Love is often cited as the internationallanguage, but music is the true global unifier. From the melodic sounds of theWest African balafon to the squeaky noises of the Scottish Great Highlandbagpipes, music exists in various fashions in virtually every culture aroundthe globe. It is the one form of communication that requires no translation, asall is understood from listening and feeling.
Though the arts alone cannotsolve international conflicts, in the past music has effectively been used as amethod of reversing deep-rooted prejudices, unifying warring countries, and healingafter fatal terrorist attacks.Music has been used to reversedeep-rooted and unjustified prejudices, leading to a decrease in the likelihoodof hate-driven conflicts. African-American blues pianist Daryl Davis hasundeniably proven how the arts can unify people of conflicting views.
WhileDavis was performing in a bar one night, a white spectator approached him tocompliment him on his jazz style. Davis graciously offered the man a drink, andsoon learned that the man was a KKK member. The two bonded over a shared loveof jazz music, and after becoming acquainted, Davis was able to convince theman to retire his KKK robe. After achieving this seemingly impossible task,Davis devoted the rest of his life to utilizing religion and music to convinceKlansmen to de-robe. So far, he has collected the garments of over 200 KKKmembers, and continues to befriend Klansmen today to implore a change of heart.Daryl Davis’s efforts serve as a model for overcoming prejudice-inducedconflict.
Instead of engaging in violent uprisings, as witnessed atCharlottesville, Virginia this past August, Davis’ work suggests that we mustfind common ground, and then engage in serious ideological discussions. Thismodel not only eliminates violent conflict, but it has been effective indrastically altering the viewpoints of outspoken racists, thus preventing evenmore violence in the future. Davis’ accomplishments are a clear example of howmusic, a common ground for many, can be used to initiate conversations thatprevent hate-motivated conflicts.In the past, music has also been used tounify warring parties, and to provide optimism for war-stricken countries. Inlate April of 1987, amidst a growingly violent civil war, famed musician BobMarley led his “One Love Peace” concert in Kingston, Jamaica. This event,established to ease political tensions and to raise money for Kingston’sdeveloping sanitary issue, pooled over 30,000 attendees.
Former Jamaican PrimeMinister, Michael Manley, and leader of the opposition party, Edward Seaga,were both present, sharing a moment of uncharacteristic coalition when Marleyfamously adjoined their hands on stage, receiving a great deal of praise fromthe audience. The music consisted of the top reggae charts of the time, a styleof music known for its uplifting, relaxing nature. Though this production didlittle to actually suppress violence, it gave the Jamaicans optimism to grasponto until the war concluded three years later.
The concert epitomizes howmusic, though unable to subdue violence, can serve as a reminder thatcoalescence remains possible when the right conditions finally emerge.Additionally, music has been used as amethod of healing after fatal terrorist attacks, which are becomingincreasingly frequent world-wide. When a French soccer field was overcome bythree suicide bombers during a match in November of 2015, over one-hundredspectators and players lost their lives. This deplorable attack launched Franceinto a national initiative to combat terrorism, and left the country in a stateof sheer uncertainty.
German piano player David Martello was compelled torelocate himself and his instrument to the sight of the attack after witnessingthis cataclysm on television. When he arrived, Martello planted his piano andbegan to tickle the ivories, playing John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” Martellowas able to utilize his musical ability to gather a group of grieving Frenchcitizens, and sing the praises of peace and nonviolence in a time of immensefatality. Though music did not prevent the terrorist attack from occurring,Martello’s production embodies the potential of music as a healing force inresponse to terror.The arts alone cannot solve internationalconflicts, but music can effectively be used as a method of reversingdeep-rooted prejudices, unifying warring countries, and healing after fatalterrorist attacks. It would be ignorant to think that a couple of melodic tunescan terminate widespread terrorism, or eliminate all racism, but harnessing thearts as a form of healing and unity must not be underrated.
Music is an artform to which everyone around the world can relate. Its global outreach mustcontinue to be used as an international bandage, healing the wounds that divideand demolish countries.