Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to formulate a response to disaster that embraces my own devotion to world music and traditional cultures. Certainly, the most important thing we can do for the victims is donate money so that disaster relief agencies can bring to bear what the victims really need. But beyond that, what more can be done?
In my case, I author a world music blog which features the music of cultures and performers whom I find compelling. Due to my own lack of knowledge or life experience, I know very little about the music of the peoples who live on the Indian Ocean in areas hardest hit by the tsunami: Sumatra (Indonesia), Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, south India and Somalia. I don’t own any music from any of these places. But I’ve just ordered a CD of the music of northern Sumatra (perhaps the area hardest hit of any in the world with a current estimate of 80,000 dead here alone). I plan to feature music from this CD on my mp3 blog just as soon as it arrives in the mail. Since time is of the essence, if anyone reading this would like to share something with me so I can get something up sooner, please contact me via e mail.
Areas affected by tsunami (credit: NYT)
Wouldn’t it be powerful if we can show the world not just the horror and devastation facing these countries, but their enduring musical and cultural heritage as well? So here’s my idea: let’s call upon the world music community–record labels, websites, mp3 bloggers, radio stations, non-profits–to devote their websites and airtime to the traditional music of these nations. Let’s do it in as unified a way as we can. For example, let’s feature the music of northern Sumatra in our blogs and on radio. Let’s have the record labels that promote world music do special promotion of performers from Sri Lanka or south India. Beyond that, let’s provide ready means for those who visit the sites or listen to the music to donate to the organizations on the frontline of the fight against this disaster.
Dancers from west Sumatra (credit: Emp.pdx.edu)
Over the past few years, we’ve heard much about the economic and societal damage done by globalization. Now, for the first time in memory we have a catastrophe that transcends borders and is truly global in impact. In response, we have an opportunity to muster a global response to this emergency that brings to bear the best of modern technology. Let’s use our blogs and our websites to raise cultural as well as philanthropic consciousness.
If you’re a radio DJ, if you’re with Calabash Music or Stern’s, if you’re an mp3 music blogger, if you run the World Music Institute, get hold of this music, feature it, provide people with ways to listen to it, and give people a chance to contribute to groups like Oxfam at the same time.
If you have related ideas of your own, I welcome your comments here.