The DIASPORA PROJECT
Throughout human history, people have been uprooted from their homelands, either by force or by choice. A common thread of this experience is the prejudice, if not outright persecution, that they frequently encounter in their adopted countries. After fleeing to unfamiliar lands and societies, immigrants have often used their indigenous music as a vital means of retaining some measure of cultural identity. Music can then be viewed as an important marker for defining one's sense of "home"; for displaced people, it can serve as a visceral connection to an ancestral source even as they attempt to assimilate. Thus it is the ideal means of expressing the untethered feeling of being "neither here nor there". With the current urgent focus on refugees and migrants across the globe, these issues of musical identity are especially poignant.
As a way of encouraging focus on the historical and contemporary issues surrounding the immigrant experience, I have embarked on a personal journey to create new works for guitar that reflect this theme. In addition to “The Walls”, I have so far commissioned six other composers to contribute works that somehow address their perspective on the Diaspora theme. Bryan Johanson composed “The Bootlegger’s Tale”, relating his grandfather’s experience as an Irish-American keeping one step ahead of the law during Prohibition. Dusan Bogdanovic wrote “Castle in the Cloudland” a set of Balkan blues variations on a melody from his childhood in Serbia. Iranian composer Golfam Khayam penned “Lost Land”, a monodic mediation on an ancient Persian mode and the feelings of cultural indeterminacy. Forthcoming projects include Carlos Rafael Rivera focusing on ancient Mayan themes from his maternal homeland Guatemala, Matte Dunne exploring the Cuban émigré experience, and Tibetan music expert Andrea Clearfield adapting the dramyin music of the Tibetan court for guitar.