Honoring Musicians No Matter the Circumstance


Stories of atrocities are so commonplace now in the daily news that we become desensitized to them.  The recent rash of violence in the African country of Mali has dominated the world news, even as French troops appeared on the scene to attempt to restore order.  While the tragedy on the human scale is shocking, the affront on art, literature and free expression also takes its toll on the human psyche.

Like many, I was appalled to hear stories of the burning of historic manuscripts, artwork and cracking down on artistic expression of all kinds.  Unfortunately, this is echoed in fundamentalist regimes across the globe.  And while this concept is rooted in the misguided beliefs of the perpetrators, the toll is more than local.  It most certainly is also an attack on the heritage of an entire civilization and the legacy of human history.

I value artifacts and materials from all cultures.  Indeed, they have the potential to teach me something about myself, even when the culture is completely foreign.  I learn something every time I encounter a folk tale, religious text, or work of art.  And as a musician, I have the unique opportunity and responsibility to foster the preservation of our heritage.

This is why I was very happy to hear of an organization that celebrates the freedom of musical expression and fights censorship of music around the world.  They have given their annual award to the Festival au Désert’ in Mali. According to today’s press release:

“The Freemuse Award 2013 is given to ‘Festival au Désert’, which in spite of extreme Islamists’ attempts to silence all music in Mali, defends freedom of musical expression and struggles to continue keeping music alive in the region”, says Marie Korpe, Executive Director, Freemuse.

Here is more information on the award and Freemuse:


Organizations such as this make me proud to be a musician, and I add my congratulations to Manny Ansar and the Festival au Désert’.   And to my brother and sister performers in Mali and around the world, I offer the words of Schiller, via Beethoven:

Let us raise our voices in more pleasing and more joyful sounds! Joy! Joy!

Copyright 2013. Robert Baldwin. Before the Downbeat

Photo from Freemuse Website: http://www.freemuse.org/sw305.asp