Stories from Jordan and Syria: Spring 2008
Cameron and Kristina: Upcoming Journey to Syria and Jordan
We have learned a lot from our recent work with Mexica and Huichol friends in central Mexico about how to move with honor, integrity and trust in constant spiritual communion with all life forms.
And they have learned techniques from us, inspired by our indigenous friends in Mesapotamia, Egypt and the Levant, about how to tenaciously preserve ancient egalitarian spiritual wisdom.
As you know, choices sometimes have to be made between following paths of ancient wisdom rather than paths which result in the abusive use of powerful technologies.
We will, in accordance with the principles laid out in the Mission Statement of Musical Missions of Peace http://www.musicalmissionsofpeace.org which provides our support, seek to establish musical projects in Jordan and Syria which can bring at least a small measure of relief to Iraqi refugees currently stranded in those countries.
We will also, in accordance with the same Mission Statement, attempt to raise funds so that additional "Triple Musical Ambassadors" can travel and learn and perform both globally and domestically.
Please forward this message to as many friends as you think may be interested and encourage them to subscribe to one of our e-mail lists. They will receive regular updates as we travel.
Contributions to Musical Missions of Peace (501c3 tax-deductable) help support these projects. It is gratifying to see that substantial contributions are now flowing in. You will find it easy to become either a one-time donor or to become a regular subscriber online with your credit card.
We encourage musicians who wish to apply for funding through Musical Missions of Peace to copy the online application form and fill it out and return it.
Please inquire if you have questions or desire additional information. You may reply to this email.
Many Thanks, Cameron and Kristina
Cameron and Kristina: Iraqi Refugee Women Come Home With Us
You may remember that when we were singing on the streets of Baghdad in 2003 we deliberately turned down Iraqis' numerous offers to come visit them in their homes precisely because we suspected that our acceptance of their hospitality could lead to this kind of retribution.
The three women now in our home face a difficult transition here in America with very little support. They will qualify for food stamps after being issued Social Security cards. They just arrived from Jordan where they continually faced the possibility of expulsion back to Iraq. Jordan, a country of only 7 million, of whom 75% are already Palestinian refugees, cannot easily support millions of incoming Iraqis.
When we arrive in Jordan in another ten days we will work to set up channels so that donations to Musical Missions of Peace made here in the US can be received by Iraqi refugees over there. We will then proceed to Syria, which has an even larger Iraqi refugee influx, and attempt to do the same.
Being musicians ourselves, we are drawn to work through the healthiest and most reliable networks we know: musical networks. Musicians are connected emotionally to the most diverse types of people and are already working to accentuate a spiritually rich aspect of life. Music is food for the soul and when payment is received for its teaching and for its performance, it is also food for the belly. We trust musicians and they trust us.
One of the most amazing recent models for helping desperately poverty-stricken youth has its roots in Venezuela, whose new leaders have funded music education for more than 250,000 young Venezuelans from remote rural areas and big city barrios. One of these graduates is now the explosively popular new 26-yr-old conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and 23 other countries around the world are already initiating programs modeled after the one in Venezuela. See http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/printer_25164.shtml for more information on these amazing successes.
As those of you who have followed our work know, the ancient music of Mesopotamia, performed in complex musical scale systems which ante-date European musical scales by hundreds, even thousands, of years, deserves to be performed and heard across the vast cultural landscape of planet earth so that its ancient spiritually rich messages can be appreciated by many more millions of people. Iraqi refugees now stranded in Jordan and Syria can be a big part of this.
What might have unfolded if the suggestion printed on the back of our "Baghdad and Beyond" music CD, copyrighted in May, 2003, had been the model for the US invasion?
To help support Musical Missions of Peace please go to http://www.musicalmissionsofpeace.org
Your friends can go to http://www.musicalmissions.com and add their email address to one of our lists so that they too will directly receive our updates as we travel through Jordan and Syria in May and June.
Many Thanks for your Attention, Cameron
Cameron and Kristina Arrive in Jordan
As I look at the faces around me, all men and women who are now exiled from their homeland, I can see the different mixes of hardships and suffering. And I see the childlike joy with which the music emerges from their souls.
We have begun dialogue with the owner of a music shop regarding our Musical Mission of Peace designed to offer support to Iraqi refugees here in Jordan by financially encouraging their children's musical education.
We will soon make a loop through Syria where an even larger number of Iraqi refugees are currently in residence. It is said that at least two million Iraqis have fled to Jordan and Syria to escape the disorder and violence in their homeland. But neither Jordan nor Syria has the infrastructure to offer employment to so many. That is why we are here. We will do what we can, in our own musical way, to provide a pipeline of financial support from sympathetic Americans.
I've heard that there is no word in Arabic for "alone", the closest word means "lonely".
Iraqi Refugee Musicians Agree To Work With Us In Jordan
A friend who runs a local music store has offered to allow the lessons to take place in his store until we raise enough money to rent a dedicated location in which these teachings can take place.
Also remember: this provides desperately needed employment for these refugees.
Tomorrow we go up to Damascus to initiate an identical project there in Syria which has been the most welcoming country to these now homeless Iraqis.
Musicians can be seen as the most trustworthy souls to carry out this mission. They are neither politicians nor military men nor even ambitious in business. When they chose the musical path, they chose the path of the heart and of the poet.
Now is the time. Please forward this message far and wide so that the American people can help preserve something precious in the midst of otherwise widespread disruption and destruction. Encourage your friends to join our email list so that they can be kept up to date.
To make a donation, or better yet, to become a subscriber, or regular donor to Musical Missions of Peace, go to: http://www.musicalmissionsofpeace.org and scroll down to the Donate button and use your credit card. We must have help to carry out this project. Or send a check to: Musical Missions of Peace, 2090 Grape Ave, Boulder, CO 80304. Your donations to this non-profit corporation are tax-deductable.
Remember that the governments have spent hundreds of billions on the destructive process and shown very little ability to fix the things they have broken. In my opinion it is up to us, the people, to actually make progress in this direction.
Cameron and Kristina: Update from Syria
Setting up US-funded music schools in both Syria and Jordan to help preserve the most elaborate old music styles of Iraq is the goal.
Tonight we were invited to perform in a local restaurant here in Lattakia which was of course a great pleasure. We offered favorite pieces of music from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria to an appreciative audience who honored us by singing along, especially when we performed the Syrian music.
For those of you who have not studied the mission statement on the home page of our Non-Profit Organization's website, here it is:
Thanks and More Soon, Cameron
Musical Missions: Update From Syria
We have also met with employees of the United Nations Refugee Agency in Damascus and they have put us in contact with those who administer classroom spaces and other facilities which are needed. Thanks to donations which have already been received we have enough money to begin on a small scale.
We are working to accomplish goals which are exact opposite of war. The more we work on setting up this project the more we realize what a perfect vehicle it is for Americans who have felt anguish about the war to give something back to Iraqi people.
We are literally able to say, "We find your way of living beautiful, artful and worthy of admiration and support. We are concerned that the disruptions caused by the war have endangered the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia of which music is such a major part. This is a way in which we can make a difference by contributing to the musical education of your children."
And of course this leads to employment for Iraqi musicians who were accustomed to being valued in highly respected musical institutes in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq before the current disintegration of social structures took place.
And of course members of fundamentalist groups won't be involved because they don't see popular music as a legitimate part of their world. If they open their minds and want to be included then so much the better. Involving one's heart mind and soul with the ancient spirit of this music leads to the spiritual love affairs Sufi poets such as Rumi have written so eloquently about.
Thanks and More Soon, Cameron
Cameron and Kristina: Syria Part One
We were gratified to see that ongoing love for the ancient maqam music remained predominant with very little influence from modern European and American well-tempered scales. The Lebanese music has been perhaps the most Westernized. Damascus, like Aleppo and Baghdad, claims five thousand years of cultural and musical heritage wherein lyrics have been composed in Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Turkmen, Persian, Armenian and Turkish tongues by mixtures of Assyrian, Armenian, Syrian, Shi'ite, Sunnite, Christian, Jewish, Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, Turkmen and Persian musicians. There are several hundreds of cultural, religious and ethnic groups which have been flocking to the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris and to other Fertile Crescent capitals for ages with a remarkable amount of peace and harmony.
We spent an afternoon in Aleppo with a Syrian Jewish friend whom we had met on a previous trip. We met a Sabean Iraqi south of Damascus in Jarmana near Saida Zeinab where the vast majority of the two million exiled Iraqis in Syria are now living. Christian historians sometimes acknowledge Sabean wisdom as having underlain Essene teachings which helped shape those of Jesus. Jarmana was the same neighborhood in which we had sung with Palestinian refugee children in the fall of 2003.
After a third evening in Damascus we rented a tiny little car and drove to Ma'alula and Jubadin where Aramaic is still the commonly spoken household language. Ma'alula is now becoming an important destination for Christians interested in hearing the language Jesus spoke. We spent the night in the Christian Convent of Saint Tekla, a female Saint who lived 1800 years ago. We were delighted to discover that the inhabitants of these two towns now take pride in their ancient language and are helping to be certain that it doesn't die out. Of course they are all bilingual in both Aramaic and Arabic. There are also Aramaic-speaking villages still in Iraq.
Please encourage your friends who may be interested to add their email addresses to our list at: http://www.musicalmissions.com/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi
Thanks and More Soon, Cameron
Cameron and Kristina: Syria Part Two
tured songs from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
Driving back up into the Northern highlands we arrived in Aleppo where we met with Ibrahim Sukar and discussed methods for providing traditional Arabic musical instruments to the Iraqi music students who become involved with our project. We met an oud player who sings both Syrian and Iraqi maqam music in a local restaurant and joined in the singing with him when our repertoires overlapped.
But it was back in Damascus, with Fadhil leading us that we were, as reported in our last email update, able to establish a framework for our program.
Visiting the parts of Damascus where most Iraqi refugees live, we walked down "Little Iraq Street", we ate Iraqi food and we visited the incredible Saida Zeinab Mosque. Saida Zeinab is a popular destination for people from all over the Islamic world. It is teeming with multi-ethnic populations and the evening ecstatic activities in the Mosque are unlike anything I have even imagined. A fervor of prayer and singing builds to uproarious devotional proportions. Kristina joined women and children on one side of the internal shrine who romped and prayed while Fadhil and I entered the men's side passing through groups of young men singing vocal chants while striking their bodies as if they themselves were the drums. Sparkling lights reflected in multicolored chandeliers of crystals underneath a golden dome illuminated everything with indescribable brilliance while the men moved and undulated in trance as they rubbed themselves against the shrine.
Out in the streets we are again surrounded by an Iraqi majority. Again and again we find that the these people know and adore singers like Nazem al Ghazali whose ecstatic performances of maqam music seventy years ago, at the dawn of the era of recorded music, helped perpetuate this part of the Iraqi soul. They are enchanted to hear that our Musical Mission of Peace aims to help support the teaching of these musical styles so that the younger generations can carry this legacy forward while simultaneously providing employment for these displaced Iraqis.
When you hear the word "Syria" what thoughts and feelings come to mind? Are they warm and fuzzy thoughts, or thoughts with a bit of fear? If there is some fear in those thoughts where did it come from? Who put it there?
Ahmad the hotel owner in Aleppo Syria tells tale after tale of the absurd fears (to his mind) westerners have while traveling in Syria. Yesterday two young American women tried to pretend to be Canadian.
"But everything is confused," he continued. "I watched the Western journalists deliberately mistranslate a Lebanese woman's statements on television just the other day. When asked about a local youth organization she replied in Arabic that they provide much charitable aid and are very helpful to the local people. But the English version broadcast on the BBC made it sound as if she was afraid of them and had claimed that they were some kind of terrorist organization. She said nothing like that whatsoever!"
The Peruvian woman who is traveling with her German husband tells us, "We were a bit afraid to come, but we wanted to challenge ourselves." They are immersed in the light hearted conversation taking place in the small hotel lobby where tea is always freely served and laughter is the common theme. They now feel a bit foolish that they had any fear at all. "But we are fed the same stories on the news in Germany that are broadcast all over the Western world!"
Unspoken unconscious assumptions: how much are these controlling our thoughts and feelings and where did they come from?
The solution: "Let go of the story and return to the present moment."
Asking here and there in our endless searches for live music performances we climb up to the fourth floor open terrace of a restaurant here in Amman. The manager tells us that the regularly employed Jordanian oud player is not there this week but that they have an Iraqi oud player in his place. It's only 10:30, still early, so he hasn't arrived yet. We settle in to a table and order a salad and Arabic coffee.
An hour later the table full of Iraqi men sitting next to us are singing along with the oud player who has arrived and plugged into the sound system. When a song comes by which we happen to know we sing along too. This of course is always a surprise and I have to explain to the player something about our background. I also make requests for some of the older Iraqi songs of Nazem al Ghazali and he is delighted to mix them in with his presentations of some of the newer music. I am very happy to be bathed in his elaborate usage of maqamat, the ancient microtonal Arabic scales which I have come to love so well.
Our new oud playing friend, like all Iraqis, is here in Jordan under rules and regulations which are not so favorable and the endless question in his mind is of course, "Where should I try and get to from here?"
I have heard a few stories and I pass them on. One of our Iraqi friend's son managed to get into Turkey and on a boat to Greece. But, being required by the boat captain to finish the last part of the journey into Greece by swimming ashore, he was captured and spent some time in a Greek prison before managing to move on, at considerable expense, to Sweden where he is now facing deportation back to Iraq. Not a pretty picture.
"So Canada is good?" he asks me.
"Maybe so... Or maybe Brazil..." I respond out of almost complete ignorance on the subject but knowing that going back to Iraq now can mean death for a lot of Iraqis.
I look at him playing Iraqi music for the still appreciative group of Iraqis here in Jordan and I think that maybe here is not so bad for him. But the governmental pressures are being raised to make the Iraqis feel less welcome here and increase deportations. Syria maybe? Syria probably offers the best circumstances right now for Iraqis but everyone knows that, having already absorbed 2 million Iraqis into their economy, a ten percent total increase, the potential for employment in Syria is small.
Around 2:00 a.m. he thrusts the oud into my hands and very appreciatively sings along with my still very imperfect rendition of "Lamma Anakhu..." ...a musically improvided poetic introduction deeply embedded in older Iraqi musical tradition...
Before we leave we explain our work in Jordan and Syria to try and channel money donated in the USA to help support Iraqi refugees by furthering the education of Iraqi refugee children in the old Iraqi maqam music and he is eager, of course, to be a part of it. He gives me his mobile phone number.
I put a large Jordanian Dinar bill in his hand. Later, when he has the opportunity to look at it, hopefully he will be pleasantly surprised. I remember a friend in Boulder giving me a $100 bill and saying, "Just walk up and give this to some Iraqi refugee!"
Musical Missions of Peace: Ready for Action
Our travels through Syria and Jordan on behalf of Musical Missions of Peace have been a success in both countries.
Musical Missions of Peace is now poised to do the work of directly supporting the people and ancient culture of Iraq.
We have networks of Iraqi musicians ready and waiting to pass on Iraqi musical heritage to the next generation of Iraqi children and simultaneously provide a means for employment for adult Iraqi refugees.
We don't know the future of the US political climate. Anything can happen.
But we now guarantee that we can help Iraqis. We will soon be wiring additional support funds to help them.
Incoming funds will be divided between:
We are "By, For and Of the People" and our Musical approach guarantees pathways of heart.
We can help the world along its path toward turning swords into musical instruments.
We are streamlined and ready for action.
Please encourage your friends to provide support.
Once back in the USA we will devote our time to working with all of you to raise enough funds to make a difference.
Many Thanks, Cameron and Kristina
Here is a Simple Model for Helping Musical Missions of Peace with Fundraising:
"Put Your Business Name Here" is proud to announce that we are giving something back to the Iraqi People. We are supporting Iraqi Music Schools which teach and preserve traditional Iraqi Music. These schools have been set up by Musical Missions of Peace, a non-political, non-religious, non-profit organization, in the largest Iraqi refugee populations. A percentage of our monthly income will be donated to help support these schools and other forms of cross-cultural musical education.
Aiiee! Time to celebrate the wonderful success of Cameron and Kristina's Musical Missions latest trip to the Middle East. Their May-June travels in Syria and Jordan have opened the pathway for music schools in Iraqi refugee camps. This is a inspired action of compassionate support from our culture to their's. It will support master musicians to give young people music lessons in the ancient musical pathways of their land. Together, the young and old musicians that the project supports will supply the refugee camps with concerts to uplift heavy hearts.
While we were in Syria and Jordan a family of recently arrived Iraqi women stayed in our house in Boulder and our ongoing connections with them leads to an ever-widening network of Iraqi people.
An Iraqi woman, a friend of theirs, has been studying in California at Stanford for a few months. She can no longer safely go back home to Iraq. Her family was attacked in Iraq because it was found out that she was associating herself with America.
To some people in Iraq anyone who associates with Americans is seen as a traitor, and may be killed for treason. She now needs political asylum or to have someone sponsor her as a refugee. She is in southern California at the moment and will be coming to Denver August 17th. Her visa runs out in September so we must act fast. We need a lawyer to advise us. Who would like to help?
The women who stayed in our home lost the husband and father of their family for the same reasons: a brother had worked with the Americans. So they were three of the 500 Iraqi refugees allowed entry into the USA in 2008.
Beginning in 2009 the US government will begin accepting more Iraqis, perhaps as many as 5000. Contrast this with the numbers who have been accepted in Syria and Jordan, where by the Iraqi peoples' own count, there are 4 million in Syria and 2 million in Jordan. Yet Syria's native population is only 19 million to begin with. How can this influx of Iraqis find livelihood? That, of course, is why we have begun fund raising through Musical Missions of Peace to support Iraqi refugee musicians in those countries. The situation in Jordan, a country of only 7 million, 75 per cent of whom are already refugees from Palestine, is even more difficult and Iraqis feel increasingly unwelcome there.
Our knowledge of traditional Arabic love songs has made us feel very welcome in all Arab countries we have visited and we have personal knowledge about the effectiveness of learning music and languages to engage in what Musical Missions of Peace calls the "Triple Musical Ambassador" project.
These exercises guide us into deepening our intuitive abilities and relate from the heart. It is possible for us Americans to begin to walk our talk about spiritual growth and actually show up in the world as beings of light.We now have photographs of Iraqi Refugee children being taught Iraqi music by Iraqi Refugee musicians in both Damascus and Amman supported by Musical Missions of Peace.
We need more funds to send and give some relief to these Iraqis who are now exiled from their homeland.
Generosity instead of Greed.
Construction instead of Destruction.
Help us raise funds for these Schools and for our American Peoples Musical Ambassadors who travel the world learning and spreading ancient wisdom and good cheer.
Start Circles of Friends devoted to raising funds for Musical Missions of Peace!
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Contacts with appropriate Philanthropic organizations or with sympathetic commercial enterprises not involved with political agendas would also be appreciated.
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Cameron and Kristina: