By Daniel Ben-Tal
Daniel: Tell me how your career has brought you to this point.
Rory: I went busking, singing my songs and stories on the streets, playing with many different people as I’ve travelled, through Europe, China, West Africa, South Africa, Australia, USA, I worked as a Musical Clown and Fire-eater with a Mexican Circus, an Azteca family we travelled in small mountain villages, tobacco plantations etc down the pacific coast. I have been able to survive by playing music full time these last years, which is a privilege, doing something I enjoy and being able to pay the rent and eat well.
Daniel: You've played in so many countries - what are the main differences and what do they have in common?
Rory: Obviously Peoples Languages differ and accents, we have different words for the same things, and I like that, richness. Accents, we all have them, they are just a different way of singing when we talk. We also have our different histories, and her-stories, Climate and environment also seem to affect our natures and personalities, what we wear and if we leave doors and windows open or if we wrap ourselves and our bodies up, that must affect our personality, make us behave differently; extroverted, introverted, it affects the way we talk too. Folks who live in a windy place like the ORKNEY Islands north of Scotland talk with an accented higher tone at the end of a sentence so that their voice can cut through the screaming winds that blow there, others may talk with their teeth closed slightly to stop wind or dust entering their mouths! So weather can create an accent.
I’ve noticed that Some Rich countries waste very much. Food, and resources I’ve seen people throw perfectly good things in the garbage. Other countries, like China and Cuba and Afghanistan I found are very resourceful, waste nothing, everything is used, rationed and recycled. In some countries Buckets and shoes are made of old bald rubber truck tyres etc.
China has many many mouths to feed and you are never alone in China, there’s always someone who will pop up from the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere and say “hello” (Nee-har) That seems to make them very socialised people, in a way as there’s not so much personal space per person, not so much privacy, maybe also they aren’t used to being alone for long.
But we, people all have much in common, family, life, death birth etc. Also struggles. But even in one country it seems to me that no two people are alike, there are many opposites. Different tastes, different journeys, pasts, and desires. We have different needs. I like diversity. I celebrate those differences they are what make each of us unique and particular individuals. We all need to eat, drink and have shelter. We may all speak different languages and tongues but we all have our own story to tell or to sing in that language. That makes our languages and us richer.
Daniel: The inevitable question - aren't you scared about coming to Israel?
Rory: I’m not as scared as my partner is scared for me. We have a three-year-old boy called Solly (named after my Grandpa) who is growing fast, I love watching him learn and develop, and we are very pregnant, I’ve made Solly a song about becoming a big brother. Aimee is expecting our second baby very soon, in June. We are extra sensitive about people's cruelty and hatred and Anger, especially at this time of cruel war, all Life becomes even more precious when you become a parent and especially when we are expecting a second baby together and Aimee is the one who is going to be left behind.
I will come open-minded, as I am always curious to see other countries and see how folks live, and I have always had to see things for myself…with my own eyes. We never know if we’re going to be in the right place at the wrong time, The wrong place at the right timeThe right place but with the wrong people, or the wrong place but with the right people, We never know where our feet will lead us…. that’s what makes life interesting. I don’t want to live forever but I would like to live long enough to see my Kids grow up and have kids themselves. I suppose I’m a bit selfish like that! Also, I’ve never liked loud bangs! Of course, I’d like to see the people get out of war altogether and leave the whole feud to private industry.
I am frightened for all people in this war you have in ‘Israel-Palestine’, knowing that there are injustices, and apartheid exists, any form of racism, all forms of colonialism, repression and dispossession frighten me because I know that where those things exist, there will always be war, people resist, Some folks become desperate as they have nothing to lose, violence breeds violence and violence scares me. It’s as if War can only be abolished through war!
Like most wars, it is the innocent victims, the poor, who seem to be hurt and it is always the poor and jobless who are sent out to fight and carry out their Governments orders. We have racism and in Britain, Britain also has a colonial history of genocide, cruelty etc, We were in Northern Ireland for the British Empire, in Africa for gold, diamonds, oil. I think everyone will be fighting for water next. We all need water. …. More than we need oil!
Daniel: I understand that your Grandmother was Jewish - do you feel any spiritual connection?
Rory: Yes, but not in a religious sense. She loved life, had a hard life, she was a survivor, she loved to dance, which is how she met my grandpa, they were dancing partners. I sing a song I made for her, a latinesque dance-story. called 'The Wind is Getting Stronger.'
She was always very fit, touching her toes even at 78 years. She showed me and my brother how she could throw up and catch a Diablo on a piece of string and, we all saw her score 3 out of three goals in basketball while picnicking in a park, she used to be a netball shooter as a girl and obviously hadn’t lost the skill!I feel a Spiritual connection to my Grandma and her past. I’m proud of her. My mum and dad ran away to get married because my dad wasn’t Jewish, he is Scottish. I wasn’t brought up in any faith or religion. My mum was excommunicated from her family in a way at first, but then she had us kids and, well, there was forgiveness, though there was always an affectionate teasing from my dad. I did meet other more distant relatives in the family. We had many uncles and Aunties, as both my Grandma and Grandpa had many brothers and sisters, and so I was always being introduced to relatives, cousins etc at weddings and Bar mitzvahs who I didn’t see at any other time very often.I didn’t have a bar mitzvah myself and as I said before, I wasn’t brought up in any faith. My Grandma was born in Russia, a Russian Jew; I feel a connection to my ancestors in that respect, of being immigrants, family history etc. My Grandma was brought up in East London from 8 months old, baby. She was the eldest of 12 Kids, a couple of her brothers did acrobatics, and human pyramids, one of her brothers my great uncle Joe was a wrestler, an amateur wrestler, which meant when he won a fight he didn’t get money, he got silverware and cut glass etc. He fought under the name of Joe Gold. My Grandma spoke Yiddish and we ate some Jewish Cooking, The first food I ever learned to cook age 7, was Egg and Matza. I learned to make a good Chopped Liver from my Grandma and my mum, but Aimee, my partner, is a vegetarian! So, as much as I might crave for it once in a while, I don't make it very often. I feel a spiritual connection to all peoples.
Daniel: Can music heal the planet?
Rory: I believe music is healing; it can strengthen us and help us to express sadness, joy and anger, and brings us together which are healing in itself.I think if people are hungry for food, they need food, if homeless they need shelter, and clothes. If they are unloved they need love. Once we have these basic things then I think music can begin to heal and enrich our lives.Some music or songs we make and sing would help to liberate us from that dark hole of despair and help us to raise ourselves to dance and smile and infect each other with the lust for life and give us hope. I’ve played with musicians whose language I couldn’t speak, we made each other laugh, took each other on journeys in those rhythms and melodies. Dance can do the same. Feeding someone, cooking them a meal that gesture, that act…is ancient nourishing someone whose tongue you may not understand. Eating food, breaking bread together…that’s a sacred act I believe. A game of Chess or Football or whatever game with folks from different nations…I’ve played, you know the basic rules of the game…you’re having fun, exhilarated, energized, you are sharing something together…and after the game…then you have that shared experience…a good experience, not a bad one…that is precious. Music has the same effect. How we share it together and listen…like a dialogue we have with each other…listening…not just trying to be the loudest and have your say, not seeing who is clever and can play the fastest but listening to get the soul, and catch the spirit of the song singing music dancing.
Daniel: If you met Ariel Sharon, what would you say to him?
Rory: I would like to ask questions. When I ask him questions I’d probably show my ignorance of the situation in ‘Israel’-or ‘Palestine’. See even then I don’t know if I’m using the right or wrong words…I do know that The ‘Names’ you use for a country or Nation are Political. It is the same in Northern Ireland. So I don’t know how lightly I should tread here…anyway, for years I’ve heard news of the war, the plight of Palestinians, the violence the tragic deaths of innocent peoples on all sides, the terrible loss and waste of lives. We see the violence on Television; it is very strange when the brutality of war is brought from far away into the comfort of your living room! It is real but…it is not…it’s TV. …but it is real! Very strange. Very difficult to know the truth, we all have our own truths too, which complicates things. Here are some provocative questions I would like to ask. And in asking I would take on the role of a ‘Devils Advocate’ here.
1. Please, Mr. Ariel Sharon Why have you taken Land that doesn’t belong to you? Are there, not Palestinian farmers who have the need of going back to their land and to work in it? Is there a need for their Roads to be opened and also their water wells?
2. Mr. Ariel Sharon Black Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King said:‘ Our Scientific power has outrun our Spiritual power. We have guided missiles but misguided men.’ As many believe, the United Nations should be allowed to investigate Saddam’s Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, should the United Nations be allowed to investigate ‘Israel’s’ Nuclear and chemical weapons, capability for the safety of all peoples living in the country?
3. Should there be A Palestinian state? Didn’t Jewish ancestors live in large numbers in the Holy Land long before Zionists arrived and provoked the native Muslim population? Didn’t they live at peace with their non Jewish neighbours who have lived here for thousands of years? Was it not after the immigration began, which sought political rule that animosity started? At first didn’t it endanger the old Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land? Then later endanger the millions who live there now? Should contemporary political sovereignty over the Holy Land belong to those who have lived there for centuries, the Palestinians? If they would be disposed to allow some Jewish communities to live peacefully in their midst should that be entirely their decision, not yours?
4. Does Mr. Sharon believe that the crimes of Israel have distorted the image of Judaism?
5. Someone once said: ‘An empire founded on war has to maintain itself by war.’ Do you think this is true of Israel? For years, we have heard how first Israelis have to fight a bit, and then Israel will be a safe haven for Jews. It hasn't happened.
I would like to please ask Ariel Sharon: How many wars are needed? How many deaths till we say that too many people have died, until we are willing to admit that it was a lie, a horrible lie? A false guarantee that delivered the reverse of what it promised?
Should there be courses on How Israelis are to Conduct Dialogue with the Palestinians?
And courses on How Palestinians are to Conduct Dialogue with the Israelis. Would these courses be separate?