Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Bringing the magic of music to Macau

Posted by Kimberly on July 28, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
July 28, 2007, page 13 (1,247 words)

Pics supplied by Raul Saldana

For Raul Saldana, music is magic. And it is this magic that he hopes, with the help of his Macanese wife, Heidi Che, to portray to the children of Macau.
As one half of The Kumara Singers, Raul’s journey with the local children may have been only a short six-week one at the Macau Cultural Centre, but he hopes the lessons they learn along the way will guide them far beyond this brief time.
“It’s musical teaching, so we are teaching them songs from around the world, music that I’ve been learning all these years and traditional songs from the places we’ve been,” he says.
“But we are also trying to develop more areas in the children. So we don’t just teach them music, we teach them what is in the culture.
“We have projections in the classes so we show what the people that sing these songs, eat, how they dress, what kinds of houses do they have,” he says.
And it’s more than music that is practised. The children even have the chance to experiment with yoga and meditation.
“When we arrive, we put out the mat, we make it fun, like a jungle, so the kids jump around as most of the yoga postures are animals,” he says.
In terms of mediation, he add that “I think the kids we are working with, between the ages of 7-12 [are the right age].
“I think if I had learnt meditation or yoga at the age of seven, that could have helped me a lot. This is an experiment. The first time we’ve done it,” he says.
Then there’s the ecological awareness of the countries they learn about, that Raul and his wife are trying to instil in the children.
“We show the beauty of it, then we show the ecological problems that they have. Why this is happening and what can we do,” he says.
“So for the performance that we’re having on August 26, the people will see the result of it, so the kids will show by themselves, the beauty of the country and the not so beautiful, the reality.
“And we’re really amazed at how the kids are reacting. We show the problems and they [the children] say what can be done.
“Just saying it out, like instinct, automatically,” he adds.
It might seem like rather a lot to expect young children of those ages to deal with, but according to Raul, and certainly, from looking at the applications to join his classes, children are lining up.
“We’ve got 20. We were overbooked; it was not possible [to include more kids],” he says.
“I’m thinking if it happens again, to bring a little more assistance. Already ten kids were out and others didn’t apply after that [because it was too full already]”
Asked exactly what was taught in these workshops when it came to the music, Raul says, “we wanted to make a world musical trip.
“So there are seven continents. We chose one piece representing each continent.
“Starting from Asia, there will be a Chinese song in Mandarin. Then we have an Indian piece.
“Then we have an African song, called Waka Waka, it means Shine Shine. We try to put to the kids that they can shine from the inside out,” says, adding that there is a story to that particular song.
“It is about an apple tree that wants to reach the stars but then the tree gets old and it became impossible to reach.
“Then before dying, one of its last apples falls down and then breaks into half.
“When you cut an apple, the middle looks like a star so what he was looking for was inside him the whole time.
“So this is the direction we want to go in with the kids,” he says.
As for the rest, Bulgaria was chosen to represent Europe, “a very colourful piece” and a native American ceremony song, from the Lakota people, was chosen for North America. South America has Peruvian music and finally, the Maori represents Oceania.
“For each country we will do something. For Africa, they make a mask, I don’t want to say much!” he laughs.
“For Native America, they will make an instrument, the rain stick.
“For Maoris they will make the poiawhiowhio [so] with every country and culture we will be doing something,” he says.
The idea for these workshops was always in a process of development, over a course of many years. Raul first started teaching the songs but realised this wasn’t enough. At the same time, his wife Heidi had been practising yoga separately but both were realising its importance.
“In India we went to one retreat and it was amazing to see the kids sitting [in yoga positions]” he says.
“So we thought why not bring this to the children [in the workshops]?”
He also wanted to give the children a chance for creativity, adding that they should be aware there can do more than jus play video games or watch television.
Inspired by a medicine man, a Lakota chief, whom Raul worked with for eight years, he says the chief gave him one important piece of advice, if they truly wanted to maintain a peaceful existence.
“We need to work with kids [the chief said].
“If you think just kids, then we’re just playing with kids,” says Raul.
“But if you change the focus inside you, you think of them as the future leaders, economically, politically, religiously, scientifically, because eventually they will be.
“In that case, everything started to be re-shaped,” he says, adding that “kids take a lot of energy, but they also give a lot.”
But that’s not all. During the course of the current workshop, Raul will also be conducting a seminar at the Cultural Centre’s conference room, over two days, August 5 and August 12.
The free seminar, divided over those two sessions in Cantonese and English, will be mainly aimed at adults.
“It will be music history from the very beginning and how it started to develop in different cultures.
“The first session will be Asia, the Middle East and Europe and then the second will be Oceania, Africa and America,” he says.
There will be live performances, singing and dancing.
“The best way to know about some music is to feel it in your body.
“So when we are discussing African music we will sing and African song and so on.
“There will be video and images, It’s like a live movie,” he says.
And it’s not sorely these sorts of workshops that the couple engage in with children.
They’ve travelled to the poorer parts of the world, to Myanmar, Thailand and India, to stay at retreats and work with children as often as possible.
Their most recent trip was to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to visit a school for abandoned children, situated right within a forest.
“The kids are amazing.
“If there’s someone smaller than them, there’s a rule already, inside their head, to take care of the young.
“It’s really touching to see,” he says.
So in the end, if, through the music they teach, the children become more enlightened about the world’s culture, ecological problems and the solutions that are available, then Raul and his wife have done their jobs.
After all, as Raul says, music is a language every child around the world can appreciate.
“Sometimes the kids may not understand but music is magic. You don’t need translation.”

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