Sometimes culture comes to your doorsteps, the waves of how people live demonstrated by the musical instruments that they play. In April 2010, the Musical Instrument Museum opened its doors in Phoenix. It is a fascinating look into how people can transform vegetable and cloth fibers into musical instruments and provide solace and happiness to the souls around them. The experience is not limited to one particular region, but covers all continents, from remote areas of Africa to locales in Nepal. As I toured the museum, there were instruments and countries that never entered into my spectrum of thought, the geography and history of these regions unfamiliar to me.
Each display has a corresponding musical video that profiles the people of the region, their instruments and the dances that accompany give added meaning to the sounds. The exhibit from the Congo left a particular impression on me, one that I wasn’t really expecting. Traditional Congonese music involves drums, the beat deep and penetrating, almost unforgettable once you hear it. In the video, I saw how the women danced, young girls, adorned in colorful costumes, their wide eyes full of youth and an uninterrupted innocence. Their faces smiled, perhaps the scars of war was something that they hadn’t experienced. But I wondered. It is estimated that over 200,000 females, which include infants, toddlers, girls, teenagers, ladies, and elderly, have been raped in the Congo. When I looked at the faces on the screen, I hoped their innocence was true, that the ravages of war wasn’t something they experienced.
In the opposite end of the museum, sits John Lennon’s piano, the one where he composed the song, Imagine. I stared at his piano, humming some of the words of the song to myself, “Imagine All the People Living Life in Peace.” And I thought of the Congonese drum and the women and their dancing. In my everyday life, I don’t think about war or its atrocities and the hundreds and thousands of people who die for reasons I can’t understand. A part of me felt some guilt in perusing and looking at some of the instruments, educating myself about the facets about their culture, realizing there are multiple and complex layers than the superficial.
It really isn’t just about the music.
For every person who chooses to leave a comment on this post, I will donate to Women To Women International, an organization that help rape survivors in the Congo.
It sounds like a fantastic museum that I for one would love to visit. But besides that, I am so happy to read this post because you touch on a topic that is very dear to my heart. The women and girls of the Congo. One activist who has done a lot to shine a light on the atrocities against them is Eve Ensler. She has made discussions about abuses against women less of a taboo (and who a while back became famous for the Vagina Monologues). She has moved me to tears many times just listening to her stories about how strong these women and girls’ spirits are. She has worked with the locals there to build a community for those who have been raped, tortured and victimized in unimaginable ways. And yes, Eve has talked about how beautiful they look when they sing and dance — as if they’ve never gone through the most hideous of offenses known to human beings. I hope to visit there in the next few months…(of course, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge that rape as a weapon of war is used in many other countries)…
And I’m also thrilled to see that you are supporting Women for Women Int’l. Zainab Salbi has done a great job with this organization. For a very minimal amount each month, a donor could sponsor a woman and it turns her life completely around, she graduates from the program, and the donor is assigned a new woman to help.
I apologize for rambling. I’ve been active in this current wave of the women’s movement for sometime now and it gets a bit lonely when I run in a circle with the same ole people. I get such a lift every time I hear someone new (to me) caring and doing something about this.
I, too, often think about the terrible wars that are constantly raging in many different countries. In those war torn countries, violence isn’t limited to just the males. It makes me nauseated as I hold my children close and think about how I’d feel if I couldn’t protect them.
Such a powerful moment in music that connects us all in something larger… this post reminded me of a post I wrote when I was just beginning to imagine that I could even dare to blog (http://bit.ly/bRWRjr).
I’m with you in imagining… Namaste
Rudri — I just wanted you to know that, although I never comment, I read every blog post. I wish I had gotten to know you better when we were in school together. You have such a beautiful mind, and I’m so proud to call you my friend.
Hope all is well in your world.
Wow. That sounds like an amazing place! If only it was as easy as music.
That sounds like such am amazingly interesting museum. Music is a great enabler, a great voice and a great uniter of people.
Great post Rudri.
Great post, as usual.
The museum soounds fabulous. As for war and rape, I cannot even begin to imagine the horrors. I saw something on tv last night, and I believe it stated that every two minutes a woman is raped. The sheer atrocity of that made me cry, both from saddness and anger. How can humans be so cruel? I world of peace really would be a beautiful thing.
As my brother is in Iraq… “peace” is very near and dear to me and your post gave me *chills*… just “Imagine.”
Another beautifully written post. :).
What a beautiful, wonderful, inspiring post. And such a noble cause. I heart you, rudri!
Very thought provoking and well written. As much as people complain about things in this country there is nowhere else in the world I would rather live. I am grateful for where I am. Thank you for reminding us all of this.
There are some things that transcend time and space, art and words. Even music. Beautiful post.
I have felt that sort of guilt before, at having wonderful opportunities to learn about terrible things. Your post is lovely, and your contribution inspiring. What’s amazing, too, is the ability the human spirit can have to transcend tragedy and horror – some of those brutally abused women have gone on to effect change. I hope that the young women in the video you saw had retained their innocence, too. And I also hope for those who have been ravaged by war and brutality that they might dance again.
Thank you for donating! What a great idea.
Women to Women is an excellent organization and how kind of you to donate to such a worthy cause. It is quite sad, isn’t it? As one of the other posters above said, things in this country may not be perfect, but we have it a heck of a lot better than most of the world.
One of the reasons I get so frustrated when people don’t keep up with news because ‘they can’t take it’ is that we simply *have* to know about what goes on elsewhere if we are to help change things. It’s frankly our duty – how would it be if we were in dire need and being ignored because it was all too depressing for someone else to think about?. It’s particularly bad when I hear it from women because women are so very badly treated in this world of ours and we need to reach out to them. (I strongly believe that given the opportunity it is predominantly women who can be the driving force for radical positive change in communities everywhere).
Thank you for highlighting this and for your generous offer to donate to such a worthy cause.
Another amazing post, Rudri. You’re doing a wonderful thing.
Thank you for this post, Rudri. And for what you’re doing. You are truly an inspiration.