'At the same time in the next building, two Arabic experts from Paris took the 14 young musicians from Orchestre Francais des Jeunes through Iraq history, geopolitics and culture. For the last hour, I took some of the NYOI musicians with me after rehearsal to join in. There, transliterated on a whiteboard, stood Arabic text, which the experts coached us to sing to the tune of our old friend, Che Mali Wali. As the French students sang along, there, sitting under the open windows were Mohammed Adnan, Murad and Hassun playing the pained melody that had accompanied them through childhood. Totally in their bliss, a deep melancholy seeped out from within their Iraqi soul. This wasn't all. Naturally, the Kurds also needed to express their culture. Alan Kamil, our new concertmaster, struck up some traditional melodies on his violin with our wonderfully gifted new percussionist, Peshawa, imitating a zither accompaniment on the grand piano at the back of the room. Two intense musical traditions perfumed one small space filled with the finest of France and Iraq.'
From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin
The above quotation is slightly longer than usual. This is because it is a passage rich with insight about how best to begin understanding and appreciating new partners and collaborators. It emphasises the importance of creating a safe, supportive and creative space which encourages learning in 3 dimensions. These dimensions are thinking, doing and feeling:
- Providing facts encouraged the young French musicians to think about Iraq, its society, culture and politics.
- Doing something, in this case singing a traditional song, encouraged them to gain further insights about Iraqi music and culture. It also reinforced some of the learning from the rest of the session.
- Listening to the NYOI players perform some of their traditional melodies encouraged the French players to begin appreciating some of the artistic and emotional context of Iraqi culture and, very importantly, how Iraqis themselves responded and reacted to it. This laid the foundations upon which empathy could be built.
Allow the gradually developing 3 dimensional pictures you gain to inform the way you work with your partners and help shape your overall relationship with them.