Peace Talks Radio host Paul Ingles talks with Iraqi oud musician Rahim Alhaj.
Paul Ingles: I’m very dedicated to the idea of letting people know a little bit about the musicians and the music before they hear music because I think it really opens things up a little bit as well. Rahim, welcome.
Rahim Alhaj: Thank you very much Paul.
Ingles: Thank you for coming. Yes, it’s amazing to have you here and to have you here in New Mexico, your new home. Of course life didn’t start for you in New Mexico did it?
Alhaj: Actually, ironically enough, the first concert I did when I came to the United States was in Santa Fe. I feel like this is home. There is absolutely no doubt my dear friends are here and it is an environment in which people can curse the government every day and nobody will come to my home and arrest me, like the FBI. I’m still learning about this government.
Ingles: Born in Iraq and established yourself; I heard the great story on Megan Kamerick’s interview with you on KUNM about coming to the teacher for the first time at nine and being instantly drawn to the instrument and recognized by the teacher as somebody that seemed to have some connection to that instrument.
Alhaj: Yes it is indeed. I think we were born to do something in life I guess. Some people play music, some people do art, some people do teaching and everything, I believe that every human being has a purpose on this planet, but also I believe that there are people that they need to destroy this planet and that’s our job; to stop them from destroying our planet.
So the minute I saw the instrument I felt like there was a connection between me and this instrument and I always say this word that to be an artist or a musician is not a choice because you cannot just decide to be a musician. You have to have no choice except to do whatever you think you are doing something good to this world. So it was in this moment when I was nine years old and I asked my teacher if I could touch the instrument and I touched it like that and I couldn’t sleep. All day long I wanted to go back. The next day I asked him; “Can I touch it again?” He said, “Are you sure?” So I hold it. It’s like a huge [0:02:45] big one and so I tried to imitate him after that time. I put my left hand on the fingerboard and tried to reach [0:02:56]. It was bigger than me actually. So I’m trying as much as I can. I did something and he was impressed. He said, “You are a musician. Take it.” I mean here we go, there is an [0:03:12] bigger than me. How can I work with it to my home?
Anyway, my brother was older than me so he walked with me to my home and I slept with my instrument. For five years I couldn’t sleep without my instrument. Always cover it with a blanket and I just talk to it [0:03:36] [laughter] and one time, actually my father was walking and he heard me talking to my instrument. I said, “I’m really tired. I will practice tomorrow okay?” Kiss it goodnight. So he went to my mom and he said, “This guy is insane!”
Ingles: There’s something wrong with this guy.
Alhaj: There’s something wrong with this guy.
Ingles: Your son.
Alhaj: Yeah, [0:04:01]. And I think he is, you’re right to some degree.
Ingles: That’s a good kind of insane. I want to allow you to get to your talk. There is much more that we could talk about, but if you don’t know Rahim’s story who opposed the Saddam Hussein regime before the First Gulf War, imprisoned and tortured and finally leaving the country when?
Alhaj: In 1991.
Ingles: In ’91. First to Syria and then to Jordan?
Alhaj: First to Jordan and then to Syria.
Ingles: Until the United States finally –
Alhaj: In 2000.
Ingles: And straight to Albuquerque?
Alhaj: Yes! Can you believe it?
Ingles: Yes! Amazing.
Alhaj: Actually yeah, exactly so. Exactly. When I arrived in New Mexico I said we’re not in the United States of America.
Ingles: We have that problem here a lot actually.
Alhaj: To be honest, I love that because this is the only place that has nothing to do with the United States. [laughter] It’s really great! [laughter]
Ingles: Okay, Rahim Alhaj, thank you.
Jane Goodall’s 2012 Message of Peace, sent with permission to Peace Talks Radio’s “Concert for Peace”
Jane Goodall: I’ve been on planet earth for almost 80 years now and a good deal of that time has been spent in the forest of Gombe and other wilderness areas. It’s when the natural world is in balance, undisturbed by destructive human activities, that I I’ve experienced real deep peace.
I find peace also in an old farming village surrounded by organically grown crops and other such environments.
Sadly, as we all know, we humans have destroyed the balance of the natural world and we can never know real peace until, through our efforts and our will to succeed, we’ve restored our old relationship with the natural world. It sometimes seems an impossible task yet, as you will know, I truly do have hope for us in our world.
For one thing, we had super smart brains and we must use them to find solutions to current problems and we are and nature is resilient. Let’s give her a chance to recover and sometimes, when she needs it, a helping hand too. I urge everyone to think, to really think, about our environment. Roll up your sleeves and take action.
Oh and by the way, I nearly forgot, I wanted to bring you a greeting as from the chimpanzees of Gombe. [monkey sounds]
Former Congressman and Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich in a special message of support for Peace Talks Radio
Kucinich: Peace. Think about it. Peace Talks Radio does not only think about it, they talk about it and if the thought is father or mother to the work, we know that the efforts of Peace Talks Radio help to take us towards a more peaceful world. When Peace Talks Radio goes forward with its statements which integrate peace into everything that they send to their listeners, it has such great power because it helps to enforce a peaceful vibration which, sooner or later, has a way of creating a unified field which does not only create these, but it helps advance the thinking that creates structures of peace. Thank you very much Peace Talks Radio for all of your efforts and for your continued interest in sharing the concept and the wisdom of peace with people everywhere. Thank you.
Peace Talks Radio Host Paul Ingles talks with singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier
Paul Ingles: Mary, welcome back to Peace Talks Radio after joining us in 2004.
Mary Gauthier: Ten years.
Ingles: Ten years just like that, I know, it’s amazing. Carol interviewed Mary during the week and I was with Carol and we were considering your personal story which some folks know. I don’t want to go into it blow by blow, but you were a runaway, right, and kind of lost and wandering, you became a chef, you ran a restaurant in New York, you came to music late in life and you had your struggles with alcoholism, but you pulled out of all that, so we noted that your personal story feels like a bit of a peace question. Do you agree?
Gauthier: My personal story is so long.
Ingles: Yes, I know. It’s beautiful though in a way.
Gauthier: It’s a story of redemption. It’s a story of finding a reason to live.
Ingles: Can you give us a few ideas about how to do that because we’re all [0:06:18] [laughter]. I know people who have been through the ring are a little bit reluctant to give advice. Tell us a little bit about what sustained you; music I know.
Gauthier: It’s really quite simple. I’m in touch with gratitude and I’m aware of the fact that, given the way that I’ve lived a tremendous amount of my life, I should be dead. With that awareness comes this gratitude and I feel grateful for the little things and I feel grateful for the music and the songs that come through me. Gratitude, combined with passion for what you do is a good life and I’m blessed with that. I wake up with songs in my head and I have to go find them.
Ingles: I’d like to add to that gratitude and passion, compassion because when I hear your music, I hear you looking out the window into our world and bring to the fore a lot of stories of people that we should all be invited to have a little more compassion for it feels. Tell me just a little bit about that gaze or how those songs come through you and how that feels like a part of your peacemaking in your music.
Gauthier: Whenever people ask me this question, I just want to quote William Blake. “Those who have suffered understand suffering and thereby extend their hand.” That’s one of the byproducts of going to hell and back. You don’t have to reach that far to know what it is that you’ve lived in, so I understand people who suffer. I understand the outsiders. I don’t really understand the one percent at all. I don’t really have any one percent songs.
Ingles: That’s beautiful!
Ingles: Well, I am so moved when I hear those story songs from you and it makes me think that all of your characters that you bring to us are teachers as well in the four or five minutes you invite us to spend with them. That really comes through for me. Can you share some stories with us tonight?
Gauthier: It’s my absolute pleasure.
Ingles: Alright ladies and gentlemen… Mary Gauthier.