Day 29: River Rhythm

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January 29, 2012 by Alex Hoekstra

Music unites people.  We all relate to music in different ways because we all come at it from our own angles – shaped by our own perspectives – but the beauty is that it’s a universal medium for connecting so many different people.  I could go on about it, but Kofi Annan took the clumsy, vague words our of my mouth and forged them into something far more articulate, direct and beautiful:

Music both shapes and reflects society.  Dancers follow its beat; protesters use it to find their voice.  It can promote ideals — like peace and solidarity — but it can also prepare armies for battle.  It is part of almost every important personal and collective moment.

But it is also mysterious.  Rhythm and pitch can be expressed as mathematical formulae; and musicians know the techniques by which they produce a certain sound.  But no scientist or musician can explain the power that music has over our emotions.  That, surely, is what another Greek writer had in mind, who said that song is a divine gift from God.

In a world of diversity where often values clash, music leaps across language barriers and unites people of quite different cultural backgrounds.  And so, through music, all peoples can come together to make the world a more harmonious place.

Reaching across borders with beats and melodies is exactly what today’s project is up to, and that’s why I think it’ll be neat.

The Nile Project is the brain-child of two artists and music enthusiasts from Africa who hope to collect some of the best talent that their mother continent has to offer and voyage up the Nile River, making and sharing music all the way.  TED selected the creators as senior fellows of the 2012 conference for this project, and I can see why.

The Nile Project is a multicultural musical platform that will bring together hip-hop and traditional musicians living in the Nile countries (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Egypt) to play and record music, to tour down the river and its source lakes on a boat made of recycled water bottles, and to share an experience that will connect the peoples of the river.

You had me at “floating bandstand”, but it doesn’t end there.  The caravan’s inclusion of anthropologists, entrepreneurs, ecologists and culmination in a TEDx conference adds an immense depth to this harmonious journey.  It sounds like an amazing showcase and I wish I could be there, but they’re planning on streaming the whole thing live on the web, so even you and I can tune in and join the party.


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