Bringing the world together
Some time ago whilst living in North London, I noticed a common narrative coming from some politicians and sections of the media which troubled me. It was: that people of differing cultures couldn't or weren't supposed to live together or side by side. This message of divisiveness and suspicion seemed outdated and backward and it felt as though the truth was being distorted.
One day as I walked along the main shopping street a realization struck me and I stopped, stood still on the pavement and looked around. Right there, next to a row of shops including a Kosher supermarket, Bakery and a bagel shop was a Persian book and musical instrument shop. Wasn't that an example of Iran and Israel living together? Farther down the road there was an Iranian run grocers next to a small film rental firm run by Israeli brothers on one side and a shop run by a man from Pakistan on the other whilst next to him was a Chinese takeaway.
Walk a few hundred yards and there is Christian church into which I would often see large numbers of people in traditional West African dress going for service. This church almost literally backs on to the Jewish cemetery where among others Keith Moon and Marc Bolan are buried and walk another few hundred yards into Golders Green and there is the largest Japanese community in London. Add to this a large Polish diaspora and people like myself: a Scotsman raised in Northern England living at the time with my partner who was born in Nigeria and raised in Southern England and there was quite a cultural diversity in evidence.
As I stood there and took it all in a thought almost shouted inside my head "We already are living together!"
I had to find a way of saying this, of expressing what I could see before my very eyes, but how? "I'm not a politician I'm a musician so I’ll find a way of saying it with music". In that moment I decided to bring together different instruments from around the world into one set up and what is now known as Gathering Of Drums was born.
They sit almost on top of one another, they fight for space, there is an almost constant challenge and a daily experience of conflict as the human being at the center of the set up strives to master not just each individual part but the creation as a whole. Just as with a community of diverse human cultures, it is a part of daily life. There is support and challenge, creation and destruction, agreement and disagreement, failure and success, conflict and resolution. There has to be investment to make it work, to allow it to exist and grow, investment of time, money and thought.
With all these elements there is a harmony and the breath of life goes into something new, something unique.
Gathering Of Drums exists to explore rhythm, to tell stories and to make beautiful music.
Some questions it asks -
'If we are one, as a race, as a species then is separateness actually an illusion that exists only in our perception?'.
'Can we choose to celebrate our cultural differences as opposed to allowing them to keep us apart?'
'With conflict being a necessary and vital part of life, can we choose its form?'
...and the question I find myself asking as this thing seemingly takes on a life of its own and soaks up influences from around the world - 'What is not just one human being capable of, but humanity as a whole?'