Amwaj: The water symphony

Updated 30 May 2012
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Amwaj: The water symphony

BMG Foundation, the corporate cultural responsibility division of BMG Financial Group, in collaboration with The Al-Waleed Bin Talal Foundation as part of their Foundation Classics cultural initiative, will host a classical music concert performed by the world renowned and celebrated Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) under the patronage of The Duke of York. The concert will be led by the artistic direction of Principal Conductor Maestro Charles Dutoit and will take place at Cadogan Hall, London, on June 19, 2012.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which has gained an international repute for bringing world-class musicians and a wide-range of musical influences and genres to their repertoire, will have award-winning Arab composer and pianist Malek Jandali perform at the concert. Jandali is the first Arab musician to arrange the oldest notation in the world, which is featured in his 2008 album, “Echoes from Eugarit.”
Jandali, whose musical career kick-started after having bagged first prize at the National Young Artist’s competition and “Outstanding Musical Performer Award” in 1997 in the United States, was also felicitated with the “Freedom of Expression” award in Los Angeles in 2011 for his song “Watani Ana-I am my homeland” and his untiring activism efforts during the Arab Spring, advocating for human rights and democracy.
“The message of my music is universal and my role as an artist is to spread the message of peace, harmony and love through music. I have the responsibility to ensure that the voice of the people is being heard and is not tainted with fear and oppression,” said Jandali.
The evening’s musicale will be guided under the able direction of star conductor Vartan Melkonian who rose from the slums of Lebanon as an orphan with a speech impediment to become a master conductor of classical music in London’s most notable halls, directing orchestra ensembles in the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra among many others, both in the United Kingdom and abroad.
Recently appointed as the Patron of Consortium for Street Children and its Ambassador to the United Nations, Melkonian has especially composed the piece “Amwaj” (meaning “waves” in Arabic) for the BMG Foundation Classics’ evening.
“With this composition, I would hope to start a Post-Atonal Renaissance Era for the listener of elegant music,” shared Melkonian.
“Melkonian contributes to the world his poetic genius with his composition, “Amwaj: The Water Symphony,” a piece that will elevate our faculties and influence our appreciation for the world’s most precious resource which is water,” said Basil Ghalayini, Chairman of BMG Foundation.
“When exposed to different types of music and words, the molecular structure of water changes, revealing various beautiful or degenerative shapes. As we ourselves are comprised of 70 percent water, our intent, words, ideas and music have a profound healing or destructive effect upon us. Ultimately, what we think and expose ourselves to, creates our reality,” he further added.
Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, vice-chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Al-Waleed Bin Talal Foundation and wife of Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, is expected to grace the evening with her esteemed presence as guest of honor.
She recently secured fourth place on “The Most Powerful Arab Women” 2012 List, representing the advancement of modern Saudi women through her promotion of cross-cultural relations, dynamic participation in philanthropic and charitable activities around the world and engaging dialogue with the Western media on various women’s rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
The foundation, which has been taking immense pride in fostering values of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding between the East and the West through their Art Alive, GCC Polo Cup and Foundation Classics initiatives, also organizes fundraising charity events supporting various NGOs and trust funds in the Middle East, Asia and Europe and social responsibility campaigns as part of their cultural and social outreach program.
Early this year, they launched a nationwide youth competition in Saudi Arabia to initiate their year-long campaign, “Our Water, Our Life,” to raise public awareness in the Kingdom, highlighting the urgent need for adopting economical and prudent water practices and influencing positive shifts in social behavior in view of the global water scarcity crisis and similar predictions in the GCC region.
Proceeds from the concert’s ticket sales will go toward supporting the foundation’s “Our Water, Our Life” environmental interest initiative.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.cadoganhall.com/event/bmg-foundation-presents-amwaj/


Taiwanese ‘graffiti village’ eases elderly loneliness

Updated 18 July 2019
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Taiwanese ‘graffiti village’ eases elderly loneliness

  • The paintings have started to bring young visitors — always keen for a selfie in a photo-friendly location — back
  • The Hakka are linguistically distinct group of people who trace their origins back to southern China

RUAN CHIAO, Taiwan: Nestled in the mist-covered foothills of Taiwan’s central mountain range, Ruan Chiao village is virtually devoid of young people, but artist Wu Tsun-hsien is coaxing the Instagram generation back by transforming local homes into a canvas of color.
Dipping his brush into a tin of beige emulsion, he carefully applies new layers of paint to his latest production — a vibrant rural scene depicting farmers in traditional weave hats tending to a flock of animals.
Behind him an elderly villager with a walking stick shuffles his way down the main street, which is plastered with Wu’s colorful paintings.
“This village is full of old people,” the 55-year-old laments, explaining how the vast majority of youngsters — including his own children — have moved to the city, leaving elderly residents listless and lonely.
But paintings have started to bring young visitors — always keen for a selfie in a photo-friendly location — back.
“These drawings attracted many tourists to come visit. The old people who were left here are no longer so bored. This was my biggest gain,” he beams.
Wu is not alone in this adopting this strategy.
There is now some half a dozen so-called “graffiti villages” in Taiwan that have been festooned with artwork in a bid to inject some life into rural places that have been emptied of its young.
Like many industrialized places, Taiwan’s remarkable economic transformation over the past few decades has upended rural communities and unleashed huge demographic changes.
“It’s perhaps a more recent phenomenon than it would have been in some other places,” explains Shelley Rigger, an expert on Taiwan at Davidson College in North Carolina, who said much of Taiwan’s industrial manufacturing stayed in the villages.
“People sewed Barbie doll clothing in their houses and then carried it down to a packaging plant in the middle of a village,” she tells AFP, as an example.
Ruan Chiao village, for example, used to churn out paper temple offerings.
But once much of the manufacturing shifted to mainland China in the late 1990s and Taiwan moved up the value chain, many of those jobs left.
“That’s when you see rural areas kind of emptying out,” Rigger adds.
Taiwan’s 23 million population is also rapidly aging. The birth rate has plummeted — only 180,000 children were born last year, an eight-year low.
The Wu family have experienced this flight first hand.
The ancestral home is occupied by his wife’s father, 81, and mother, 72, who still work a few plots of land in the hills above the village growing organic vegetables. But Wu’s own children both went to university and have left, one to Australia, the other to a nearby city.
Wu’s wife Fan Ai-hsiu explains their bid to draw Instagram-happy crowds of youngsters was less about economics and more about giving her parents something to look forward to.
“They want to have conversations with people, that’s what they miss, it’s not about money,” Fan says.
But it was not initially an easy task to persuade fellow villagers to use their houses as a canvas.
“People here are fairly conservative,” she recalls, adding: “But once the first few paintings went up, they could see it brought people in.”
Most of Wu’s paintings in the village stick to rural pastiches or traditional symbols of good fortune.
It is the family home where he really gets to express himself — and which has quickly drawn a mass following on social media.
Perched on a slope overlooking the village, the whole house is covered in images, many of which detail Wu’s politics.
He’s an avid believer that not enough is being done to tackle climate change, so some of the scenes show apocalyptic scenes of environmental devastation.
Others are commentaries on social issues like gay marriage — which he opposes — or how the elderly are treated in an increasingly consumerist society.
“This mural depicts the present Taiwanese corrupt society,” Wu remarks as he walks along a huge painted wall featuring hundreds of images.
“This one is society’s mayhem due to mobile phones, computers and television... and this one is our cultural loss where many of our Hakka young generations don’t know the culture,” he adds.
The Hakka are linguistically distinct group of people who trace their origins back to southern China. They have lived in Taiwan for some four centuries and make up 15-20 percent of the population.
Evelyn Sun puts on art and food events in Taipei and found out about Wu’s paintings via social media.
She visited with friends who all soon found themselves sitting around a table with the Wu family, eating traditional Hakka vegetable dishes and tucking into eggs boiled in a secret recipe of local herbs.
The 25-year-old enthuses: “Taiwan has many ‘graffiti villages’ that are beautiful scenic spots where people will just leave after taking pictures.”
“But I realized when I came here that every mural here is depicting a social problem faced by society.”
She hopes other young Taiwanese will explore the nation’s rural villages more often.
She explains: “These people are our culture, they are our history, we have to get to know them.”