11 Questions with a Musician-Activist

Jordanian composer and pianist Zade Dirani travels the globe promoting peace and tolerance through his music. His country has recognized him as a leading cultural ambassador, and he founded the Zade Foundation to empower youth to spread peace through music as well.

DoSomething.org asked Zade the following questions about art, activism, and his advice for musicians that want to promote a cause.

  1. What age did you start playing music?
  2. I started playing music when I was 13.
  3. What motivated you to combine art and this issue that you saw before you?
  4. When you're blessed with a certain talent you just feel responsible that you have to do something that's bigger than yourself, because true fulfillment comes from helping others, feeling that you're a part of a larger goal. And once you do that then that's it. You can go to bed at night feeling that you've done your absolute best.
  5. How many people have you reached out to?
  6. -- After 9/11 I was performing on an average of 200 nights a year because I just felt that it's such an atrocious act to happen in the name of my religion. As an Arab and as a Muslim, it was my duty to use my music to try and shatter stereotypes. And especially with access to music, a language that does not understand any political or religious boundaries, it's free access to people.
  7. And you have a foundation. What is that for?
  8. The mission of the Zade Foundation is to offer tangible career oportunities to young musicians that are not only passionate about their music but are also passionate about sharing a deeper understand of their cultural heritage with the rest of the world.
  9. Building a foundation takes a lot of work. Have people told you that it’s not possible?
  10. People will say no, but it just means that I'm gonna work even harder and harder until I get a yes. And I will get the yes. It's just how my brain works.
  11. A lot of community leaders and presidents of the world are obviously adults, why did you choose young people?
  12. It's a lot easier to influence youth, to have them question and think because we need them to question, as opposed to going after folks that are older than us that are already set in their ways.
  13. That's very inspiring. Is that general mission any different from your Young Composers for Peace Award?
  14. The Young Composers for Peace Award is aimed at young composers who are passionate about sharing an understanding of their cultures and we want to support them, especially if they write music that defies categorization, genre bending music.
  15. Can you think of a very inspiring young person that you've met? One that just sticks out in your mind?
  16. There is a young man by the name of Evan who was with us on the Roads to You Tour, which is a Zade Foundation project. We brought together 35 musicians from 20 different countries. We had about 150 performances, visited multiple cities, and did workshops. Evan was so inspired by this project that when he went back home he started his own program, which takes its core principals from Roads to You. He worked on bringing musicians from Israel, from Jordan, from Latin America in an open forum of discussion and music. I attended the inaugural event, and it was so touching for me because…it's like a ripple effect. That's what you want.
  17. What would you say to a young person who wants to promote international peace or religious tolerance?
  18. Have faith in it. Really believe in what you're saying. A lot of times I meet people that are pessimistic about the Middle East, especially when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It sounds and it looks very depressing, but it's not gonna last forever. No conflict has lasted forever. Just have a positive attitude as well.
  19. What is your dream?
  20. My dream is of course world peace. I'd like to see a time when I can travel from my parents' house in West Amman down to Jerusalem and then all the way up to Beiruit with no complications, no visas, no conflict. A real people's peace.
  21. What words do you want to leave with young people that will be reading what you have to say?
  22. Never forget your roots, give back to the community where you grew up, and help others.