Targeting issues point blank

An English organization is going to give local youngsters a lesson in creation - and coexistence.

Rober Cowan 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Rober Cowan 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Achinoam Nini and Mira Awad's disappointing showing in last month's Eurovision contest notwithstanding, music is considered to be a positive and healthy avenue in bringing young Israelis and Palestinians together. That's the view, at least, of Windows for Peace, a non-profit, Tel Aviv-based organization that attempts to promote understanding between Israeli and Palestinian youth through media-related educational programs. It has invited London-based music college Point Blank to conduct a two-week music and filmmaking workshop beginning later this week for 15 teenagers, aged 15-17, from Tel Aviv, Jaffa and Bethlehem. The goal of the workshop, according to Point Blank's founder Robert Cowan, is to jointly create and record a song and an accompanying video. "One of our ongoing projects at Point Blank is to bring young people in England together through music and media projects," said Cowan from London. "These are usually disaffected kids in danger of getting in trouble with the police, or just falling by the wayside of society. We're applying the same model as we do at home for Israelis and Palestinian kids, not because they're marginalized, but because in music, there's a channel to bring them together." Cowan, whose sister lives in Tel Aviv, first began developing the idea of adapting his successful Point Blank program for use in the Middle East a few years ago on a visit here. "We started thinking how great it would be to do a music project like the kinds we do in England to get young Israelis and Palestinians together. We eventually hooked up with Windows for Peace, and a couple years ago, we got our feet wet with small projects in Tel Aviv and Tulkarm," said Cowan. "It went very well; I was slightly nervous about going to the West Bank, but it was wonderful. It was really like a fact-finding mission, just to get to know the young people. We brought some instruments and recording equipment over and did some sessions with them, with the idea of building on it. But these things always take longer than you think, between logistics and raising the proper funds. Only recently the joint funding grants came through, and we're finally getting it off the ground." The group of Israeli and Palestinian teens will record an original track and make an accompanying music video to explore issues relevant to their lives and experiences. The resulting music video will be disseminated via TV and the Internet, with the hopes of showing young people in the region that communication with the "other side" is not only possible, but desirable and fruitful, according to the organizers. The hands-on coordinator for the project is Mohammed Nazam, founder of London-based multi-faith world music ensemble Berakah, featuring musicians from Muslim, Jewish and Christian backgrounds. Besides his career as a successful musician and producer, Nazam has masterminded several musical education programs. "Mo is a fantastic musician and producer. He's the facilitator for the project and was the first person I thought of, because of his particular interest in coexistence," said Cowan. According to Windows for Peace director Ruti Atsmon, the teens in the project have been working together through Windows for Peace for between one and three years. And though, like most teens, they're tuned into music and video, they don't necessarily possess any special musical or visual skills. "We see the project as another tool to develop communication between them and as a start for them to create more in the future," said Atsmon. According to Cowan, the first week of the workshop - which begins on Friday and will mostly take place at the Windows for Peace offices - focuses on the music, including teaching the participants skills of putting a song together and studio ins and outs. "The second week is spent creating a video to go along with the music. It's a fun project that's supposed to be enjoyable. But hopefully, the participants will start exploring each other's culture and learn about each other," said Cowan. "We're all about using music as a mechanism for people to engage and discover things about each other."