I’m at the Sixth World Forum on Music in Paris. The event is organised on a biennial basis by the International Music Council (IMC), the Executive Board of which I’ve been elected to join.
There are almost 300 participants here from all over the world. The IMC is made up of various Regional Councils – the main ones covering Africa, the Americas and Europe. It also has hundreds of member organisations, mostly national or international trade bodies who have their own members.
Representatives of the IMC talk about it being a network of networks. It is very wide reaching and has to manage disparate interests as a result.
I am here on behalf of the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) which is a collective of musicians’ unions and a member of the IMC.
Five rights for children, adults and musical artists
The IMC focuses on 5 music rights.
The right for children and adults:
1. To express themselves musically in all freedom
2. To learn musical languages and skills
3. To have access to musical involvement through participation, listening, creation and information
The right for all musical artists:
4. To develop their artistry and communicate through all media, with proper facilities at their disposal
5. To obtain just recognition and fair remuneration for their work.
I’m sure these rights will resonate with MU members as they go to the heart of the work we do.
The transformative power of music in children’s lives
The World Forum of Music opened with an absolutely heart-wrenching and incredibly moving presentation and performance by a musician from Cambodia called Arn Chorn-Pond. He was detained by the Khmer-Rouge as a child and watched his siblings and friends being killed. He says his life and soul were saved by music as the Khmer-Rouge singled him out for music lessons and forced him to join a band.
Because of his talent, and unlike many of his friends and his music teacher, his life was spared. Remarkably, after being taken to America and adopted, he returned to Cambodia in the 1990s and started a music education initiative called Cambodia Living Arts.
He now teaches children traditional music that may have been lost without his and his colleagues’ intervention. There wasn’t a dry eye in the conference room. It is incomprehensible to many of us who have lived our lives in relative safety and security. We talk about the transformative power of music in children’s lives and Arn is a very powerful advocate in his country and now internationally.
Access to music for SEND children across the world
In the UK, we know there are issues around access to music for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) children and children from low income households and this is something we’re campaigning to address. I was very interested, therefore, to hear about the problems in other countries and how they are overcome.
A speaker from Columbia, Maria Claudia Parias, talked about her involvement in a music education programme called Batuta in which 70% of children who benefit are direct victims of war.
She spoke of the skills children learn which enable them to hope and plan for a better future, such as teamwork. It enables social mobility. She said the programme receives musicians and music teachers from all over the world which is very important to its development.
Arthur Gill founded a programme to teach music to SEND children in Pakistan where there is no state funding for music education at all. Some people have multiple barriers to music education, as we know in the UK, and disabled children face barriers beyond financial ones. He said it is even harder for girls in Pakistan and he’s made efforts to involve them and their parents in music sessions which reflect their culture and heritage. He said music brings happiness to these children.
Mariam Obange from Kenya spoke about her sister who has autism and struggles with speech but actually has perfect language when singing. The speaker wishes to study speech therapy and music therapy which she says is not readily available in Kenya. It was inspiring to see the commitment of the speakers to reach children with music in the most difficult of circumstances.
International momentum for meaningful change
I took part in a panel discussion on the fifth music right: just recognition and remuneration. We discussed the EU copyright directive and the importance of fair royalties for performers and creators from streaming. This is a key issue for musicians on all continents.
There was also a debate about what constitutes fair pay and I highlighted the MU’s ‘Work Not Play’ campaign – music is not a hobby, it’s our profession.
It’s heartening to know that musicians’ unions, membership and trade bodies all over the world are campaigning on the same issues as us. Sometimes it’s international momentum on an issue that enables us to achieve meaningful change in the UK.
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