American Friends Service Committee
Patrica Watson, Editor
Sara Burke, Assistant Editor
Pat Farren, Founding Editor
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
Views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of the AFSC.
Where Power Moves: Night Passage and the Healing Music of Libana
The music of Libana, according to Rick Pierik, musician and national fundraiser for AFSC, "seems to come from an organic or raw place, a soulful place." It may have been this quality that drew so many people to the October 14, 2001 concert by Libana and Voice of the Turtle to benefit Afghan refugees, the working poor affected by September 11, and two organizations working to ensure equal protection and promote civil liberties and human rights in this dire and dangerous time: AFSC and the Tides Foundation.
Libana received many requests to perform in the weeks following September 11. "When people were designing programs to provide music that would heal and comfort and that would create bridges across cultures," says Priscilla Howell, Libana's manager, "they thought of Libana." The feeling was mutual. Linda Ugelow, described by Howell as Libana's "dancer extraordinaire," as well as bass player, hand percussionist, and singer says that following the shocking events of September and after, "We felt we needed to do something. Singing is so healing. We had just finished recording Night Passage, which was music about healing in the face of many friends and family passing away. We had wanted to do a concert primarily for healing, but it was not the right moment, and then suddenly, after September 11, it was the right moment."
Judy Wachs of Voice of the Turtle first came up with the idea for a benefit concert following the September 2001 attacks. The two groups have deep roots and connections, as founding members of each group sang together long ago in an early music ensemble called Quadrivium. According to Marytha Paffrath, percussionist and long-time Libana member, "Both groups try to give voice to people who have been displaced (Voice of the Turtle performs the music of Sephardic Jews) or silenced (Libana performs traditional women's music of many cultures) so a concert to benefit refugees and low-wage victims of the World Trade Center attack seemed to be in keeping with what we do musically." The concert was pulled together very quickly yet it was a tremendous success.
It is not surprising that so many turned to Libana in this time of crisis. Susan Robbins, co-founder and artistic director, says that the songs on Night Passage are songs that Libana has sung "at moments of passage and times of transition; at the bedsides of the dying at bar mitzvahs, farewell parties, Seders, and memorial gatherings." Jen Lindstrom, a fourth-grade teacher at Cambridge Friends School, chose the Night Passage CD to focus and calm her students in September 2001.
Night Passage is the third album in a trilogy that includes A Circle is Cast and Fire Within. The Night Passage album includes an eclectic mix of songs from South Africa, Sweden, Sicily, West Africa, and American Shakers, as well as poems by Rumi and Mahmoud Darwish that have been set to music. Paffrath wrote the haunting chant that honors Yemaya, the Yoruba goddess of the sea. Some of the power, joyousness, and solemnity of Libana's music comes from their use of the circular, or "round," form. "Life is a circle from childhood to childhood," says John G. Neihardt in the book Black Elk Speaks, "and so it is in everything where power moves."
"Libana pushes the boundary lines of performance," says one listener, recalling the "incredible" experience of watching Ugelow dance herself into a trance state during the North African Zar as the rest of the ensemble played a compelling instrumental piece. This tension between the calming and the transcendently arousing is what makes people turn to the music of Libana in times of birth as well as in times of death and for all the passages--whether by day or by night--in between.
--Lynne Weiss is a member of Friends Meeting at
Cambridge and a freelance writer and editor. For more information
about Libana or to buy their CDs: Libana, Inc., PO Box 400530,
Cambridge, MA 02140; 800/997-7757; www.libana.com; or drop by
the AFSC office at 2161 Mass. Ave., Cambridge MA.