I believe in the power of music to unify and connect people. Music is able to bridge the chasm of cultural, racial, social and political difference by connecting to people on a completely different level—one that is beyond the constraints of language.
During apartheid in South Africa where the black majority was suppressed, music served as a motivator for the black struggle. People sang of their hardships, their memories and their hopes and bonded together for the common goal of redemption. Every song echoed joy or heartbreak, hope or pain. These songs inspired the oppressed to continue fighting and provided a means to release the pain and suffering that was being incurred upon them. Even though I never experienced this sort of struggle, the pain and emotion transmitted from each note resonated within me, and touched me in an unexplainable way.
It seemed surreal that these songs impacted me in the way that they did. I felt connected to these songs and accordingly the artists on a level free from prejudice that bypassed every cultural difference and made two human beings truly understand and comprehend the other. Music has the power to communicate the raw emotion that cannot be conveyed through words alone. I experienced this same idea in a different manner when I played music myself.
When I first played in the school jazz band my improvisation was “monotone” and “lacked feeling.” The director kept me after class and clarified the true meaning of improvisation in the context of jazz. He explained that the notes were meant to speak for themselves. There is no robotic, linear rule—it all comes from you and you alone.
Later that year there was a jazz concert at school. I knew the sheet music like the back of my hand and I was eager to play. Right before the show started the director changed the songs making the opening song one that we had only rehearsed a few times—I did not have any solo cues or ideas. He swung the baton in my direction, signaling my cue I began to play. I honestly cannot remember how I played but I remember feeling in a sort of zone and it was at that moment like no other I felt that I could expose a piece of me to other people. I sensed I could communicate with someone who did not speak the same language as me or someone who did not even know me. At that moment I came to the full realization of the capability of music to be an extension of self and a reflection of a person’s inner being.
With this ability, music is a viable way to be a source of commonality in a world that is plagued by difference and animosity. I believe in the ability of music to defy differences within people and to unite and draw people together by conveying a pure, emotional and genuine part of ourselves onto others. Music is a universal idiom.
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