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Art is often seen as in need of support, but what about when musicians are doing the supporting? Musicians without Borders works with local musicians and organisations in war-torn countries to build bridges of reconciliation between societies. In the latest edition of Overseas, Abi Millar asks Laura Hassler, the founder and director, how this can be achieved. 

In Western societies, being an accomplished musician tends to hold a great deal of cachet. Hone your craft, often by way of a classical training, and you have access to a rarefied world of music-making, in which you create the product others then consume. However, as Laura Hassler, founder and director of Musicians with Borders (MwB), sees it, this view of musical education has its limitations.

“There’s a tendency in our society to understand music as something that is not intrinsically part of you, but as something you learn, and there’s a real hierarchy of talents,” she says. “Some people become great musicians, other people become good musicians, and most people are connected to music mainly as listeners. But there’s another way of understanding music, dominant in some other cultures, which is where it’s just part of life. It’s impossible to imagine a child in a West African village saying they wouldn’t sing because they weren’t good enough.”

For Laura and her colleagues at MwB, the question of what music means is far more than an abstract debate. With its impassioned tagline – ‘using the power of music to bridge divides, connect communities, and heal the wounds of war’ – the organisation holds little truck with the idea of music as a meritocracy...

...Read the full article on page 26 of Overseas, or visit the online version here.

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