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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
April 20, 2017
Introducing WWMD Participants: Philip Feinstein

There is a just two months left before our fourth annual World Wide Music Day initiative starts and it is truly amazing to see more and more dots on our world map connecting musicians from around the globe to play music for peace and reconciliation. We would like to zoom in on our map and have a closer look at who these people are and how they found their way to our community of peacebuilders.

This week we are talking to Philip Feinstein, who is the founder of Music for Refugees, as well as a musician, composer and music teacher. Philip will be collaborating with us for WWMD for the second year and will conduct an internal music jam/lessons at the Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney (Australia) all day on Friday 16 June 2017. As in previous years, this is a closed event as the Australian government will only allow registered musicians to join in.

How did you find your way to music?
Growing up on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa, I was drawn to the black Africans singing their Sunday Christian services. As an 8-year-old I used to hide in the bushes watching – I’m sure they saw me, but they did nothing to stop me. We had a piano at home, so I tried playing and composing. I even put drawing pins (thumb tacks) in the notes to create different sounds. I still do that to this day despite piano tuners giving me the thumbs down. Some time after migrating to Australia I ventured into the music industry culminating with the release of my first album. To this day I am always jamming with other musicians and having sing-a-longs. Great for the spirit!

How did you become involved in social activism?
Having left South Africa because of my work against the Apartheid system, I have always been involved in various ways to help the underprivileged. I think my realisation that music can have a positive influence in people’s lives lead me to start Music for Refugees.

What are the ways that a musician can make a difference today?
I believe that musicians can make a difference in various ways . . . . Firstly people love to listen to music. It takes them to another place . . . . People also like to participate in singing songs that they know  –  thank goodness for the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s music!  Jamming with other musicians is a very positive way for people to focus on the positive  –  I often get people to just clap hands or bang on the table for percussive sounds. And then of course there is composing – a joint composition always raises the spirits.

What are the main challenges for a musician-social activist?
Because in my case making music in detention centres is very restricted, the authorities and their rules tends to inhibit the freedom of music. Very often I find that I have to improvise just to get the jams happening. 

What motivates you to collaborate with Musicians without Borders?
The Musicians without Borders name is the first thing that drew me to them. There should be no borders in music and that is what they stand for. I also feel that Music for Refugees has a strong affiliation with them, one that can only grow stronger in time. We feel honoured to be connected with them. 

If you wanted to inspire people through music, what song/composition would you play?
One of my compositions really connects with refugees coming over the wild ocean in a rickety boat to try to get freedom in a new country. These refugees obviously had many doubts about if they would make it and how they would be treated when they arrived. But they also showed an amazing inspiration to keep going. That song is called Talking to the Moon (also available to watch here).

•• Topics World Wide Music Day