My first words here bring me close to tears, they are for Jimi, Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole who died after jumping into the River Thames in central London to rescue a woman. He leapt after hearing a woman screaming, she was crying for her life, shouting: “Help, I’m going to die”. Jimi tried to save her but died in the cold and darkness of the River Thames. He was one of two men who jumped in to save her, but his body was recovered about six hours later. He died for a cause – the life of another – he took no time to think of himself or how much his own life mattered. I want to honour his bravery and wonder if I would have done the same.
Music and Art do not have a separate existence from the rest of life, they both reflect it and create it. This point can be argued much better by Arinze Stanley, the Nigerian artist who says: “Fast forward to 2020 when I was having my solo exhibition. As soon as the show started, there were a lot of events that happened simultaneously. This was around the time I was assaulted by the police and almost lost my eye. There were a lot of other things that were happening in the background. News of young people like me getting shot by the members of the police special unit called SARS, which led to weeks of protest, a very strong movement #Endsars. I was proudly part of the movement. Even shortly after I just had my eye surgery, I went out there to protest and speak. Meanwhile, my works were speaking to the outside world in my solo exhibition in the U.S.
It was so amazing because I felt like, “yes, I am doing what I have been instructed to do in life.” Art gave me purpose in life. It was all connected. It felt like I was given this ability to speak, and there was a platform to speak. I had already made these works months ago, but then it was still relevant now because that is really my reality. That was surreal for me. I mean, I believe this is all I want as an artist: to be able to create meaningful change”.
“When he heard Chopin’s music, he turned pale. Every kind of music, even the simplest, struck him like a physical blow. The colour left his face and his lips trembled. Music communicated something to him that the others could never achieve. It seemed that the melodies did not speak to the rational portion of his mind. The discipline he demanded of himself relaxed at such moments as if his body too were releasing itself from its rigid posture. At such times he forgot where he was, his eyes sparkled, he stared into the distance oblivious of his surroundings. When he listened to music, he listened with his whole body as longingly as a condemned man in his cell aches for the sound of distant feet perhaps bringing news of his release. When spoken to he didn’t hear. Music dissolved the world around him just as it dissolved the laws of artistic unity” – from EMBERS by Sandor Marai.
In this story a man lives his life for music. I understand that, those of us who write and perform and those of us who listen all have a common bond. Music takes us out of ourselves, transcends difference and leads us to a common place, a shared place. There is a paradox – in this place we are lost in our individual experience, yet this is a shared place familiar to us all.
Music gives me purpose in life. Our project, Make America Love Again – is about music and shared experience transcending the bitterness of old and fixed political viewpoints. In hope, in desperation, I shout out for our common humanity and the possibility of shared values and humanity.