Orchestrating peace mission
The Gulf Times
The first Doha Festival for Music and Dialogue concluded last night with a stunning performance from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under the baton of Argentinian-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, who promised to return to Qatar to take part in similar events in the future.
A large audience at the Katara Opera House gave a standing ovation to Barenboim and his orchestra, who played beautifully throughout the evening.
The performance was the climax of the week’s festival, which included a number of workshops, film screenings and open rehearsal sessions, where the orchestra invited schoolchildren to sit in and get a sense of what playing in an orchestra is like.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (WEDO) is made up of an equal number of Israeli and Arab musicians, as well as a number of players from the rest of the world, and is aimed at promoting peace, tolerance and “understanding of the other.” An Israeli that tries to promote peace and understanding of the other? How so when his state is built on terror, exclusion and racism? If his music can achieve peace then I think he shouldn’t waste his time in Qatar and instead play day and night in israel.
Founded in 1999 by Barenboim and the late Palestinian scholar, Edward Said, the orchestra plays around the world, and last night was their second performance in Qatar.
“I don’t know any other country in the world with the will and the means to actively plan a better future for its people,” said Barenboim, adding “this festival is part of the mission to bring different cultures together to enrich the lives of people in Qatar.” And he thinks whatever the Qatari government likes is for the betterment of our future? Why doesn’t he ask about an actively involved population planning their own future? Or Qatari’s can’t possible do that we need our leaders to do that for us? And we need his “culture” to enrich us and aid us in this process?
“We are delighted and honoured to have been part of this wonderful adventure, and I have promised to come back in the future,” he added.
There are few things more impressive than a top quality orchestra in full flow, and the setting of the Katara Opera House added to the sense of occasion surrounding Barenboim and the WEDO’s performance.
Said’s widow, Mariam has been in Doha to participate in the programme, delivering a lecture on her late husband’s work and taking part in other events. On Saturday evening, she was invited on stage to receive a token of appreciation from Katara, and she expressed her thanks to Qatar’s leadership for organising such a festival, as well as her hope to be back in Qatar in the future.Barenboim was also presented a gift of a golden baton, whilst each of the orchestra members were to be given souvenirs later in the evening. whereas Qatari artists and musicians get no credit..But does Barenboim care about them? Does it even cross his mind that we have any Qatari musicians? Oh yes, that is what he is here for, to educate and bring some culture to Qatar.
Watching the musicians on stage, it is clear to see where Said and Barenboim found the inspiration for the ideology that created the WEDO.
So many different players, an extensive range of instruments and even the different movements of the musicians all combine to create something extraordinarily beautiful.
Indeed, if it weren’t for the posters and brochures declaring the performance a part of the festival, it would be easy to forget that there were any added significance to the concert other than an enjoyable evening and masterful performance.
This was Barenboim and Said’s motivation behind the creation of the WEDO, and their desire and claimto be entirely non-political becomes immediately clear upon hearing the players together. How can you be non-political when you accept awards from a zionist racist state, and talk about peace with the zionist entity.. that is a political message and a political stance.. no?
The enthusiasm with which the orchestra was received is certainly an indication of the support for events such as this at Katara.
However, this particular events speaks to more than just the creation of a cultural programme of events;it speaks to a recognition of the importance of using the arts to cross political and cultural divides and to promote a culture of tolerance and acceptance through the beauty of art. There we go, a political agenda.
As violence erupted once more yesterday on the anniversary of the creation of Israel, it is perhaps unclear as to the power of the arts to transform. HOLD ON! this Qatari newspaper is actually referring to the Nakba as “the anniversary of Israel’s Independence” Well Barenboim’s job is done here, he doesn’t need to come and perform here ever again… we have reached the highest levels of tolerance and acceptance of israeli crimes!
Yet Barenboim is as realistic about the situation in the region as he is ambitious about his aspirations and dreams ofpeace and togetherness, and he realises that wars and political conflicts will not be solved with violins and cellos. But they can change peoples’ mindsets, and have them realise that dialogue and understanding represent the only way forward, then they can achieve something momentous, and this week’s festival was a clear indication of Qatar’s commitment to this mission.