The sound quality isn’t great in this hall built for the physical exercise of soldiers but the musicians play with more enthusiasm than ever. Time passes very quickly, too quickly to realize that this was really happening, that we are sitting here under Damocles’ sword between two countries at war for 72 years now and playing music. We are one kilometer from the North Korean border, surrounded by military camps, mines, and barbed wire fences, after all that happened this week, after and in spite of all the threats.
Hyung had the spontaneous idea to bring the musicians outside for the last song, Arirang, a folk song that has a strong tradition in both North and South Korea and which is often considered as the unofficial national anthem of Korea and is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity programme by UNESCO. “Let’s sing for North Korea”, he says, “As they were not allowed to join us, I want them at least to hear us!” All the 100 musicians and the audience move together to the yard for Arirang. Looking at the hills and the flag in the wind indicating the beginning of the DPRK territory the musicians play Arirang, the audience sings along, some people cry.
I listen to the melody that became dear to me this week and I look at these musicians between 10 and 84 years of age who had the courage to participate in this project. I return to my initial question. How can music contribute to reunification? Isn’t it naive to play music under the current circumstances? Will this concert change anything? And if not, does it make anyway sense? And is reunification really what these two countries need?
No, 100 musicians lost somewhere in the bush are definitely not going to change the political agenda of the world leaders, at least not today.