By Jessica Ciccarelli
There is something about music that when you get it just right, you can see the smiles capture a piece of the soul. It is not often the artists are having so much fun that not only the music, but the smiles become universal – touching giver and receiver alike. It was beautiful to see this true of the entire Saffron Caravan concert on November 11. I honestly cannot say who I had more fun watching, the artists or the audience, but, due to a mishap which left the lights on for the entire performance, I had the pleasure of watching the unique flavor of an audience having as much fun as the musicians.
They took us on a journey through ten compositions. We began alongside Haytham Safia on his travel home from Jerusalem in his song, “The Road,” inspired by his own homeward journey. Our musical voyage was also an emotional one as they brought us through joyous, mournful, spiritual, and prayerful pieces. Aaron Bensoussan’s made a reverent offering to God followed by Badi Assad’s own reverent offering to Mother Nature. They were exuberant performances, as each individual surrendered their ego and did the work of letting the story flow through them.
As they wound down their musical performance with the last two songs of the evening, “Pleasure” and “Longa,” I remember feeling so inspired. Their own passion and love for music and peace reminded me, and I think the audience, of how powerful this thing is that we are trying to do: Peace. It is no easy thing and they made the difficult journey so stunning to behold. Just before the last song I remember thinking, I feel like I am journeying down an old dirt road with them from Jerusalem, getting to know each of their distinct personalities, through the palate of their music. If that was not enough, they gave us one more incredible piece, so uplifting and inspiring that sitting to listen was not an option. One by one, audience members got up to dance until there were far more people dancing than sitting.
The next morning, the panel “Music as a Vehicle for Global Peacebuilding” gave the audience members the opportunity to learn, through words and stories, all the things we had glimpsed in their music. How they got into music and what brought them to Genesis at the Crossroads. From where their passion comes. Why Genesis at the Crossroads is so exceptionally different and important. So many incredible things came from this panel, but the most inspiring for me was seeing how transcendent music can be. Aaron referenced another musical event put together by Genesis at the Crossroads and said, “They spoke Hebrew and Arabic, and the only common language they had was music.” At another point Badi said, “We are all one… There is not another way. We are one.” Then adding, “I’m starting finally to see… The point in making music is not to make money… We are here in this world to fix it, to bring a little bit of light.”
We also learned how important it is for the group to feel close, connected, like family, with Haytham adding, “We fit musically, like a sister,” in reference to Badi. Each one reiterated that they felt like a family, they just fit musically. That, I think, is what made it so uniquely beautiful. When you love what you do and the people you do it with, there is no way it could be anything but inspiring.
Genesis at the Crossroads and Saffron Caravan was an overwhelming success. They touched each individual through their stirring compositions, then connected all through the emotional journey each one told. What a remarkable way to begin The Art of Peace and demonstrate that art truly has the ability to unite and the transcendent character necessary to foster peace.
The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.