FolkWorld #74 03/2021
© Seb Merrick / Kazum Music Publicity

Together Is Beautiful

197 Countries, 197 Musicians, 1 Band, 1 World: On 4 December 2020 the world will be united as for the first time in recording history, a film and song will be released featuring musicians from every single country in the world. Released by Mercury Studios and Universal Music respectively, the film entitled The Earth Orchestra and song ‘Together Is Beautiful’ bring together 197 musicians from the world’s 197 countries on a track written to highlight the power that music has on unifying people from all cultures – transcending physical, cultural and political barriers.

Bolivia: Ruby Aspinall, Harp

This unique recording project on an unprecedented scale, was three years in the making. Documented every step of the way the film demonstrates the world as one, united through music, through the face of every musician involved in the project – the first ever Earth Orchestra.

In 2018, an ambitious idea emerged to ask at least one musician from each country – 197 in total – to record a piece of music together, in the hope that they could light a beacon of hope for our future. Cultural and language barriers were not in question for those who accepted the challenge, each having a deep understanding of the unifying power of music.

“Connecting with a musician from every single country in the world has been an incredible experience for us both. Music is such a potent tool of communication, and to see these people and hear the final recording with all 197 musicians on it is so powerful. We are humbled by the experience and hope that it brings joy to what has been an incredibly challenging year globally for everyone around the world.” Emma Newman & Jude Dexter Smith (Project Directors, The Earth Orchestra)

Over the course of three years, with delays due to the ongoing global pandemic, musicians from all over the globe came together to bring The Earth Orchestra and song ‘Together Is Beautiful’ to life. Under the watchful eye of BAFTA-winning composer George Fenton (The Blue Planet, Ghandi, Cry Freedom), who has written the music specially for those involved, the first themes and melodies of this incredible piece begin to emerge.

Afghanistan: Anita Alami, Tanbur

Fenton says, “The Earth Orchestra is the largest and in my view the most significant orchestra in history. The willingness of these gifted and diverse people to participate says it all for me. It’s simple and profound. A great reason to write music and an honour to be part of”.

The accompanying footage of these contributors, shot on camera phones, further accentuates the enormous cultural and technical diversity of the project and forms the basis of the documentary released alongside the recording, distributed by Eagle Rock. The Earth Orchestra documentary, directed by Jamie Wolfeld (Another News Story, 2017 “Magnificent & Epic” IMDB), shares some of the incredible stories of the musicians involved in the project including Raghad Haddad, an asylum seeker from Syria and professional viola player, and Michael Cretu, a Romanian folk musician and double bassist. Bat-Erdene Victor Nyamdavaa, a throat singer and horse head fiddle player from Mongolia; Dae Lee from South Korea; Zuhal from Iraq; Garnell from The Bahamas; Vishal from India; Jally from The Gambia; baritone Patrizio La Placa, who sings at the Sistine Chapel, and many more share their incredible stories, highlighting the importance and power of music to everybody on the planet. *Full List of musicians included in notes to editors.

Bangladesh: Shapla Salique, Vocals

From the vast deserts of Mauritania to the tiny islands of Tuvalu, the mountains of Bhutan to the volcanos of El Salvador, every culture and nationality is represented in this work. Instruments and styles range from Jazz, Classical, Hip Hop, Reggae, Folk, and many instruments and styles indigenous to countries around the world.

Icelandic piano player Kira Kira said, “I don’t think I knew how many countries there were on Earth. Looking for the similarities in each other rather than spotting what separates us is so beautiful to understand in a primitive way how alike we are. The Earth Orchestra is a gathering of voices from all the countries in the world with 197 smiles.”

Bat-Erdene Victor Nyamdavaa, the Mongolian throat singer and horse head fiddle said, “It makes so much sense that everyone can be different, everyone living in different countries, different language, different culture, but in the end we are just making this one piece of music, so beautifully as one, as a whole together.”

Zuhal Sultan from Iraq commented: “I would say if you are a musician and you play whatever instrument you may play or sing, and you have that love for what you do, then by extension you are connected to everybody who has that same passion. So I think it is a collection of people that create one entity that is united in their love for music.”

The path to building The Earth Orchestra has been long but the connections made not only straddle borders, but show a significant statement of global creative optimism. Through music we can move to feelings and emotions beyond the capacity of words. ‘Together Is Beautiful’, released by Universal Music, shows how the world can come together and make a real and lasting difference.

The Earth Orchestra’s title track ‘Together is Beautiful’ is out 4th December. The album with music by George Fenton is released on 15th Jan 2021.

Peru: Carlos Carty, Panpipes

Ethiopia: Temesgen Zeleke, Krar

Yemen: Ahmed Alshaiba, Oud

Netherlands: Wilma Pistorius, Cello

South Africa: Lu Dlamini, Umakhweyana

Azerbaijan: Shahriyar Imanov, Tar

Burkina Faso: Moussa Dembele, Balafon

Gambia: Jally Kebba Susso, Kora

Namibia: Suzy Eises, Saxophone

Spain: Lidia Alonso, Cello

Lesotho: Mahali Selepe, Vocals

Japan: Kumiko Suzuki, Taiko

Saint Lucia: Taj Weekes, Riddim

Bangladesh: Shapla Salique, Vocals

Ghana: Nii Kwartey Owoo, Kpanlogo

Mongolia: Bat-Erdene Victor Nyamdavaa, Horse Head Fiddle

Paraguay: Victoria Oviedo Galeano, Paraguayan Harp

Cuba: Jennifer Casi Suarez, Cello

Photo Credits: (1ff) The Earth Orchestra (unknown/website).

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