From Tunisia to Kairos
I had been travelling for over three years and didn’t know whether I would ever return to singing. Then, in the city of Tunis, where I was spending a few days, a remarkable experience showed me that power that music has to reach beyond prejudice, fear and alienation.
A friend and I were in Tunisia to attend a United Nations Conference. It was before the Iron Curtain fell, and there were delegates there from Romania and the USSR. Each participating country had three representatives, who kept to themselves and did not speak to other delegates except during their scheduled sessions. The atmosphere was tense, and all the conference attendees were forbidden to use the word ‘Israel’ for fear that the Arabic delegates would rise and leave the room. I was saddened to see that these men, who represented some of the best that their countries had to offer, were bound by so many rules; rules that lacked compassion and maturity.
Anyway, word got out that I was a singer, and I was invited to do an evening concert. I suggested that we all meet at the beach after dinner. They agreed, and as the moon rose over the Mediterranean Sea we sat together on the sand and I sang. Then I asked if anyone would like to share a song or a poem from their own county. One by one, the men began sharing, and before long, 7 or 8 of them had sung or recited something. The atmosphere turned easy and it turned into a wonderful evening, rich with laughter and shared feelings.
I went back to my hotel room and wrote a letter to Valerie Hennell, my friend, co-creator and manager of many years. I told her about my experience of seeing how powerfully music can heal differences and transcend boundaries. I said that I was ready to go back into the lion’s den (the music industry) when I returned to Canada, and that I hoped she would be there with me.
The following day at the conference, small conversations went on all over the room. I even saw two men sharing pictures of their homes and families. What a powerful energy music unleashes.
When I came home, I wrote Journey to Kairos.