Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt -- Dec 2004 - Feb - 2005
|Jan 20, 2005
Dear friends of Musical Missions,
Our time here in the Middle East is drawing to a close We have just two more days. There is a bit of sadness in me as I prepare to leave new-found and old friends here. At the close of my fourth trip to the Middle East and after more than six months total in this part of the world, I feel that I am just beginning to understand these people. There are so many subtleties that we foreigners miss. The people of Egypt and other Arabic-speaking countries, (if you allow them in) will bathe you in loving warm energy. Cameron has spoken of how the people here seem telepathic. This telepathy really exists all around us here, although I would venture to guess that most English-speaking visitors don't catch onto it. When our Egyptian friend Ahmad sits beside the taxi driver I notice how they speak as if they were old friends even though they have never before met. This is not an occasional occurance, this is constant. These people are connected to each other in ways that we have no clue about. In "new age" terminology you might say that they have not separated so far from God or from each other. Their individual egos are not as separate as our Westernized egos are.
The traffic and the constant noisy interactions take some getting used to. Many tourists come to Cairo to shop in Khan el Khalili, one of the ancient markets (John Kerry was there last week) and find the tourist hustling to be too much. The other night as I was walking through this market, it took me a while to let go of the annoyance of constantly being asked "come in to my shop" by shopkeeper after shopkeeper. But I could feel the safe and warm and welcoming undercurrent. This warmth keeps the fabric of this society together.
You can see this in the families. They all live together. I've not yet met one college student who lives on their own. They all stay with their families and contribute to the welfare of the whole tribe. Only after they marry do they start their own households and then it is often within walking distance to the family homes. Grandmothers are the primary caregivers of the grandchildren if the mother chooses to work.
Of course I love my friends in America too. So many wonderful people have invited us into their homes as we travel from state to state. We are incredibly blessed to know so many welcoming people. But please be aware that we Americans have created more walls. I urge you to experiment. If you know a native Arabic speaker begin with them. Open up those channels that have cut us off from on another. That connecting energy is the glue that keeps us together. It is called love.
In the last few days we have been interviewed by the biggest newspaper in Egypt, Al Akhbar. The article will appear this next week. We have just done a concert at the South Center for Human Rights. See website: www.southonline.org
We have had other articles written about us in smaller publications here also and will be appearing on Egyptian Television Friday morning January 21st. We are doing everything we can to let the people here know that there are Americans who only wish for "the peace" as the people here say.
The Message of Peace which followers of Musical Missions have supported will soon be published in the major Arab World press.
For the last two weeks we have been travelling south along the Nile through Egypt with my daughter and her friend who are both in their early twenties. It has been a great pleasure to watch them begin to understand the generosity of the Egyptian people. The secret is to refuse all "guide services" until you have escaped from the "tourist trails." Cross the river or go to the other side of town if necessary. Around the corner, after midnight, you will find magic streets with live bands perched on donkey carts. The dancing is infectious and soon you find yourself moving with the dancing villagers. What a treat to watch my daughter and her friend learning new dance moves from the village girls! And again beyond the edges of the tourist trails Egyptian friends by the Red Sea adopted us and kept us busy dancing and singing in their favorite late night restaurants. We had to go back again! It was arranged for us to take our instruments and give a concert the next time. One night with these new friends was not enough.
Soon we will be in Spain and then France where Cameron will have a surgery to correct his heart arythmia, which from time to time totally incapacitates him. He is on medication for this but the medication has side effects which are not desirable. This procedure is $15,000 in France and $60,000 in America. So guess why we picked France? We had to let go of his health insurance in the US when it hit $1,000 a month a few years ago.This operation will put us in debt. So of course if you can afford to donate to help with the cost of this procedure you can do so at http://www.musicalmissions.com or send a personal check to Musical Missions, 2090 Grape Avenue, Boulder, Colorado. 80304. Checks made out to "Musical Missions" are tax-deductable for you, of course, as they go through a non-profit corporation.
Thank you, thank you to those who have already contributed for the Message of Peace in the Newspapers, to our expenses and to the operation. And If you cannot afford to donate please just keep Cameron in your prayers for a smooth and successful operation. (Febuary 7th).
March will find us back in America, where we will again continue to bring the magic of the Arab world and messages of peace to your home towns. Let us know if you would like us to do a presentation in your area. There is so much misunderstanding between our cultures and we seem to be able to help heal this.
Salaamu aleykum (Peace be with you) Kristina
Jan 5, 2005
From Cameron and Kristina:
Living in the spirit-body of the world there seems to be no place that we cannot call "home."
We have just returned to our Egyptian home from our Syrian, Lebanese and Jordanian homes.
We play in the uproariously gregarious energy of the Cairo streets. Throngs of teenagers adopt us so that our photos can all be taken together. It's two o'clock in the morning and we are winding our way back from a concert of Nubian music. We cross the Nile. The sky is clear tonight over Cairo thanks to a gentle but persistant breeze. Two young American ladies have joined us to share adventures for the next two weeks. We continue to announce that we are Americans who represent the compassionate wishes toward the Arab-speaking world felt by many of our countrymen/women.
Only two nights ago we were looking into the eyes of Iraqi friends in Jordan. Like us, they carry an oud and a violin. Friendship with this family goes back 30 years! Our eyes exchange delight with seeing each other and our smiles contain all our eagerness! The war news is too horrendous to report. War news remains unfathomable unless you were there in the streets with the tanks.
Soft Palestinian eyes welcome us into Beirut, Lebanon. Knowing from the internet who we are, we are welcomed by a young Muslim Palestinian woman who is a singer... and a schoolteacher. She hands us a cassette tape of her band... if we want to stay and play, here is the invitation! Organizations are being set up to help bring musical training into the poverty of the camps and we are invited to participate... we feel at home.
We cross two snow-covered mountain ranges into Damascus, back in Syria. The sounds of my oud and Kristina's drum and our voices soon permeate the textile market in the ancient souq, or marketplace... We feel at home...
The journey to the south to Amman takes us across another strange colonial border into Jordan. We feel immediately at home as we are welcomed by Jordanian and Iraqi friends alike. Jordanian friends are the first to throw a party for us. It is Christmas... Our Muslim friends all kindly wish us Merry Christmas. Islam has included Christianity and Judaism since its inception. We sing late into the night...
Plunging into two households of Iraqi friends: their recent attempts to live and work in Baghdad have had to be abandoned. Too impossible... But one son is there now... They worry... Again, the incomprehensible descriptions of loved ones' flesh and blood being torn...
Sitting beside us on the plane back to Egypt is a soft-eyed black American man, journeying out of Iraq for the first time in sixteen months of "Department of Defense" duty. He has been trying to train Iraqi police recruits to stand in line.
He hasn't yet had an opportunity to taste Iraqi food. But he was given one day of training in Iraqi culture.
He was fascinated to hear of our ability to enter Iraq on the wings of a song and enjoy friendship with people on the streets. Something like this seemed unimaginable to him but he understood its value as a way to build friendship.
We teach him the first three words of a popular Iraqi song and wish him luck.
There are many details which would take too long to try and share in these e-mails. But financial subscribers to Musical Missions of Peace do receive more detailed periodic updates. Financial subscriptions are now being offered for as little as $5 per month. Go to http://www.musicalmissions.com and follow the "Financial Subscriptions and Donations" link to sign up.
We have composed the following message in Arabic: "To the People of Iraq and other Native Arabic-speaking Peoples: Our Songs, Hearts, Thoughts and Prayers are with you. We look forward to the day when respect for all people of all the nations shines throughout the world once again!
--Your Friends in America"
We will publish this in Arab-world newspapers with circulation of more than two million daily readers, including Iraqis, by the end of January. Please send your donations so we can make this ad as large as possible. Do this by going to http://www.musicalmissions.com and clicking on the "financial subscriptions and donations" link. Credit cards can be used (click on the "Make a Contribution to have your Messages of Compassion Delivered Directly through Display Ads in Mainstream Arab-World Newspapers" Button) or checks can be mailed to: Musical Missions, 2090 Grape Ave, Boulder, CO, 80304. Donations can be tax deductable.
Here is a list of many of the places we have been welcomed during the last two years and made to feel at home: (please e-mail us and let us know if you would like us to come to your town and do a presentation)
Baghdad, Iraq; Cairo, Egypt; Damascus, Syria; Beirut, Lebanon, Amman, Jordan; Aleppo, Syria; Lattakia, Syria, Ramallah, West Bank; Aqaba, Jordan; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Sandia Park, NM; Long Beach, CA; Monterey, CA; Santa Cruz, CA; Ashland, OR; Bolinas, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Denver, CO; Wolcott, CO; Westminster, CO; Golden, CO; Albuquerque, NM; Grand Junction, CO; Abiquiu, NM; Santa Fe, NM; Fort Worth, TX; Denton, TX; Fayetteville, AR; Lacombe, LA; New Orleans, LA; Slidell, LA; Mobile, AL; Columbus, GA; Durham, NC; Chattanooga, TN; Summertown, TN; Cookeville, TN; Nashville, TN; Estes Park, CO; Lafayette, CO; Dillon, CO; Frisco, CO; Avon, CO; Hillsboro, OR; Klamath Falls, OR; Corvallis, OR; Berkeley, CA; Oakland, CA; Laguna Beach, CA; Costa Mesa, CA; Mission Viejo, CA; Sonora, CA; Eugene, OR; Grants Pass, OR; Milwaukie, OR; Port Angeles, WA; Chelan, WA; Yakima, WA; Pocatello, ID; Idaho Falls, ID; Ft. Collins, CO; Lakewood, CO; Northglenn, CO; Del Norte, CO; Crestone, CO; Basalt, CO; Kansas City, KS; Rolla, MO; Terre Haute, IN; Bean Blossom, IN; Allentown, PA; Jonestown, PA; Flint, MI; Cincinnati, OH; Brattleboro, VT; Pottersville, NJ; Farmingdale, NY; Edinboro, PA; Racine, WI; Peoria, IL; Rockford, IL; West Lafayette, IN; Mankato, MN; Des Moines, IA; and, of course, Boulder, CO.
Ignore the fences of fear! Learn another song! Fly like a bird!
Dec 19, 2004
To the followers of Musical Missions of Peace:
On the Streets of Aleppo, in nothern Syria:
"Welcome," we hear again and again as we walk down the streets of this ancient city which, like Damascus, has been continuously inhabited for at least 5000 years now. I look at the eyes and the faces and realize that I am in the presence of an indigenous people who have been here since the dawn of recorded history. The eyes are soft and invite friendship.
We call Ibrahim on our cell phone. He remembers us from the last time we were here and comes to pick us up in his little pickup truck. The three of us jam into the front seat and drive to the musical instrument factory where fifteen men are busily assembling traditional Arab-world instruments: ouds, qanuns, buzuks. It's cold. It's December. We huddle around a tiny wood-stove and begin to pass an oud around. Ibrahim introduces us to Bashir, "the best oud player in Aleppo!" Our knowledge of each other's languages is similar: limited to pretty basic phrases. But we all speak music!
We sing popular Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Egyptian songs together, some familiar to us and others not. The qanun-maker gives us a tour of his part of the 5-room factory and we see the bare bones of the instruments in various states of shaping before assembly into the multi-stringed plucked zither which they they will become. He asks where we are from...
"America," we reply...
"Why Bush?" he asks. "Why do you pick a man so hated by everyone in the Arab world?"
"I don't really understand it," I reply.
He shakes his head, obviously dumbfounded that a nation could make such a choice and then resumes showing us the pieces of wood, the kinds of glue and the pieces of fish skin used in the manufacture of the qanuns.
After four hours of music it is late and we prepare to go back to the center of town. We have bonded deeply, admiring each of our techniques and songs and, of course, Kristina's voice and improvisations.
There is a religion of love. We all belong to it. It doesn't promise salvation for some while leaving others out in the cold. It doesn't say which wise men we must listen to and which ones to ignore. It doesn't invoke God as an excuse to move onto someone else's land. It lives in all of us, has the sensitive ears of an angel and gazes in adoration at all beings present in this moment.
I don't know exactly where the "Holy Land" begins and ends. We rode the train down from Aleppo to Lattakia, Syria, on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean shores and we were greeted by our friend, Mohammad. He's been following our Musical Missions and sending us messages such as this when we arrived in Cairo: "Ahlan wa Sahlan ..welcome back Cameron, Kristina.. nice to hear such a good news that the musical mission is now in the Arab world.. you are best people to represent America than any other American ambassadors ..and your tools are better to spread peace and rebuilt the bridges between us and America than your officials' weapons.. so we need you now for 4 more years ..hoping that you will not need to learn singing in Farsi (Iranian language) after then.. ...so Cameron and Kristina..al hamdillah ala alsalameh (thanks God for arriving safely) to Cairo."
Mohammad has a great desire to see people assembled around us now that we are actually here in Lattakia and he has good instincts about where we should go to accomplish this.
Following his invitation, we began to sing in the lobby of a hotel in which many Iraqis are staying. Lattakia is a seaport and many material goods are shepharded through here bound for Iraq. The tiredness in some of these Iraqi men's eyes was thick and they weren't certain at first whom these two Americans singing popular Arabic music might be. They peered at us from within their red and white checkered keffeya.
Gradually, as we moved through seven or eight songs, their eyes began to shine. They allowed the religion of love to begin to shine back at us and our breathing and singing became a flock of shy birds in the room. Mohammad is, in some ways, a shy man himself, but his instincts had guided us to the right place.
He then led us with our voices and our oud and drum to a nearby restaurant where he had arranged for us to do a concert. An elegant setting... The owners, managers and musicians welcomed us with impeccable generosity and set up two chairs and three microphones for us.
Mohammad introduced us to the hundred or so who were assembled and we began, again, to sing Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi songs to the mixed Christian and Muslim crowd. Amused at our accents and delighted with the songs, they clapped and sang along with us.
Kristina, the "Little Fairuz," as they call her here, sang like a bird. Mohammad announced to the crowd the basic messages of peace which we carry and new friends, eager to stay in touch, came up and introduced themselves. The kind, elderly musician who had graciously relinquished his space for us, resumed playing and singing while Kristina and Bashar, a new friend, danced.
On our way home in the wee hours, we passed Mohammad's father on the streets. He has an impressive dignity and a warm smile. Something seemed right with the world here in this ancient holy land.
The next day we were invited to dine at Mohammad's home. Kristina had spent the afternoon with two young Syrian women recording their conversation about differences between American and Syrian womens' lifestyles. When she returned from this we walked to Mohammad's home. His mother prepared the delicious food and we sang with a dozen or so female members of his family whose names all begin with "R.": Raneem, Rahaf, Rama, Ruba... And a couple of uncles were there: one serious and one "crazy"...
We now have, thanks to new Iraqi friends in Syria, knowledge about how to publish our messages of good will and peace in mainstream newspapers available in Baghdad as well as in the rest of the Arab-speaking world. We have announced this project in the last two e-mails.
The translated message reads: To the People of Iraq and other Native Arabic-speaking Peoples: Our Songs, Hearts, Thoughts and Prayers are with you. We look forward to the day when your ancient wisdom can shine throughout the world once again!
--Your Friends in America
As more donations come in from you all, we will be able to purchase advertising space and publish this. Please consider making a donation or better yet, become a financial subscriber by going to our website: http://www.musicalmissions.com and clicking on the "financial subscriptions and donations" link. Credit cards can be used or checks can be mailed to: Musical Missions, 2090 Grape Ave, Boulder, CO, 80304. Donations can be tax deductable.
We continue doing this work to build bridges of musical friendship at a grass-roots level between the Arab world and America. We sing and walk in peace and in freedom and try and help others to see that this is a possible path. If you enjoy receiving our updates, please help us stay afloat financially,if you can.
Yesterday we met a Lebanese man who offered to give us a ride into Lebanon. Late last night at an internet cafe here in Beirut, I was befriended by some teen-age boys and girls. The girls couldn't stop dancing.
"All we want to do in life is to dance," they announced.
I told them I was a musician from America. We began singing some Lebanese songs together while the girls danced. They wanted me to bring my oud but the hour was already close to 2:00 am...
More soon, Cameron and Kristina
We will begin touring America with our presentations about the Arab world again this spring. Please contact us if you are interested in producing us in your area! We bring the music, the slides, the video clips, the stories and, as those of you who have seen one of the 150 presentations we did last year in America know, audiences find it an uplifting and heart and eye-opening experience.
Dec 12, 2004
Hello from Cameron and Kristina -- Musical Missions of Peace
Here in Egypt:
Dissoving into the ancient NOW of Egypt. Life here can't really be contained by word-bags: "joys, frustrations, welcomes, poverty, ecstasy, traffic, singing, eyes and smiles..."
Ten thousand moments tinged with Arabic ways of being enter our Indo-European English essence.
Excited by the intensity: our new journalist friends translate ancient Arabic desert poetry and Modern Messages of Peace all in the same breath. An Egyptian woman is ululating (making high-pitched vocal sounds perhaps in celebration of a wedding) in the distance... Children laugh and play next door...
Square pegs fit snugly into round holes.
We are left with the sound of the poetic syllables in Arabic.
Opening new soul-balloons inside ourselves we drink in the ancient messages and we translate our modern American Heart-Lust for Peace and Brother/Sister-hood. We shape and forge this message endorsed by American Musical Missions for Peace into Arabic until we smile uncontrollably! Ahmad, blessed with the gift of divine laughter carries us into some hilarious place we don't even need to "understand." Trust us: this is good! This is way more than just trying to fight our way through the hawkers who surround the pyramids!
Singing with the waiters...Singing with the pedestrians... Singing with the taxi-drivers... Singing with the musicians... Singing with the instrument-makers...
Kristina on drums and vocals... Cameron on flute... Omar on oud...
We line the busy city walls with a filligree of Arabic Music...
Satisfied with musical missions into the NOW we break out in smiles all around... We will always come back for more.
Funny how war and politics never even come up; those subjects don't really even have a place here (somewhere, left unspoken in our Egyptian and American hearts, we keep wishing the strange forces of colonial occupations would somehow someday just go away...)
The more of us there are who choose to live in the music and the love, the fewer there will be who remain in the fear and the greed and the other black/white realities...
Message to Arab World:
This message we are forging from many American people who have seen us present "Singing in Baghdad"...it is saying what needs to be said...
Rate cards are coming in through the journalists: we can reach a quarter of a million Arab-language readers for $84 per column/centimeter/day in Saudi, UAE, Oman, Yemen, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco as well as Arab ex-pats in America and Europe... not sure yet about Iraq or Syria... working on that...
We leave for Syria day after tomorrow... Aleppo, Latakkia, Beirut, Damascus, Amman...
Contributions are beginning to come in from Americans: individuals and congregations to help us publish this message which now reads: "To the Iraqi People and all other Native Arabic-speaking People from your Friends in America: We are making a prayer that soon the day will come when your light, like the sun, can shine again for all to see! We are a voice of support for you and for your ways of acheiving peace."
Travelling with Cameron and Kristina:
Several people are coming over to join us in Egypt in January. We have room for more of you if you want to come. So many places we can go: Cairo, Luxor, Valley of the Kings, The Nile, The Oases and The Bedouin, Alexandria, Sharm el Sheik, the Mediterranean, The Red Sea... Pyramids and People and Musical Missions every day... we walk in connection with some divine rhythm which remains un-nameable... Remember just one thing: nothing is ever as it seems... it's always much better... all that is required is the dissolving: mine and yours...
We are also inviting you to be with us on the West coast of Mexico during May, 2005.
More Presentations in America Coming Soon; Please Book:
We will do "Singing in Baghdad and Beyond" presentations in the Colorado area from February 23, 2005 until March 23, 2005. After that we will do our presentations in Texas and Louisiana and other Southern states during April. Please let us know if you are interested in having us come to your group or congregation.
Spain and France:
We will stop in Spain and France in late January and for the first half of February. I need to have a medical procedure done in France to fix a cardiac arhythmia (atrial fibrillation). It is much cheaper in France than in the US (only 25% of cost in US). (No, don't imagine that musicians like us could ever begin to afford health insurance...) So we have to go into debt about $15,000 for this one. (Donations appreciated...) But if anyone knows of a friend in Madrid with whom we can perhaps leave some stuff while we are in France, that would be great!
Go to our website, http://www.musicalmissions.com and click on the "financial subscriptions and donations" link and use a credit card to help support us. We thank you in advance for doing that. Of course, checks made out to "Musical Missions" can also be mailed at any time to Musical Missions, 2090 Grape Ave, Boulder, CO 80304. Donations of $50 or more are tax-deductable through our non-profit 501c3 corporation.
We will be keeping you updated on our progress!
You can reach us by simply replying to this message.
Contact Cameron by e-mail: email@example.com
Contact Kristina by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, Cameron and Kristina
Please encourage your friends who may be interested to go to our website and enter their e-mail addresses at the top of the home web page (see link to musical missions immediately above) and become subscribers so that they, too, will get our updates.