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Concert Asks Composers to Create Works About War, Intolerance


The works of 32 composers from countries affected by war and other conflicts will be featured in a concert Jan. 24 at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland — a suburb of Washington, D.C.

Award-winning Israeli-American pianist Yael Weiss curated the concert, “32 Bright Clouds,” which she said was inspired by 32 sonatas by famed composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

She asked the 32 composers to write new piano pieces, inspired by one of the sonatas, that reflect on a key event or figure from their respective countries.

The countries showcased include Ghana, Syria, Bhutan, the Philippines, Iran, Venezuela, Turkey, Jordan and Indonesia.

Indonesian pianist Ananda Sukarlan wrote a composition about religious intolerance based on the guilty verdict against former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known as Ahok, who was accused of blasphemy last year.

“I connect my composition with Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ since the governor’s name is Purnama, or moonlight in English,” Ananda told VOA. “I was so devastated when Ahok was sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy. This case was a test to our religious tolerance, and I think it was the darkest moment in Indonesia history.

“The title of my composition is ‘No More Moonlight Over Jakarta,'” he said.

Ahok was put on trial in December 2016 over accusations that he insulted Islam while campaigning in the Seribu Islands near the capital of Jakarta.

During the campaign event, Ahok quoted a verse in the Quran to prove to his supporters that there were no restrictions on Muslims voting for non-Muslim politicians. His statement was edited and widely spread on social media, triggering charges of blasphemy, as well as protests and threats against him.

The previously popular Chinese-Christian governor lost the election and was later jailed. He will be released from prison on Jan. 24 — the day of the concert.

Among the other composers are Malek Jandali of Syria, whose piece, “The Hunt for Peace,” is dedicated to Syrian children, and Ghanaian composer George Mensah Essilfie, who wrote “Hope for the Shackled,” dedicated to the people who are physically chained and held at alleged faith-based camps in Ghana and are not being treated for their psychotic disorders.

The concert is also a precursor to global events that will be staged around the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020.

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