Well, the best way to measure any protest is through how much progress it achieves, and what music does is it works with opening up peoples’ hearts and emotions which allows them to then take in ideas better, with an open heart. Music can work in a number of ways; it can help to raise money for things, it can bring awareness to things, like specific causes that are mentioned in songs. But I think what it’s best at is creating empathy so that people feel what others who maybe live in a different part of the world or are living a different experience can feel.
I make music for one reason which is that I believe that every person on the planet should be happy, healthy and equal. At the moment we see a lot of unhappiness, we see a lot of illness, and we see a lot of inequality, and I think its really important right now to have, not only my music, but lots of other artists who are keeping those ideas and those values alive because unfortunately, music is sometimes the only place where these things get talked about.
I made a film called “I Know I’m Not Alone” in 2004 and 2005. I traveled to Iraq and played music on the street for Iraqi civilians, and at nighttime I played for US soldiers. After that I went to Israel and Palestine and I played all over different cities there on the street, in Gaza as well, and I would talk to different people about their life and their experiences. After you play music people are really willing to share and really willing to open up their homes to you, so I went and visited where people hid during the bombings, I talked to people on all sides of the issue and when I left there I realized that you don’t have to chose sides between nations, you can be on the side of the peacemakers. And in every country that I’ve visited I’ve met people who were sometimes in the minority but they were willing to go to incredible lengths to achieve peace. I’ve met Israeli parents who have lost children, I’ve met Palestinian families who have lost family members and both of them said “We don’t want the death of our children to be used as a cry for more killing and more war, we want it to be used as a cry to end all wars.” and that’s whose side I’m on.
There are many. Obviously environmental issues, the refugee crisis, war, economic disparity… I think those are the main ones and unfortunately they all work to exacerbate one other. The more climate change we have, the more its going to effect people in the poorest countries of the world. The more those people are affected, the more refugees we’re going to see. The more refugees you see, sometimes that causes war, sometimes we create refugees from war, and war leaves more environmental destruction than anything else. All those things work against each other. I think the greatest issue we face in the world today is the war between optimism and hopelessness. When people feel hopeless they’re more likely to strap a bomb on their body and walk into the market and blow themselves up. There’s nothing more dangerous in our society that people who have completely lost hope. We need to be working every day to create reasons for people to live and to be excited. We need to work every day to restore a healthy, happy and equal world.
Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world to visit, mainly because of it’s mix of cultures and history. It’s an incredible meeting point of East and West, land and sea, Asia and Europe, Muslim and non-Muslim, all different types of people. I love the beauty created from that amazing mix.