz group Remember Shakti.

This event has been organised by Al Mada Association for Arts-Based Community Development in Ramallah, which holds Palestine’s only music therapy centre. It was this initiative that first captured the attention of Grammy-award-winning guitarist John McLaughlin in 2010 when he donated the entire cash prize he was awarded at the prestigious Jazzahead Festival in Germany to support Al Mada’s music therapy centre project. 

All funds raised by the concert will be used directly to implement collaborative programmes between Al Mada and UNRWA. Al Mada has worked with UNRWA as a key partner since the establishment of the music therapy centre in 2009. Through a series of child protection and psychosocial programmes, Al Mada has trained more than 100 UNRWA staff from the health department, under the supervision of Dr. Umaiyeh Khammash, director of the department.

It has been John’s longstanding wish to play a concert in Palestine to which he is bringing some of India’s most respected and innovative musicians, including Zakir Hussain, the world’s foremost tabla player.

Born in Britain, John began to learn to play the guitar at the age of 11 and moved to New York in the late 1960s where he recorded his first album, Extrapolation, and started to play with two of the architects of early jazz fusion, Tony Williams and the late, great Miles Davis, who named a song on his album Bitches Brew after him.

His innovative spirit led him to set up the Mahavishnu Orchestra in 1971, a group whose hallmark was a technically difficult and complex style of music that fused electric jazz and rock with Eastern and Indian influences.

John is featured in some of the most influential jazz-fusion albums of all time, including recordings with Jaco Pastorius, Gil Evans, Al Di Meola, Paco de Lucia, and Carlos Santana. What began in the 1960s as a mixture of jazz improvisation and the rhythms, timbres, and energy of rock music, jazz fusion is a style of music refined by Miles Davis which evolved to incorporate a number of musical styles and instruments. John’s switch from electric to acoustic guitar and his exceptional improvisational abilities marked a profound influence on the genre to which he added hints of Eastern/Indian influences to create a new sound now widely regarded as a forerunner of world music.

He continued to explore his interest in oriental culture through the formation of the group Shakti, in 1975, which pioneered a ground-breaking and highly influential East-meets-West collaborative approach. Original members John McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain come together on the band’s 35th anniversary with their Remember Shakti band members U. Srinivas (mandolin), V. Selvaganesh (kanjira), and singer Shankar Mahadevan for the concert in Palestine, which follows an India tour in February 2012.

Remember Shakti is truly a musical marvel like no other, blending elaborate Indian elements with the finest spontaneity of true jazz for a head-spinning encounter with both musical cultures. John’s complexity and incredible virtuosity are matched only by that of his fellow group members. Zakir Hussain is a classical virtuoso whose dexterity simply beggars belief. Zakir uses every surface of the tabla, and every surface of the palms of his hands (fingertips, sides of his fingers, the heels of his hands) to get an incredible range of music from his instrument. 

The Palestine concert is an amazing opportunity to witness outstanding musicians perform a thoroughly unique event. Their performance is both an act of solidarity with Palestine, which also highlights Al Mada’s work with UNRWA, and a symbol of Palestine’s enduring social, cultural, and political relevance. The concert can and should act as an indication that heavily policed borders can neither isolate a culture from the world nor prevent the cultures of the world from engaging with it.

For a look at some of Shakti and Remember Shakti’s work, please
follow these links:

Dear Friends,
I’d like to inform you that after several years of pursuing the opportunity of playing in Palestine, we finally have arrived at a real possibility of achieving this dream in February next year. There is a very important association in Palestine called Al Mada. Their work is healing traumatised kids and people using several means, but primarily art and music. Thanks to the determination of the great people in Ramallah, and with the help of UNRWA, the group Shakti will play a free concert of solidarity for the wonderful work they are doing in helping victims of conflict.
Have a wonderful holiday season,

Working for a more just and more peaceful world   
We are very proud that Al-Mada has the unique opportunity to host John McLaughlin for this solidarity event that will send a strong signal of solidarity to people here and abroad. It is significant that this world-famous musician has decided to perform solely in Ramallah, a fact that could be taken as an example for other artists.

We hope that we will be able to accompany Al-Mada during the next years and cooperate with them in a future where they will implement their programmes in a free and independent society. 

Weltfriedensdienst e.V. (WFD)
WFD, the main partner of Al-Mada in establishing the first Palestinian music therapy centre, was founded in 1959 in Berlin, Germany, as a response to the horrendous experiences of World War II. The WFD supports initiatives and projects in which people work towards improving their own living standards and environmental conditions in an active and self-determined manner.

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