“Songs can unite, they can bring people together,” writes Daisaku Ikeda, a champion of promoting world peace through culture and education. All of the greatest music in the history of mankind has been born out of the will to triumph together, be it the hollers and blues of the slaves in colonial America, or the protest music of the 60’s and 70’s, whether it be the 3rd or the 9th symphony by Beethoven, or the songs written by Clapton after his son died.
Song, by its nature brings not only the listeners and the performers together as one spirit but also unifies the many bodies of the singer, the multitude of lives that each one of live in these harried times. Song unites hearts, and this ability to unite peoples heart comprises the unchanging formula for absolute victory in our lives, explains Ikeda.
With the global gloom of the last 18 months, it is becoming increasingly important for us as a civilization to find the true implication of our being, to come together as many in body, one in mind, to accomplish that for which we have been placed at the top of the evolution pyramid, the reason why only we of all beings have been given voice, words, and song in our hearts. To use these gifts to lead all beings to the highest potential we as a race are capable of expressing.
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After the torturous suspense of the last few years, with each category drawing the stiffest of competition, and amazing new finds, the grammies this year have spared us. Not only were there no notables among the major nominations, even the competition was all but absent. There was no Herbie Hancock (another champion of Kosen Rufu and one who acknowledged Ikeda as his mentor) interpreting Joni Mitchel, no Ray Charles, no Norah Jones to get the ulcers going. I do not intend to imply the lack of individuals or names, but more the stature of the creative expression that has made the final cut for the awards this year. The only wow nomination in the mainstream categories, and this is merely my opinion, was Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ Raising Sand, a seminal work that will stand the test of time, and one that went on to bag them the best pop vocal, record of the year, and album of the year. The only pity was the sound mixing during their performance at the awards show resulting in a regrettable loss of the lower registers on the vocals. However, I am optimistic that this lack of overall spunk in the finalists is just a lull and not a sign of the times (a view endorsed by both the contemporary jazz album and the world music nominees).
While the awards were predictable and perhaps somewhat lackluster, the awards show, however, was a treat. One is put to test to pin down any one performance as a highlight, starting with the opening act by U2 reminding us how beautiful we are. Justin Timberlake shone as he matched vocals with the Reverend of soul, Al Green on Lets Stay Together, no small feat. Mylie Cyrus and Taylor Swift doing Fifteen was a dream come true for fans, as was McCartney and the Foo Fighters doing I saw her Standing There. Kid Rock’s anthem to peace and justice had a fleeting Ashoka’s Chakra as part of the visuals. Radiohead performed 15 step, an electrifying performance that will stay on both Sandeep’s and my playlist for a long time to come, I know for sure. Neil Diamond walking down the aisle singing Sweet Caroline with almost the entire audience singing along was memorable, especially the moment when he stood between Paul McCartney on one side and Coldplay in their Sgt. Peppers uniform on the other, with all of them screaming together like mosh pit fans, touching me, touching you. A truly touching moment, one can captured the spirit of the evening and the hope that it holds for the future.