Ravi Unites Intercultural Songwriting Retreats
We know the power of music and most of us believe that it can lead to world peace. Yet, how many of us use it intentionally for that purpose? Ravi had not until recently when he went to Indonesia to try to bring the world together through songwriting. Now, he creates programs globally to foster collaboration between people from traditionally opposed cultures and religions, and partners with governments and non-profit organizations worldwide to make them happen.
Proof of Concept: In 2016, he launched the first Ravi Unites Intercultural Songwriting Retreat at the Jakarta Institute of Arts in Indonesia with the support of the US Department of State and their implementing partner, American Voices, as a subprogram in their already established "YES Academy." He created and conducted a two-week songwriting and cultural entrepreneurship program for up-and-coming millennial songwriters from the ASEAN nations (i.e. Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, etc.). It was nothing short of life changing for all involved.
Out of seventy-five applicants, Ravi selected sixteen to receive scholarships from their US embassies and join him in Jakarta for twelve days. During that time, these strangers collaborated and wrote a total of twelve songs using the structure of his songwriting video course, “1-2-3 Songwriting.” In addition, they gave two performances at the US Embassy cultural center in Jakarta, one private concert at the US Ambassador’s residence with distinguished guests from ASEAN nations in the audience, and a final concert for the public. By day three, five songs were written and two days later performed live. Another seven songs were then completed and performed at the final concert. They even began to write another three before the end of the program.
What is more monumental than the quantity and quality of the music created was the very fact that they did it together. One song was co-written and performed by a Cambodian, Filipino and two Indonesians—that translates to a Buddhist, Christian, and two Muslims. They had an amazing collaboration between two Indonesians—one “Ex” Muslim and the other, a Muslim who defends Sharia Law. They also had a Muslim and Christian write a song that incorporated both of their countries’ traditional melodies and languages, at times woven together, and a romantic duet written and performed by a conservative Muslim and a Christian. Other than bringing them together in the first place, nothing was forced; it all developed organically. Now three years later, they all remain close friends and share their music with each other online and in person.
Ravi's songwriting retreat was a big part of my motivation to make music my full-time career. It made me realize that the fear of missing out on doing what I love was greater than the fear of not making it. Now I am living my dream.
Paolo Benjamin, Ben & Ben, Philippines
Expanding the Impact: Ravi replicated the program the following year in Iraq to help bridge longtime divides between Iraqis and Kurds. This included four talented musicians from Mosul who had just been released days earlier after three years of captivity under ISIS. He then did a third program in Lebanon to unite Syrians and Lebanese, which included participants from the war-torn city of Aleppo.
Looking Ahead: In early 2020, Ravi will launch his first program in South America in collaboration with the stunningly beautiful Curaumilla Arts Center near Valparaiso, Chile. There, his aim is to help overcome rising tensions between Chileans and the indigenous Mapuches.
"If these retreats do not prove that music helps overcome humanity’s greatest self-inflicted wounds, I don’t know what will," Ravi says. "Such experiences convince me that world peace is indeed possible."