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Harmony through music

Not many would be able to give a proper testimony about melodious power that music possesses to bring people together.

Uniting ordinary Palestineís and Israelis together, he once created a platform for commoners from conflicted nations to get together irrespective of their differences. Prison inmates or wretched souls in slums may it be, he has been inspirational in providing them with a medium where they can achieve inner-peace and harmony that would enable them to experience simple joys of life.

Professor Andre de Quadros

A professor and a scholar of music he may be, but his perception of music is a simplistic one. Chat with him for a moment and he would lift your spirits and motivate your jovial genes to run wild with rhythmic delight. ďEveryone has a voice. If you have a voice you can sing, you may not sing like a great artist, but still you can sing. Excellence should not be defined solely on technical aspects of singing. For instance when we see a young child singing, it can be in someway much more beautiful than a professional singer signing. There is a sense of beauty, genuineness and sincerity in the way he sings,Ē he says.

Professor Andre de Quadrosí credentials would suggest that he has done almost everything. ďMay be I am bit of a jack of all trades and master of none,Ē he says with a cheerful chuckle. But his works as a conductor, researcher, music educator and a writer would testify that he is rather a master of many. Also as a human rights activist he has conducted and undertaken research in over forty countries and currently works as a professor of music at Boston University.

Q: You have worked with Israeli and Palestine people on music projects. Were you trying to achieve some sort of peace reconciliation by doing such a project?

A: I donít want to over praise myself saying that I am doing something like peace reconciliation. I am not saying that those two nations can make peace through music. What I am saying is that ordinary Palestineís, ordinary Israelis, ordinary young people should have the opportunity to meet on common ground and interact with each other; it is a model for peaceful interaction. It is a harmonious community based non violent cultural project.

Q: Considering their state of mind, how challenging is it to work with prison inmates and people in slums and get them involved in music projects?

A: When I visit prisons and slums, I meet people who are feeling very low about themselves. But I donít accept that and I work with them. We have to change our attitude. We have to change the way we see the world, the way we see ourselves. Currently I work in a prison in Boston, it is one of the best groups I have ever worked with. I have worked with hundreds of groups, but that is just about the easiest group that I have ever worked with. They are respectful, courteous, very harmonious, very easy and wonderful group to work with. I donít go in there with an attitude. There are people who are there for life, for things like rape and murder, why should they be treated any different than the rest.

Q: As a lover of classical music, donít you feel that younger generation is moving towards popular music and that the interest towards classical music is subsiding to a certain extent?

A: I donít want to say, movement towards popular music is a problem, may be that is a trend that is happening now. The problem is something else. The problem is commercial music. There are certain genres and labels that are dominating the world music and that is more of a problem. Even in popular music, there are artists, musicians that do great things, but they donít get noticed, because mega figures are attracting all the attention.

Q: How challenging is it to work with different people that come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds?

A: I speak many languages, and language is not really a problem. One has to be sensitive to different cultural norms and attitudes. You have to learn to interact and be sensitive to different cultural values.

Quadros in performance

Q: You have seen works of Sri Lankan choirs, your thoughts where we stand and how our musicians should look to approach the international audience?

A: Well it is already happening; there are lots of Sri Lankan musicians and choirs that travel overseas to perform. Fifteen years ago Sri Lanka was not as much on the map as it is now. People are traveling more. I have been to the country few times and Sri Lanka does have some wonderful choirs, there are terrific work happening and they maintain very high standard of music.

Q: Choir singing is often regarded as something that demands extreme training, how true is it?

A: It demands no training. I started a project this January in a prison with twenty three men; many of them have not done it before. If you have a voice you can sing, you may not sing like a great artist, but still you can sing.

Your voice is like your face. If somebody said to me I am not as good looking as tom cruise, fine, I look at my mirror and says that is my face right? It is just an opinion; does that stop my face from being seen? I donít run as fast as some of those people that run in Olympics, does that stop me form running? I run everyday. We have to recalibrate our brains on what constitutes good singing? We have to redefine the excellence.

Excellence should not be defined solely on technical aspects of singing. For instance when we see a young child singing, it can be in someway much more beautiful than a professional singer signing. There is a sense of beauty, genuineness and sincerity in the way he sings.

Q: How important is American representation for events such as Colombo Music Festival?

A: I think it is fantastic that American centre and American embassy of Sri Lanka is supporting Colombo music festival, because American identity and culture is important to event like these, supporting culture is a core American value.

 

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