- Created on 04 June 2015
- Published on 04 June 2015
- Written by Asmaa Soliman
An interfaith choir? Yes, exactly! You heard correctly, Berakah is an interfaith choir. It brings people from different faith groups together to sing. The Berakah choir started in 2013, as part of the Barakah band, founded in the summer of 2006. Berakah’s aim is to “create music to transcend barriers built by faith and culture, bringing people together in a spirit of understanding and shared values”. But why? What is the benefit of bringing people from different faith groups together when they do not do anything but sing? Isn’t it a waste of time? Wouldn’t it make more sense to go to an interfaith dialogue group where people can talk to each other? Well, this would be a rather hasty judgment to make as it became clear when Alaya and I first decided to visit Berakah towards the end of 2014. Since then we have attended several of their private rehearsals and a couple of public events and have closely observed what happens when people from different faith groups sing together. We tried to find out what the arts can offer interfaith dialogue, intercultural relations and trust. What exactly happens when everyday language and dialogue is exchanged for music and song? When single voices and tonalities create harmonies and melodies?
Berakah’s work is an example of the mystery that is ‘speaking without speaking’, ‘connecting without talking’, ‘bonding without dialoging’ and ‘cooperation beyond logical thought processes’. There is an unexplicable element when singing collectively. Some things just happen, even if at an unconscious level. By the very act of singing in a group one already connects to the others, the single individual feels part of a larger social body. As Mohammed, the founder of the choir says, “the joy of music is that it brings people together”. Each choir member can be seen as a body part, with the choir leader acting as its heart, giving life to the rest of the body. The musician, whose task is to signal every shift in mood, key and tempo, is the soul, carrying the body to a different realm, a realm where one becomes oneself. Collective singing functions as a connection tool. Each member sings, but is still exposed to other voices around him/her, creating overall sounds that are more beautiful. There are different tones, different accents and different pitches - high and low, female and male, strong and gentle. They all add to something very pleasing to the ears. This would not be possible if only one voice were to sing. Each voice contributes, in an essential way, to the joyful experience. It is a form of cooperation where single voices strengthen and support each other to reach a particular sound level.
There is more to it than that though. Singing is something very personal and emotional. There must be passion to bring oneself to do it publically, in front of others. In raising that voice, creating sounds and harmonies with one’s own instrument, a very private piece of oneself is shared with the public. Given that the setting is an interfaith choir, with people from different faith groups, this facilitates better knowledge and understanding. A feeling of trust and nearness is also nurtured. One does not only hear the other’s voice, one can also be exposed to how the other ‘feels’ when singing, which is already in and of itself a very emotional and deep experience. Being part of this process means that participants get to know eachother. In this sense, the getting to know part happens without really talking to each other or having to ask about one’s name, hobby or job. It takes place when singing in a group and travelling together through emotional peaks. Music and songs also have the power to bring joy to people, especially if the content is positive. The faces of individual choir members, always smiling and peaceful, revealed this inner state of being. Members would also smile at each other while singing or during intervals between songs. Even though these might be perceived as small gestures, they still carry weight. It is the creation of a peaceful atmosphere, where individuals enjoy each other’s company and feel comfortable. An atmosphere where they connect with each other on a very personal and human level, with less talking and more feeling. The heart is more important than the mind and it is the heart that connects human beings, bringing their humanity to the fore. As Mohammed, the founder of Berakah, explains:
“We want people to open their hearts, because once the heart opens, then the mind absolutely follows. The mind doesn’t open first, the heart opens first and then the mind follows. It is the moving, the emotion in a person …With that opening of the heart comes the recognition, often unconscious, subliminal and non-verbal, that everyone is in the same position. It is actually the humanity. It is really that we are all human beings. The sole aim of any art is the experience of recognising our humanity, recognising our own humanity and the humanity of everybody around us”.
- Last Updated on 04 June 2015