The Power of Music

While Invisible Bridges is trying to build bridges between cultures Millennium Park and its Music Without Borders concerts series is destroying any conventional cultural boundaries! Every summer since 2007, Chicago’s Millennium Park, mainly its Jay Pritzker Pavilion, turns into a mock United Nations assembly, where many nations are represented and many voices are heard – to one extent or another.

Every summer Chicago becomes host for world music in themed concerts. The display of music and cultures provides the opportunity to experience sights and sounds that Chicagoans and millions of visitors have never experienced before.

On the Stage:

This year’s journey starts from the Muslim world.  Originally from the Sahara Desert region of Mali, Tinariwen combines traditional Tuareg melodies with blues, rock, Berber, and Arabic influences to create hypnotic, trance-like songs.

Hailing from Turkey, multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek brings a special performance to Chicago as his percussionist son joins him on the stage. Tekbilek has established himself as one of the world’s prime representatives of Middle Eastern music. Rooted in Turkish and Sufi traditions, Tekbilek’s music is influenced by contemporary sounds.

In the Audience:

Tomas Bradley, middle aged Chicago resident who knows the tax code like the back of his hand, is always in the audience. So is Carl Larson, who celebrates diverse cultures by listening to the music as well as dressing for the occasion in African traditional attire. We met in Millennium Park at Dandada: A Celebration of Muslim Voices organized in collaboration with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

Bradley never misses a concert. Just one day in August, for his birthday. Larson, affiliated with, is also an aficianodo. These two gentlemen, different as they may be, have one thing in common: both think that music is that one thing that is universal.

Tomas Bradley

Brady, a long time Chicagoan, captured by the rhythm of music rooted in Turkish and Sufi traditions says “Even though you do not understand the language, or are unfamiliar with the musical themes, you understand the feeling.”  This made me think: I am originally from Armenia which has historically been in conflict with Turkey. And here I am, listening to traditional Turkish music and can recognize some of the sounds of the wind instruments which evoke memories of home.

Music & Our Brain:

Building on Brady’s point it’s worth noting that in addition to the uniting power of music, it has numerous other positive effects.  Whether you listen to the music or play a musical instrument it is proven to be a kind of multivitamin for our brain where both Logos and Eros are integrated. Meaning, both left and right parts of our brain function simultaneously while listening or playing music.  Studies suggest that frequent exposure to music, listening or playing, adds eight to nine IQ points.  So, music not only provides emotional and sensual pleasure, but stimulates your brain without requiring any effort.

Carl Larson

As we listened to Ketbilek, honoured as a peacemaker and virtuoso, Brady spoke of how music can promote understanding and celebrate commonalities between groups with opposing interests.  “When we party, we get to know each other better; we see how much we have in common.  But if we fight and destroy, we never learn anything about each other.”

Had we known each other better, had we partied together would we be less likely to fight each other? Perhaps first communication should start off by partying together? The organizers of the World Cup seemed to embrace the idea with a kickoff concert featuring musicians from all over the world and constructed an emotional and sensual bridge for millions of viewers worldwide.

Tekbilek with his percussionist son


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