The Power of Song

Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia), November 16, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Power of Song


Byline: ANTHONY BRAND

AUSTRALIAN diplomat Ian "Fred" Smith uses his musical talents to open up lines of communication between war-stricken societies and ground forces.

Smith had been a musician since the age of nine, but it wasn't until he took part in a peacekeeping mission that the power of his unique musical ability, coupled with his sensitivity as a diplomat, came to light.

Smith was working in the aftermath of the Bougainville civil war crisis in 1997 in a peace monitoring group, on the condition they arrived on the island unarmed.

They were the first to do so.

He was sleeping in an abandoned supermarket and began playing his guitar under the only light bulb in the village.

Smith was not alone for long after his inviting melodies echoed across the village, drawing around 200 villagers.

The impromptu concert inspired Smith to write songs for the villagers in pidgin English , detailing the peace process and the reasons for his team's presence.

There was no longer conflict between Smith's "job" and his music.

He discovered it was all one job that could contribute to the overall goal of resolution.

The music humanised him and his team who were no longer seen as foreigners in uniforms, but rather as people there to help.

"The music I wrote in Bougainville was an important factor in the peace process," he said. …

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