Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is Music a Universal Language???

Throughout the years, America’s image has been getting more and more ugly in the public eyes of Pakistanis. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center “Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner.” This is because of many reasons including the fact that the war the United States has declared in Afghanistan has spread into their territory which has caused many innocent Pakistanis their lives. The image gets even more unattractive since the United States has been strengthening their ties with Pakistan’s archenemy India. Citing the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs of the State Department, Robert Blake, “We recently have begun an effort to try to enhance state-to-state ties between our two countries... because we believe there are quite significant opportunities for individual American states to do more with their Indian counterparts.” Some may even go further and say that America dislikes the Muslim world because of our constant intervention in trying to promote democracy abroad. Even though I do not believe this to be true, America has a reason to try to save face in the region. Because of this, the U.S. embassy has been trying to find informal modes of diplomacy to be used in an attempt to save its unfavorable image. One of the avenues that was used was targeting the younger generations through music.

The U.S. embassy’s cultural diplomacy program in Islamabad, Pakistan has been bringing over multiple musical groups in conjunction to its American Festival of the Arts. This festival, according to the State Department, is meant to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries. Acts that have participated in this Festival have included the Ari Roland Jazz Group and Mary McBride, a country music artist. This week, the State Department has brought over a hip hop troupe from Chicago for a 10 day trip through the region to perform for an educated young audience of Pakistanis. The Chicago troupe, the F.E.W Collective dances, sings, raps and recites poetry. The purpose of this tour through the region is to get the face to face contact of non-governmental Americans, and to try to find a commonality among the two countries through music.

Hip Hop universally looks different but is found everywhere. This form of expressive arts can be used to bring youth from all over together. The target audience for the festival is the youth, the future leaders of Pakistan. This is extremely strategic in my eyes because, as we have seen through the Arab Spring and many other uprisings, that the youth are key in trying to achieve change. Getting through to this group and building the American relationship earlier in their lives, is important an ingredient in the recipe to try and fix Pakistani-American relations. This idea is pretty remarkable to me. Even though I might be a bit biased because I love hip hop, I do believe that even if countries are culturally separated, something that could bring differing communities together is music. This new, cutting edge idea of using music to build relations between the two countries has not been used before on a big scale and I am really interested to see the end result. Whether U.S. officials agree or not if this program is going to work is not important because it is something that could actually blend the two cultures together. It’s this out of the box thinking that could continue to create new waves of building relations. With face-to-face contact with a few could possibly change the perception of Americans and break down stereotypes that the Pakistani youth have of the United States. This would not only strengthen the relations between the U.S. and Pakistan but paint a more positive image of the United States in the region.

Alexis Roe

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