The world is awash in blood, anger and hatred. One could say it's always been this way, and that is no doubt true. Scientists also argue that people truly became human when they first picked up a stick and hit someone else for no particular reason other than a desire for power or the other's possessions. But I'm sure that if the first human hit someone with a stick, the second human picked up a stick and started banging it on the ground, creating the first rhythm, the first music. And to this very day, even as the world remains saturated with violence, the sound of music rises even hire, lifting spirits and souls and dreams not skywards, but to the ears of other people, linking them together in the most powerful bonds of solidarity and brotherhood imaginable.
I have been a musician since I was 13, and I've traveled around the world trying to understand the roots of war and how to make peace since I was 18. One thing has become clear from everything I have seen and heard is that music is stronger than guns, knives and bombs. Music is, as Fela Kuti so famously put it, "the weapon of the future."
The evidence is everywhere. In Gaza, at 5 in the morning, when there's actually a bit of peace, you can hear it when 100 muezzins from every direction start chanting the fajr, or dawn call to prayer. You can hear it in Baghdad at the Cafe Hiwar, as some old blues comes through the speakers. It's louder--and more plaintive--than ever in Port-au-Prince, or New Orleans for that matter, as residents of those two historically connected port cities struggle against disasters natural and man-made by relying on their most powerful resource, their music, to help them gain strength for another day.
For many years I was not able to figure out how to blend together my music and my work as a historian and scholar of the Middle East. So I'd spend mornings in dusty archives, afternoons, running after insurgents, politicians or religious leaders, and someone, in the evenings, no matter where I was, I'd find other musicians, without even trying. After a while, it suddenly occurred to me, I was chasing the wrong people. The ones who really understood their cultures and societies, who couldn't just diagnose what was wrong but knew instinctively what would make it right, are invariably the musicians, not the politicians, war lords and businessmen.
Hang out with some rappers in Tehran, or death metalheads in Karachi, and you realize that we're much more alike than we are different. Watch 20,000 Arab kids cry while singing along with Bruce Dickinson to "Fear of the Dark" or sit in with a Gnawa band in Marakkesh's Jma el Fnaa, and feel to your core how Africa, the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean worlds can unite. Sway to some son in Havana and the blood feud between the US and Cuba melts away.
And its always been this way. I once found an illustration in the famed 13th century collection of songs, the Cantigas de Santa Maria--this was the magical era of "al-Andalus", when Muslims, Christians and Jews lived in relative harmony in Moorish Spain--that showed two musicians, one Muslim, and the other by his dress either Christian or Jewish. The two were playing the baldosa, the medieval precursor to the guitar; from the illustration it's clear they were jamming. One was holding his instrument slightly up, as if to show the other one what he was playing; the other was leaning in, his mouth open, in the middle of either singing or humming along. It is a scene any musician will recognized, and it shows how long people have used music to bridge the chasms that can be artificially created between peoples and cultures.
Move ahead 700 years and the Global Sound Lodge has been created to help channel the long history of musical sisterhood and brotherhood to a world that desperately needs it. We have no claims to prophecy or esoteric knowledge. We don't have the formulae to bring peace to warring clans and nations. But as artists we have all been hit by that flash of awareness, what Buddhism describes as Satori, that tells us that what we are fighting so ruthlessly over is ultimately as ephemeral as even the most sustained power chord.
what matters is community, justice and sustainability. One thing music tells us is that you can bring people from many cultures together and if they put their heads and souls in the same sacred space, amazing things can happen. But as with any great jam, it only works if the people jamming have absolute respect for and humility towards the other, even as they push each other to new musical heights. So we reach out to the world--to you, dear reader--and inviting you to join the greatest jam. Pick up your Les Paul, your drum sticks, or even your baldosa, and join us. Help music heal the world and bring today's enemies into the divine harmony that the greatest minds, from Pythagoras to Janis Joplin, have known lies at the heart of everyone if only we can hear the music.
We can offer no back stage passes, "authentic" merchandise, "VIP" seating or other supposed perks handed out by a music business desperate to claim former glory. We can only offer the chance to help heal a world desperately in need of it, one song, one instrument and one village at a time.