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Global musicians push peace with US tour

Written by: Staff

Washington, May 14: Thirty young musicians from 18 countries including Iran, Mexico, Denmark and South Korea are fanning out across the United States this month to perform in the hope of teaching cross-cultural understanding.

''Roads to You: Celebration of One World,'' is the brainchild of Jordanian pianist Zade Dirani, 26, who has performed for Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth, former US President Bill Clinton, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and the Dalai Lama.

Backed by Jordan's Queen Noor, Boston's Berklee College of Music and Seeds of Peace, the project aims to ''bring world cultures closer together,'' says Dirani, who recently won a coveted US ''green card,'' or permanent residency permit, based on his ability.

The group is truly opening doors. The conservative Islamic Saudi Academy in a Virginia suburb of Washington is hosting one of the group's 100 planned workshops, only the second time in its 22-year history the school has ever held a musical assembly.

''Music is one of the most open doors through which we can experience the beauty and humanity of other people's cultures,'' says Evan Gutierrez, 26, a Detroit percussionist who says the project is helping him use his music to work for peace.

Dirani's first two CDs hit the Billboard charts in the New Age category. His third, ''Beautiful World,'' came out in early May, and includes far more Arabic influences than his earlier work.

The recording blends beats and rhythms from Arab and Western musical traditions in what Dirani calls ''another attempt to try to deconstruct barriers through music.'' Dirani, who studied at Boston's Berklee College of Music, has performed over 200 house concerts around the country since the September. 11 hijacking attacks, in part to challenge stereotypes about his Arab and Muslim heritage.

This project aims even higher, Dirani told Reuters in an interview, saying he hopes to bring the international and US musicians together one month a year for five years. This year, the group will perform in Washington, Houston and Los Angeles.

''There are a lot of misconceptions about a lot of countries around the world,'' he says, noting that Arabs and Muslims are not the only people who suffer discrimination and prejudice.


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