I’m going to share a secret with the kids I work with in Sri Lanka: Every one of them can be a great musician. Even if they find music challenging. Even if their peers learn more quickly. Even if they never attain dazzling technique. They only have to realize that music (and all art) is about communication.
The task becomes allowing their natural voices as musicians to emerge. This entails a lifetime of introspection and self-discovery—not easy tasks, but within everybody’s reach. After decades of playing music, I’m still finding my voice as a composer and performer, but I’ve been helped along by looking outward and listening to music from around the world.
Sometimes I consciously borrow elements that appeal to me, and other times I find that aspects of a genre have seeped into my psyche, emerging however they see fit. Over time, this has brought me closer to my unique voice as an artist, and I believe my music expresses something genuine and uncontrived.
Practically speaking, my workshops will share music from a culture brand new to the kids in Sri Lanka: Cuba. We’ll look at one particular Afro-Cuban rhythm (bembé) whose individual parts are relatively simple, but add up to something exquisitely sophisticated. These will be fun classes—we’ll sing, clap, dance, and play the rhythmic parts. At the end of cARTwheel’s trip, a small group of children will leave their homes for the very first time to give a public performance in Colombo.
I’m confident that these workshops will lead to a lifetime of exploration and self-discovery for many children, and it is my hope that unique musical voices will emerge long after I have gone home.