Musicians remember Daniel Pearl a decade after his death
October 5, 2012 2 Comments
By Emily Tan
Starting this week, thousands of musicians from around the globe will perform in honour of the late journalist Daniel Pearl.
The South Asia Bureau Chief and correspondent for the Wall Street Journal was kidnapped and killed by a terrorist group in Pakistan in February 2002. He had travelled there as part of an investigation into the alleged links between Richard Reid (the ‘shoe bomber’) and Al-Quaeda. The world reeled from the tragic news of his death.
But that year, as the days drew closer to what would have been his 39th birthday on October 10, the Pearl family decided to celebrate it the way Pearl would have wanted: with music. The reporter, a talented violinist who had played in many bands, believed that music could breach cultural differences.
“[Pearl’s] family thought, ‘What would Danny do if he were here to celebrate his birthday?’” said Narda Zacchino, executive director of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, a charity formed in Pearl’s memory to promote tolerance internationally through journalism, music and dialogue. “And they said in unison, he would get his band together and play music.
“The family called up bands [he had been involved in] and said, ‘We want to celebrate his birthday on October 10 by playing music and getting all of you together to show your love for him by doing what he would have done on his birthday.’
“So that’s how World Music Days started on that one day, October 10. And then it was a weekend; then it spread to one week, and then weekends, and then we thought that it would be better to do the whole month.”
Now ten years, more than 2,000 concerts and over 80 countries later, the event has spread globally and has motivated musicians – including Sir Elton John, Herbie Hancock and Alison Krauss – across the entire musical spectrum to perform during the World Music Days. This September, in a concert at Wembley Arena in London, John dedicated ‘Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters’ to Pearl.
But the global event isn’t just limited to well-known music festivals and artists. It invites anyone who wants to share his or her music and passion for peace through the organisation’s eStage, an online radio station that showcases artists that have composed pieces under the theme ‘Harmony for Humanity.’
“We have people who just write a song for Danny,” Zacchino explained. “They tape themselves or perform it in a nightclub. So there are small events and big events. But the underlying theme is asking people to take a moment to think about our common humanity and to basically issue tolerance and understanding across cultures.”
She continued, “I think audiences like the grand concept of it, which is that all around the world in October thousands of people are taking a moment to talk about tolerance.”
Daniel Pearl World Music Days runs through the whole month of October. You can find more information about how you can get involved, and find events near you at danielpearlmusicdays.org.
Emily Tan is a freelance journalist and photographer who splits her time between the US and UK. She covers numerous topics that range from youth activism and women’s rights to music and pop culture for various online and print publications.