A Song Can’t Burn
Last year the Yusuf Islam Foundation funded the Harmonics programme, designed and led by Professor Nigel Osborne MBE and delivered by Penny Appeal, that uses the power of music to offer support, distraction and hope to children caught up in the war in Syria. This February, a short film documenting this innovative and essential work entitled “A Song Can’t Burn” was awarded Best Documentary at the Dam Short Film Festival and has also been selected for the world renowned Tribeca film festival – which commenced on 24th April.
In 2011, the brutal civil war in Syria began causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, displacing over half of the country’s population and led to an estimated 13 million people needing humanitarian assistance. At the centre of this unfolding tragedy are the untold numbers of innocent children who are being left with both the physical and psychological scars of a most brutal and destructive conflict.
The Harmonics programme saw Professor Nigel Osborne and staff from Penny Appeal work with children in a refugee camp in Beqaa, Lebanon for three months culminating in a performance given in front of friends and family. Professor Osborne, who has been developing the use of music to help children traumatised by conflict since the start of the Bosnian War in 1992, devised a range of games and activities based around music and movement that aimed to give the children some relief from their present circumstances but that also helped them to address and positively manage their deeper feelings.
Yusuf was so moved by Professor Osborne’s incredible work that alongside supporting the project financially through his foundation, he volunteered the use of his timeless anthem of hope, ‘Peace Train’. In that one of the elements of the Harmonics programme involved the children singing songs from their home cities and visualising being able to return one day, the sentiment and lyrics of ‘Peace Train’ could not have been more appropriate. During their final concert the children sang the song in both English and Arabic in what was an exceptionally moving and joyous event.
‘Cause out on the edge of darkness, there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country, come take me home again
The work of Professor Nigel Osborne and the Penny Appeal team has fanned, and in some cases ignited, a flame of hope within the hearts of these precious children and their families and has brought some small happiness to one of the world’s darkest corners. It is a privilege and an honour to be able to support their fantastic efforts and the Yusuf Islam Foundation and Penny Appeal are currently working on plans to extend the Harmonics programme out to more children and into other countries across the globe through the forthcoming Peace Train project.
For more information about the film and where it is being screened please visit: https://asongcantburn.com/