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.