New York and music. The two go together as harmoniously as they do notoriously, and don’t we have it all. Rock in the East Village, Jazz in the West, Classical uptown, R&B and Hip/Hop downtown, the list goes on and on. Street performers connect the sounds throughout the city and even subway performers keep it pulsing below the concrete. A constant rhythm and an endless beat. Music moves us all.
On January 8th, 2012, music moved eight diverse musicians to our famed Carnegie Hall. While this beloved institution has seen the various talent of performers such as The Beatles, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Tina Turner, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Duke Ellington (to name a few), it has not been noted for its multicultural performances. Cue Donna Stoering, the incomprehensibly talented musician and founder/artistic director of Listen for Life.
The concept is clear and the message is strong. Listen for Life strives to “restore music as a unifying force throughout the world” and believes that we can bring peace to the world through music. “The Power of Eight” fused eight world renowned musicians representing their world cultures. Israel, the USA, the U.K, Syria and Jordan all combined for an unforgettable night of music and unity, rejoicing in the universal language of music.
The performers included Yair Dalal (Israel), Naser Musa (Jordan), Faisal Zedan (Syria), Patrick Landeza (USA), Taylor Eigsti (USA), Van-Anh Vanessa Vo (Vietnam), Erin Nolan (U.K) and Donna Stoering (USA).
I was fortunate enough to meet several of the performers and speak with them after the concert. Below are a few highlights.
She’s an award winning recording artist, scholar, keynote speaker, composer, television producer, former artistic ambassador of both the United States and the United Kingdom, director and mentor. What doesn’t Donna do? There is one thing. She doesn’t stop. She even declares holidays (She pronounced January 8th as Multicultural Music Day worldwide). Her unrelenting passion for the project has impacted the lives of over nine million people in fifty five countries. She loves people, she loves peace and she loves music, and strives for cohesion between them all. Donna kicked off the show with two beautifully executed performances on the piano.
Are you trying to keep Multicultural Day in New York annually?
Well, the plan is to have an annual event in New York, and also having an annual Multicultural Music Day, as this one happened in eight countries. There will definitely be one in New York as well.
The concept of Listen for Life is beautiful, what made you want to start this movement?
14 years ago I founded it in London, but I was artistic ambassador for the U.K at the time and for the USA. In my travels a whole bunch of things converged and I met a lot of musicians who were coming up to me after seeing me on their national networks and saying, “You’ve got to help us.” Help you? To do what? And they told me that there were so many musicians in their cultures and their countries that were putting down their instruments and quitting because they couldn’t support themselves. They had instruments in their villages that nobody knew how to play. It was the first time in the known history of the world that we had that problem and the reason was because MTV was getting their kids and those cultures excited about doing what’s on TV and not in their culture. So they said, “Can you help us?” They knew that I was on TV. I was making TV programs all over the world and they said, “Why don’t you do something to show the kids that ‘this’ is cool.” At the same time I was offered my own television channel in Asia and Europe to make an alternative to MTV, and so I said, “OK, maybe I can help you do something!” So we started our own production company and that became Listen for Life. Then we started identifying musicians around the globe as I traveled and I got all of the producers in all of the countries involved in looking for their traditional musicians that were dying out and then we just started saving them all and supporting them.
What has been your main inspiration to do this?
My faith and my spiritual relationship with God. That’s what drives me and keeps me up all hours of the day and night when everybody else will quit and give up. I’ve always loved to travel and I love meeting people. Cultures are fascinating.
What is the best part about being in New York?
Oh, I love New York! I always have. I love the energy, it’s great.
Donna’s fourth book, “Change your music, change your life” is currently in the works. For more information on Donna please visit http://www.donnastoering.com.
“Listen for Life is kind of like the international Red Cross for music.” – Donna Stoeing
Hawaiian slack-key guitar and vocalist
Patrick reminded me of Bob Marley, not in his sound, but in the feeling of his music. Your body starts swaying, your mind is free, and you simply lose yourself in the beauty of his sound. It transports, and it elevates. Patrick wore his Lei’s proudly and his smile loudly.
What brought you on board with the project?
Anytime you can get Hawaiian music heard is a big deal. I really believe in that and this is only the beginning. Listen for Life and their mission is just incredible and I believe in that. I’m hoping they continue this wealth of music and knowledge.
You were smiling the whole time, it was so refreshing. Especially for a New Yorker!
We get along with everybody here! We brought everybody candies and cookies. As Hawaiians we really take this thing seriously, “Aloha”. By the time we got off the stage for sound check we knew everyone. It was good fun. Let’s do a couple more songs!
I read that you were a big foodie, and you and your father had a catering company that you work for when you’re not performing..
Food, music and party, or being social, “aloha”, was very key. Food always did that and so New York has been so important to us because it has so many different types of food. That spirit of Ahola.
What’s your favorite thing about being in New York?
THE PEOPLE! Everyone was so kind!
Patrick recently released his fourth CD, Ku`u Honua Mele (My Music World). For more information on Patrick you can visit http://www.patricklandeza.com/j3/servlet/HomePage.
Taylor is a two time Grammy nominated music prodigy, based in New York. During his performance his fingers moved over the keys with an unstoppable force, stimulating both your eyes and ears.
What brought you on to this project?
I definitely support any movement towards bringing a lot of different types of music together and breaking some rules and trying to bring some visibility to certain types of genres that aren’t afforded the same visibility as others.
Who are your inspirations?
I’ve grown up listening to jazz and absorbed a lot of that, but right now I try to keep everything I listen to really diverse. Everything from Björk to Jill Scott, to classical to recordings of crickets slowed down 90 times. I probably end up listening to jazz the least, but playing it the most.
Taylor is currently composing the soundtrack for Adrien Brody’s latest film. For more information on Taylor you can visit http://tayjazz.com.
Van-Anh Vanessa Vo
Dan Tranh, Dan Bau, Dan T’rung and vocalist
Emmy award winning and Academy Award nominee. There is something magical about Vanessa. While her music is wonderful in and of itself, it’s also that element of surprise that makes her so intriguing. It is difficult to decide what is more fascinating, the instruments that she plays or the fact that she can play these foreign machines so beautifully. Who knew that bamboo could make that gleeful, bright sound?
For more information on Van-Anh please visit http://www.vananhvo.com/.
Yair Dalal and Naser Musa
What made you both want to be involved with Listen for Life?
Yair: The answer is very simple. I will do everything that contributes to peace in the world.
Naser: Any chance I get to play with Yair.. I love his soul. We have this connection that is beyond borders, and passports and nationalities. We hope it creates openness in the dialogue between people. It comes down to music.
How does it make you feel to do this in New York?
Yair: The big apple? It is exciting. New York is a name. I will be very happy if this project will carry on, especially in places of conflict.
Please visit www.listenforlife.org to learn more about their mission and to support this inspiring movement.
Information taken from http://www.listenforlife.org/ListenForLife_Multicultural_Music_Day.html and the Carnegie Hall Playbill, January 2012.
Love to all,