I often use the term 'sliding on a banana peel', because you don't know where you will land. So I slid into this banana peel and landed up touring in a bus with really good musicians. One of them was a Danish guy who played music from Romania and Hungary and Yugoslavia.
The other guy was a Swedish fiddler. They said let's go to this fiddlers gathering, which was not a festival or competition or concert, but just a place where people met and played Swedish folk music. There were some 20, people out there. I had never heard such amazing music. So in a sense a whole new world opened to me. From then on I started to play the violin really eagerly.
I also started to dig deep into Russian, Slavic and Swedish music. It was a very special period in Swedish history.
Our band which had 30 people had its own place. It became a hub for all sorts of creative, crazy people; musicians, artists, painters, people working in circuses, dancers, composers, directors, filmmakers. In many ways it was an artistic tumbler. Photo: owe. How do you manage the two worlds, or are they both intertwined? That is an interesting question. In my early days we toured with a band called Orientexpressen.
We became the most hard-working band in Sweden because we played even more than musicians in a symphony orchestra. We played gigs a year, while having full time studies. We also introduced Hungarian musicians, Bulgarian musicians, musicians from Georgia and Yugoslavia in Sweden through our touring.
So most of our studies were in the back seat of the tour bus. Interestingly, nearly all of us eventually became ethnomusicologists.
But over the years it became difficult. Because if you love something and get too near to study it, the love dies in some way. So I quit studying music and went into other things and kept music more as a precious thing that I can do myself. Then I became an ethnogerontologist or a person who studies ageing. Then I studied heritage politics and island studies. Now I just like to enjoy my music. In you performed the Belle Sounds concert, one of the world's largest live concerts.
Tell me a bit about the idea That was an amazing project. Musicians have a joke that says that Richard Wagner's music is better than it sounds, because it is so full of meaning that you cannot actually hear. Sounds ironic, but the same goes for Belle Sounds. We wanted to explore, what music is and where the border is of what you can conceive as music. So I conceptualised the idea and worked with one of the most famous Swedish composers. We had no idea of the result. So in many ways we were exploring the borders of sound and music.
Also the sound of bells connect us to the oldest of sounds. This is the oldest instrument that still sounds the same. In some way we can listen to the sounds that were heard in the 14th century.
There were also more layers of meaning connected to Belle Sounds. The idea was to show that small places like Gotland can have big voices. For the project I had to recruit volunteers. We taught them to record with smart phones, which was a new technique for us then.
We had a person placed in every church with a slip of paper counting the seconds. Each one used a clock with the exact time they had to ring the bell. Of course nobody could be in contact with each other and there was no physical presence while conducting because there was no place to be seen or heard. So we conducted the whole thing in the studio.
And a volunteer broadcasted the live sound from their smartphone using an app that could transform the smartphone into a broadcaster. This was the largest ever live concert. We put more than live streams together, which is a lot more than the number of live streams used in the Olympic Games. Belle Sounds was the biggest live project ever done on radio. To make this happen we had to include so many specialists. And we found almost every person we needed here on Gotland. So in a way it also showed the competence of the people here, that we can do great things.
So in many ways it was the combining of technology with tradition, using one of the oldest sound, like the bell, with a new technology like the smart phone?
You have an old form connected to very new ways. We couldn't imagine the result when we started out. I envisioned the concert in three parts, a common Classical form. The sound was so moving that there were many people who started to cry listening to Belle Sounds. Later on when I saw the emails, we got thousands of emails from everywhere. Most of these messages were about the emotions people felt that connected them to something of the past. Belle sounds was awarded an international prize [the Prix Italia].
It was broadcast in 12 countries with five million listeners across the world. There has been an attempt to revive traditional Swedish music and traditional musical instruments. For instance bagpipes are usually associated with Scotland or Ireland, but Sweden also has an almost forgotten history in bagpiping. What has been your association in trying to revive it? We know there were bagpipes here in Sweden in the medieval ages. In fact one of the first portraits of a bagpiper is from Gotland.
My professor in ethnology had found out that there was one person who could handle a bagpipe in the s. When he talked to musicologists, they however said that there had not been a bagpiper in Sweden since the 16th century.
But actually there were in a few places. So a few of us thought maybe we could revive bagpiping by learning how to make bagpipes and the reeds, which is the most difficult to make. Two years later I went to Bulgaria, one friend went to Galicia in Spain and another went to north Sweden. We learnt how to make bagpipes. Then we held a bagpipe festival in that same village where the last person who played the bagpipe lived.
Nobody really knew what it was. One student wondered in her journal why he would create sound from his shackles. Was he simply passing the time? Was this protest music? Perhaps creating music from his chains was a form of validating his existence in this identity-crushing place and situation, she wrote in her journal. It is disturbing, after having witnessed a hearing, to realize how these people have suffered through the dehumanizing process of Operation Streamline.
Subsequently, on the U. Some of them had gone three days without food. Some of them were ill from drinking water from stock ponds for cattle. Some of the migrants told us that they thought they would die in the desert. Many of them will likely be detained by Border Patrol when they leave the camp and continue on their journey.
They may be sent through Operation Stream and will subsequently be removed or deported. Together we sit around a campfire with those who have enough energy.
We take turns telling jokes, talking about our families, conditions in their countries Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala , why they have come, and where they are going. Together we sing songs around the campfire. Sharing music by a fire under the stars is an organic activity during which I usually feel close to those around me. On our most recent trip, a migrant from Mexico, Joel, played a tambourine and smiled more than he had since we met him. Here at the campfire we share music. These field trips have proven to be the most powerful pedagogical experiences that I have ever facilitated.
Since I am limited as to how many students I can bring to the border, I have sought ways to bring the border and the related humanitarian crisis to my students. In May of , artist Shawn Skabelund and I and collaborating members of the community installed six thousand crosses in a quad on the campus of Northern Arizona University to honor and commemorate those that had died on the border.
Some students cried while contemplating the crosses. The installation was powerful, but it was still physically situated in a specific site, on a college campus in Flagstaff, Arizona, so people had to be present in this place in order to see the crosses. We needed a different medium—music—in order to dislodge the border crisis from a specific location and time. Music constitutes a powerful vehicle with which to raise awareness about the contemporary crisis on the border.
At the same time, the Border Songs CD is literally raising money to save lives. No More Deaths places water in the desert and provides humanitarian aid to migrants in the Arizona desert and to recently deported people on the Mexican side of the desert.
Each Border Songs album purchased provides twenty-nine gallons of water or the equivalent in medical supplies, food, or clothing to people in extreme need. A double CD in English and Spanish, Border Songs is an extremely eclectic album that explores issues about the border and immigration through music and spoken word in a spectrum of diverse styles and genres.
The diversity of musical and regional styles would serve in an introductory World Music course to teach musical genres including blues, corrido, cumbia, folk Americana, hip hop, Central American new song, rock, and wall! Additionally, the Border Songs album could serve as a text in any number of courses—Border Studies, English Composition, Ethnic Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature, Spanish Language Skills—essentially any class in which students might explore the concepts of ethnicity, privilege, identity, and power.
As a professor with a background in literature who teaches courses about the border and immigration, I often use song lyrics as texts in my classes. For these reaction papers I encourage students to observe how a specific song might highlight facts, realities, and perspectives about the situation on the U. But we have a small farm, that we water with tears. How can we compete?
The gringo farms are so big. Now we cannot stay here. The lyrics make reference to the fact that migrants seek work in the U. Who cares if your markets are free? It sometimes brings tears, sometimes a smile. These songs bear witness to the reality that many undocumented people did not migrate by choice.
Their lives in the U. Allowing students to choose the songs that they want to discuss gives students a sense of ownership in the process of defining and directing the class.
The process of choosing the pieces that they want to write about encourages students to explore the entire album, two hours of audio material, on their own. In addition to observing the factual information communicated by the songs, students engage with the material aesthetically.
Each of these songs explores the concept of national borders from a different perspective. Humanitarians argue that deporting people to random and often dangerous cities along the border, far from their families, is cruel, dangerous, and ineffective.
The song crosses various borders from El Salvador to the U. This chorus offers opportunity for the exploration of linguistic, national, and political borders. Before one has explored the concept critically, it is easy to think of borders as if they were natural divisions that have always existed.
In the four years that I have been teaching about the border in Arizona, I can count on one hand the number of students who came to my class knowing the history of the U.
Most of my students have never thought about how the history of indigenous peoples cannot fit neatly into a Mexico—U. Other songs cross borders musically. Whereas the lyrics follow a woman who crosses the international border, the song simultaneously crosses musical borders. This border-crossing blues expresses the misery and sadness of a woman forced to migrate as an economic refugee—only to find that her dream of a better life has vanished.
Not only did the law reach the Supreme Court parts of SB were struck down, other parts remain intact , but it also inspired copycat laws in thirty other states including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Utah, and others.
In addition to the contemporary theme of racial profiling, students observe the historical elements of the song. In class we discussed whether the current movement for immigration reform is a new struggle or a new stage in the historical struggle for civil rights in the United States. To add depth to this conversation I incorporated journalistic accounts of contemporary immigration protests that are breaking out all over the United States.
My students were surprised to realize that for many the struggle for civil rights continues into the twenty-first century. We spend considerable time in the course studying the little-known details of the humanitarian crisis on the border. Students are stunned to learn that since over seven thousand human remains have been found in the borderlands and that this number only counts the dead whose remains have been found.
The book begins with the story of the death of Josseline, a fourteen-year-old girl from El Salvador who was abandoned in the desert while trying to reach her mother in Los Angeles.
Most of these messages were about the emotions people felt that connected them to something of the past. In , Weyant visited the border with poet Margaret Randall, each of them interpreting the wall in their own way. It sometimes brings tears, sometimes a smile. On our most recent trip, a migrant from Mexico, Joel, played a tambourine and smiled more than he had since we met him.
There are other instances during which music overlaps with politics on these field trips.
For these reaction papers I encourage students to observe how a specific song might highlight facts, realities, and perspectives about the situation on the U. In you performed the Belle Sounds concert, one of the world's largest live concerts. Border Songs provides the opportunity for students to explore and examine the U. We became the most hard-working band in Sweden because we played even more than musicians in a symphony orchestra. So most of our studies were in the back seat of the tour bus. How do you manage the two worlds, or are they both intertwined?
After hearing the music he came up to us and said, 'wow you are better than Batman! So in a way it also showed the competence of the people here, that we can do great things. This just closes them down. Whereas the lyrics follow a woman who crosses the international border, the song simultaneously crosses musical borders. Rupali Mehra is an independent journalist and communications consultant.
In fact one of the first portraits of a bagpiper is from Gotland. So in many ways it was the combining of technology with tradition, using one of the oldest sound, like the bell, with a new technology like the smart phone? She has worked with several Indian and international news organizations including Reuters. This is not for you and you shall not be here. So in a sense a whole new world opened to me.
I envisioned the concert in three parts, a common Classical form. He can get everyone in the room tapping their feet in moments. Students are stunned to learn that since over seven thousand human remains have been found in the borderlands and that this number only counts the dead whose remains have been found.
In many ways it was an artistic tumbler.