FEDERICA BESANA, COORDINATOR OF THE "MUSIC BRIDGES" PROJECT

March 26, 2014

Federica Besana, coordinator of the Music Bridges project

Federica Besana is the coordinator of the project "Music Bridges, interludio Amongst Pacific, Africa and Europe." This Action implements a cooperation between three structures located in Vanuatu, in Mozambique and in Italy to provide training and build relationships and exchanges between musicians from three continents. The first music camp took place in Vanuatu in October 2013. The second one will be held in Mozambique in May 2014.

For further information about the project : http://musicbridgesconnect.org

Wach a video reportage about the first music residential camp.

Rehearsal during the SMK © Christina Panicali

The Singaot Musik Kamp, the first residential camp for musicians organized by the Music Bridges project, was held on the island of Espiritu Santo, in Vanuatu, from the 8th to the 23th of October 2013. More than 60 musicians from Vanuatu, Mozambique, La Reunion, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, West Papua, Tonga, Australia and Austria came together to share their music before playing together at the festivals Lukaotem Gud Santo (Espiritu Santo) and Fest'Napuan (Port-Vila). What were the different stages of the SMK?

Singaot Musik Kamp started in Monexil village, in the Island of Espiritu Santo, with seven days of creative workshops. The camp was prepared following Vanuatu traditional lifestyle and this fact offered to all participants an incredible insight into Vanuatu customs. Surrounded by the amazing forest of Espiritu Santo, the musicians shared their songs and music skills, and jammed to create a common collective track. Each participant presented a traditional song from his/her culture. Afterword, the entire group performed it as an orchestra, introducing new creative elements. Workshops were held both as a full group and as instrumental subgroups, such as strings, flutes, percussions and vocals. There were four artistic directors, who coordinated the daily activities and accompanied the creation of the group, but it was mainly a peer learning: the musicians learned with and from each other. For many participants this was the best part of the event: they appreciated the possibility to access Vanuatu culture and traditions in such a deep and intense way, and to share a daily creative process. Strong connections amongst local and international artists were created. 

Established as a SMK Orchestra, the group later moved to town and opened the Lukaotem Gud Santo, a music festival organized in Luganville, the main city of Espiritu Santo. It was a special occasion for Lukaotem Gud Santo festival, that hosted for the first time musicians from Africa. SMK Orchestra performed 17 traditional songs, rehearsed and merged with other sonorities, followed by a collective track. On the second day of the festival, the musicians went on the stage with individual or group performances, offering to the public a foretaste of their country traditional music. Lukaotem Gud Santo was great and the audience really appreciated the performances.

After Lukaotem Gud Santo festival, we all moved to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, where we had planned several performances at Fest Napuan. This is one of the most important regional cultural events held in the Pacific Islands, a 5 days event that in 2013 was dedicated to the theme  “Rize up with my culture”. The theme matched perfectly Music Bridges project, with a focus on promoting the use of traditional instruments in contemporary music. It highlighted the importance of culture in the world today and of encouraging more musicians and performers to understand that culture has an important place in the music industry.

At Fest’Napuan, SMK Orchestra led a music parade through the town to the festival site, celebrating the diversity of cultures and customs, but also the traditional songs and dances. During the five days, SMK musicians performed as an Orchestra, but also as band groups, and these performances represented an highlight for the festivals. SMK brought on stage bands such as 1606 Jammin’ Band (Vanuatu), Benny and the Gang (Vanuatu), Simangavole (Reunion), Music Crossroads (Mozambique), Airileke (PNG), Impossible Odds (Australia), Rize of the Morning Star (Fiji, PNG, West Papua & Vanuatu), and Kaumaakonga (Solomon Islands). It was particularly exciting when SMK artists merged and performed in intertwined bands: musicians from Fiji and Australia joined the group from Solomon Islands, Impossible Odds performed with the musician from Tonga, ni-Vanuatu musicians joined Rize of the Morning Star performance. And 1606 Jammin’ Band - from Santo, being strongly appreciated by the public, managed to organize a new concert after Fest Napuan, again in Port Vila.

The last step of Singaot Musik Kamp was dedicated to three theoretical workshops on music management, copyrights, protection and sharing of traditional and contemporary music as cultural heritage with a strong social impact.

Could you tell us more about the musicians who participated to the SMK?

SMK hosted 65 musicians: 27 from different islands of Vanuatu, namely from Gaua, Meri-lava, Tongoa, Ureparapara, Malakula, Pentecost, Ambae, Ambrym, Tanna; 24 from Pacific Islands such as Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, West Papua, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Australia; 7 from Mozambique; 6 from Reunion Islands and 1 from Austria. A wonderful group, where each component brought up and shared the value of his/her culture.

The musicians from Vanuatu amazed the rest of the group with their bamboo percussions, called tam tam, the ability with the flutes and the string band songs! The Pacific was well represented and each musician gave a special taste of his/her tradition. For example the musicians from Solomon Islands, the members of Kaumaakonga, belong to a minority in their country, where their culture is marginalized. To them, having the possibility to bring their music to international environment was significant to spread it and keep it alive. Talking about the importance of sharing cultures, I’d say that also learning the song from the Butchella aboriginal group has been special: Fred Leone, the founder of Impossible Odds, taught to the SMK orchestra a song in a language that has only 7 speakers left. And the presence of musicians from Rize of the Morning Star allowed all the group to learn more about West Papua. Also the African group stand out, with their dancing and percussion skills: both the girls from Simangavole (La Réunion) and the crew from Mozambique gave unique dances tips and kept the event in rhythm with!

Even though the musicians were at different stage of their professional career, with some artists at their first event on stage and others working with their music, the camp managed to bring all diversities together and each participant experienced a growth.  

James Ratusila during the Lukaotem Festival © Christina Panicali

 What are your greatest memories of this event?

The whole Singaot Musik Kamp has been full of greatest memories, but if I had to choose my favorite moments I would say the welcoming ceremonies we organized to receive the participants. I'd arrived few days before the event started and the villagers together with musicians from Santo taught me how to greet people in the traditionally way, while entering a village (that in our case was the camp): Anthony Roy, a great dancer and musician from Vanuatu, performed a warrior dance and lead the new arrived within the camp. We were waiting inside with flower garlands, that the girls from the villages showed us how to make, and each participant would personally greet each newcomer. At the first arrival of participants, Anthony was singing alone, but as soon as musicians got there they picked up the song really quick and when the last group arrived to the camp there was an Orchestra to welcome them! The SMK Orchestra was already arising! The last group to land in Santo was the Mozambique crew, and when they arrived the orchestra was singing the welcoming song, a fire show had been improvised and the African team just hit the dances! The SMK group was all there, everybody was excited to start the camp together and a night jamming session spontaneously broke off. 

 Some villagers built the traditional shelters where participants slept. How did you collaborate with the villagers? What are the impacts of your action in the village which welcomes the music camp?

The camp was built following kastom building techniques: the shelters were all done with natural materials, with traditional roofing using Natangora palm thatching and without even a nail! The villagers did an amazing work, constructed the camp to make this experience a deep connection with Vanuatu culture and musicians loved it. Further Arts, the local partner in Vanuatu, has a long and strong relation with the communities in Vanuatu and it’s with the villages that the idea of this collaboration rose and grew. And it was a great idea: the preparation of the camp involved the communities since the beginning of the action, got them ready for the arrival of international artists and generated income for the whole community. As Music Bridges we organized an opening ceremony to thank villagers, traditional landowners and government representatives for their contributions and support towards the camp and all musicians were warmly welcomed by local communities. Few villagers stayed at the camp for the full period, as guides to accompany the musicians around the camp and the forest, as supervisors of the constructions and as cooks. It was a cultural exchange for all of us!

How do you collaborate with the other two partners of the project in Vanuatu and Mozambique?

Music Bridges is a project that involves two other partners: Further Arts from Vanuatu and Music Crossroads Mozambique. Our effort is to merge our skills and knowledge to get the best out of this action, to provide musicians with tools to strengthen their professionalism, to contribute to the growth of Vanuatu and Mozambique music industry and to create a network between the countries. Both Further Arts and Music Crossroads work with youth and music in their countries, and both aim at promoting the use of traditional instruments in contemporary music. For example, Music Crossroads just opened a Music Academy in Mozambique and African traditional music is at the core of it. Two of the young musicians that attended Singaot Musik Kamp are now getting their master degree at the Music Academy, like Beauty Sitoe that is finishing her master in Mbira.

We are located in three countries, actually in three continents, and we all bring in this project our approaches, our cultures, our backgrounds. SMK has been special for us for many reasons, especially for the possibility to spend few days working closely, seeing the satisfaction of musicians attending the event and planning together the next steps. I’d say that our collaboration is positive and constructive and we are all excited to keep on working together for Music Bridges event in Mozambique.

During the workshop on the Creative Commons © Christina Panicali

During the SMK, you organized a workshop on Creative Commons? What was the purpose of this workshop?

Together with the consultants of Lettera27, an Italian association that promotes open knowledge and contributes to Music Bridges as associate,  we wanted to introduce the basis of the Creative Commons movement and explain how it could be useful to musicians everywhere. Internet is opening up new opportunities for musicians, but opportunities also bring with them challenges, and one such challenge is to consider whether All Rights Reserved copyright is the best way to establish a legal usage relationship. Creative Commons is in fact not about giving up copyright, but it is about enabling works to freely circulate on a legal basis while preserving the owner's copyright. The idea was then providing musicians with tools to be able to choose how to release their music. Together with the workshop on Creative Commons, we organized a training on Copyright, to give participants an overall view of the possibilities they have.

The Creative Commons workshop - led by Cristina Perillo from Lettera 27 and SooHyun Pae, regional coordinator of Creative Commons Asia Pacific - had to deal with the fact that many musicians had no knowledge of the different options to release their music and in some cases of their rights as owner of their music. Having acknowledged this starting point, the two trainers adjusted their workshop to clarify artists’ rights as authors and to show the possibilities they have while releasing their work. The focus then moved to musicians around the world that experienced income generation using creative commons.

Many questions arose regarding the different licenses that can be assigned to an artist’s product to allow or forbid it to be shared and/or used, and the perception of intellectual property as a personal possession. The interest was high and everybody felt this was a starting point that needs a follow up. Cristina Perillo, in an article she published after Music Bridges experience, stated “I confirmed the necessity and importance of continuing to include workshops, discussions and initiatives [on intellectual property, author’s right and licenses] that educate and disseminate knowledge that can help to build new and deeper levels of awareness on the issue in broader contexts, and capable of reaching specific targets, diversified per disciplinary and operational matters, literacy and professionalism level”. (Full article Creative Commons in Music by Cristina Perillo)

What are the SMK results and the program project in 2014?

Singaot Musik Kamp was a success under different points of view. The first challenge we had to face was the construction of the camp in the forest of Monexil, the activity was in fact thorny for few reasons: the involvement of the population, the technical difficulties due to Vanuatu unstable atmospheric conditions and the lack of suppliers, the uncertainty of artists’ reaction. But the result was excellent: the villages managed to complete the camp on time, the musicians were enthusiastic and the possibility to access to the traditional lifestyle of Vanuatu invaluable.

Thinking about the objectives we had in mind while organizing SKM, we can say that we reached our goals. We wanted to support the creation of a music network between Africa and Pacific, while providing musicians an environment where to grow professionally through creative and theoretical workshops. We can say now that a residential camp is a tool that drives the strengthening of relations, that endorse exchanges and a reciprocal growth: SMK allowed musicians to create connections they could not expect before coming, they discovered how music careers are in other context and formal and informal links arose. The majority of the artists would love to come to Mozambique in 2014 for the second residential camp, and participants from Fiji and from Solomon Islands are interested in organizing a camp in their countries. Attending festivals had then a double positive result: some of SMK musicians had never been on stage, and for them it has been an exciting experience. But thanks to SMK Vanuatu audience had the chance to see international performances, to taste what’s music outside their islands and to open to other sounds and cultures. Last but not least, workshops drove musicians into a more complex ground made by laws, rights and duties. The greatest result it’s the fact that Vanuatu musicians decided to probe the  possibility of founding an association of collective management for musicians, on the model managed and presented by Somas.

What’s the program for 2014? We are now working to organize a music residential camp in Mozambique, with a Vanuatu crew who’ll represent Pacific and about 35 artists from Southern African Countries. We’ll structure the camp with creative workshops, musicians will work together and create a common track and the whole group will perform on festivals. 

During the Lukaotem Gud Santo Festival  © Christina Panicali

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