With the boys: communications & music



Communications workshop: Rhythm compositions, authored by the youth

After a successful workshop with the all girls group Monday, today I implemented the same introductory communications workshops with the all boys group at the Questscope caravan at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The goals of today remained the same: explain the importance of communications, agree on a set of rules with the kids; drive home the importance of making mistakes; and open up spaces for confidence and energy through reading, playing and writing rhythm compositions. We will gradually move towards message delivery, script writing and film making.

When asked about the concept of communications, the boys’ immediate response was on the equipment and the product. This is different from the girls’ response in which they had a deeper understanding of the process of communications being important for everyday life. In the boys group, we discussed the importance of communications for connecting with your own self and with the outside world.

Similar to the girls’ group–because the outside world is coming in an taking pictures and interviews and then leaving—I had to convey that this project, through the content we’ll create, will be theirs and they have complete ownership of it. If they want to show their stories and films to the world, great. If not, great. Paramount here is building trust and opening spaces of creativity, positivity and hope. This project is not about metrics or the status quo ‘deliverables’. It is not about pleasing others. This is about empowering the youth as the agent of growth, creativity and communication.

As the boys dove in to the concept of the project, we began to experiment with learning communications through music. The boys quickly picked up the language of rhythm composition. Within an hour they were playing and reading rhythm notation. One by one, their confidence grew and they felt more and more comfortable in making mistakes and pushing forward with patience. It was important that if one boy was struggling, the others would help and teach. No matter how many times one of them could not follow along, I stopped everything and we made sure everyone took a step forward together. The boys  managed to do this for one another. Sure each could play the sentences individually, but what good is it if they cannot learn to play together, in unison?

Then came the concept of expressing emotion when playing. If your angry, how would you want the drum to communicate that? If you are happy? If you are sad?  One played an emotion and the others had to guess which emotion the player was trying to convey. The boys laughed at this concept, but once they were challenged to do this themselves, they started to realize how important it was. Whether true or not, most of the boys expressed emotions of happiness and excitement in how they played. Everything we are doing now with music is what we are going to replicate when we start the story writing and short films, step by step.

By the end, the boys wanted to learn even more. I was forced to teach them more than just how to read and play quarter notes and eighth notes. They wanted to up the challenges each time. In realizing how much they are capable of achieving in two hours, they could now imagine how much more they can do in the future workshops. These kids have it within them. The next phase will deal with conceptualizing story ideas and key messages for their short films.

In solidarity,

Mohsin Mohi Ud Din





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