Music as a medium to connect cultures
June 25 2021 10:47 PM
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AFCENT Band performs a virtual concert at Mall of Qatar during the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture
AFCENT Band performs a virtual concert at Mall of Qatar during the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture

It is rightly said that music is the universal language of mankind.
Music is the language that helps connect people of different cultures and backgrounds. It helps promote cultural and social harmony.
The Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture celebrates strong relations between the two countries through cultural partnerships, exchanges and performances. As the year focuses on the contributions of Qatar and US to their respective and shared cultures in different fields, music is the area that can play a significant role in bringing the two peoples together.
The US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) Band, located at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, has also been playing its part in the year of culture activities by promoting American music in Qatar.
Gulf Times recently had an interview with 1st Lieutenant Brandon R Hults, Officer-in-Charge of AFCENT Band, about the band’s role in the year of culture and how its music helps bringing the two cultures closer.

 

Who is the AFCENT Band and what is their role?

The AFCENT Band is comprised of deployed Airmen from Active Duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard bands.
The AFCENT Band travels throughout a 21-country area of responsibility in Southwest Asia advancing diplomacy with embassy support, expanding outreach in local communities, and raising morale for US troops and coalition forces (US Allies).The ensemble is a versatile group that showcases dynamic musicians. They perform a wide variety of music including Top 40, pop, R&B, country, jazz, and rock appealing to audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Members of the band are world-class musicians trained from the finest American and international music schools and conservatories, who have chosen to use their talents to serve in the United States Air Force as full-time musicians.

 

What performances has the band carried out so far in Qatar and related to the year of culture? 

Covid-19 has taken its toll on many of the band’s live performances during the past year. However, with the help of the US embassy, respective Qatari ministries, and other local organisations like the Qatar Foundation, we have still been able to enjoy wonderfully meaningful engagements.
Earlier this month the full AFCENT Band recorded a performance from the Oasis Stage in the Mall of Qatar that was livestreamed for audiences to enjoy from home, as restrictions still inhibited crowds gathering for the safety of all.
Members from the band have also performed educational outreach, visiting Qatar Music Academy to work with students and combining Western jazz techniques like improvisation with traditional Arabic music.
One of the most impactful performances came earlier this year in the form of collaboration with world-renowned Qatari singer and songwriter Dana Al Fardan as well as the Qatar Community Choir.
Dana wrote an original work entitled ‘Rising,’ inspired by a shared drive to promote inclusion and connectivity.
The song will even be featured on all Qatar Airways flights for six months starting in July. Some future performances include a collaboration concert at Qatar National Library with a traditional Arabic ensemble in August as well as the finale concert for the year of culture in November to be performed with Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.One of our most exciting projects to date is currently in the works in partnership with the Ministry of Culture and Sports.

What is your take on the year of culture? How do you view the opportunity to play the role in enhancing cultural exchanges between Qatar and US?
AFCENT Band is elated to play a role in the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture. Building and maintaining positive relationships through music is not only a job for our musicians, but indeed a vocation. Music is a phenomenon that appears in every culture around the world throughout history.
We are able to tell our stories and connect to other peoples through our respective cultures’ music making. There are few more effective ways to bridge worlds and celebrate those things that are similar and those that are unique to each of our countries. It is a beautiful gesture when humans are able to stop, listen, and understand one another without even having to speak a common language.

 

What role does music play in bringing the two cultures together?
Music can play a very significant role in bringing cultures together. For instance, we are already preparing a collaboration I mentioned earlier with an Arabic ensemble, to be played at Qatar National Library in August.
The theme of this performance is ‘Melodies Past and Present.’ The Arabic ensemble will play some traditional folk songs, and our band will play some traditional American folk music along with more contemporary country/pop. I have found that the lyrics in these particular songs are not so different, especially in the earlier traditional tunes.
Themes of family, struggles, life, love, loss, and resilience all resonate through the music of both cultures. I think anyone who listens to these messages from both ensembles will realise that we may have different traditions and ways of life, but we all share the same values in our humanity. I would also be remiss if I did not add the concert will end with both ensembles playing together – music from both cultures, in a literal representation of our coming together as friends and allies.

 

What genre of the American music the audiences here are interested in the most?
The simple answer is country music! It seems that no matter where we travel, audiences always know the words to many of the country songs we perform.
This year, by far, the most popular song has been “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.      

Last updated: June 27 2021 07:19 PM


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