Music is a powerful tool that bring individuals together, promote trust, empathy, and often send a strong powerful message. #RCT Activity, in the latest podcast episode, hosted Emir Hasani, a Program Director of Mitrovica Rock School, a place that connects teenagers coming from Kosovo Serbs, Kosovo Albanians, and other communities through music. It brings back a music tradition that makes divided city proud. And it invests in the city’s young people’s potentials.
Emir started playing music at the age of 7, and studied Pedagogy while performing. He is an active music teacher, band coach, sound engineer, and music performer. Through his work at Mitrovica Rock School and Musicians Without Borders, he actively uses music as a tool to bridge the divide and connect youth from different ethnic backgrounds.
The conversation started with Emir’s reminiscing about Mitrovica Rock School’s beginnings. Emir stated that “This is musicians’ initiative that started here in Mitrovica. Mitrovica has always been a city of music, that’s what we musicians say about our city and there has always been a cultural scene and above all a music scene. Before the war, there were a lot of people playing in these ethnically mixed bands and they worked together on everything, but in music it was very present. After the conflict, there was an idea since 2001, to repeat the idea in the local music scene. Only in 2008 that happened, when CBM with Musicians Without Borders, from the Netherlands did something about it. They came up with the idea to do a band camp, to invite young musicians from the North and the South parts of divided Mitrovica, gather them in one place and have them play something and see clearly how it will all sound and if this will make sense”.
When it comes to cooperation and ethnically mixed bands the school has different programs available to youngsters and the goal is to provide qualitative, informal, and alternative music education. In addition, human connections aspect is immensely important. The basic program consists of instrument lessons; guitar, bass guitar, piano, singing, audio production, drums, group work, etc. They also have workshops with teachers coming from different communities teaching students on both sides of the river. Besides providing individual lessons, Rock School has a Mix band program, consisting of ethnically diverse students who create their own music, perform at gigs in the region.
On the question whether Mitrovica Rock School has contributed to the reconciliation process between communities in your city, Emir says that “It depends on which level. I think we have broken the myths and the different ideas of young people that exist in their heads when they don’t know someone. And then, there are many initiatives, beautiful initiatives, both in our city and throughout Kosovo for people to get to know each other and all that. However, what I just said, is something when it lasts for years and when they really feel that they are there, not only for reconciliation reasons, but they are also there to learn and work on themselves, to develop in every other sense, and this is an additional value. What is very important, especially for us, is breaking that barrier and prejudices against other people, I think this is important”.
As someone who is active for many years and positively changing youngsters’ mindsets Emir shares his message: “For young people, they should take courage and try some things, and not be shy, even though they may think they are not for it, but they may be surprised, just try and they may find something for themselves, for something they think they have no talent for and maybe their life could change for the better”.
This was the fifth episode of the podcast recording as part of the Storytelling component of the Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation Activity. Upcoming podcast episodes will be on the way with inspiring and positive stories on reconciliation and the trust-building processes in Kosovo.