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Zero Landmine

It wasn't so long ago that I became interested in the land mine issue. I had known that Princess Diana, when she was alive, had traveled as far as Angola to appeal for the elimination of anti-personnel land mines. I also had known that an organization called ICBL had expanded its activities on the Internet, and that it had received a Nobel Peace Prize. But what profoundly moved me on this land mine issue was a TV program. On the program, a white man who had lost a hand and a leg while removing a land mine was teaching the children at his old school about the land mine problem. During the program, this white man ran a full marathon with an artificial hand and an artificial leg. Watching this, I was in awe of the invincible spirit of this white man. It was clear that the Christian spirit of welfare was supporting this man's mental powers. The man is a Scotsman called Chris Moon. I never dreamt that I would go with Chris to Mozambique, and to the very site where he lost his arm and leg. Through Chris I learned that the weapon of war known as the land mine is a thing that "does not know peace," and how much its damage can plunge people's lives to the very bottom. I have been lucky to have such a fabulous teacher. Encountering Chris, I was awestruck by this man's spiritual and physical strength.

How are the land mine issue and the music connected? First off, I looked at the maps of the countries where there is the most damage from land mines. The Korean Peninsula, Cambodia, Bosnia, Angola, Mozambique... I listened to CDs from those countries that I have at home. I searched on the Internet. I ordered books and read them. While inputting a lot of such things into my brain, I wondered just what sort of music would form the whole. The music is varied. There are many cultures even within each one of the countries. There are many peoples and tribes and their languages and music differ. To say nothing of the fact that it is difficult to make the music of places that are geographically remote exist together as one. And it would not do to destroy the native characteristics of the cultures. You can't be sure that it will be as successful as hoped for, even at this point in time, when the music has taken on a rough shape. However much "sincerity" we bring to our handling of native music, from the inside it will be heard as something that has been preserved as a specimen by "the outside." Exploitation cannot be relieved by sincerity. Many of the participating musicians must have felt such discomfort as well. But I would like to think that they also shared the belief, stated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that the elimination of land mines is one step toward total disarmament, toward ending the old fashioned notion that problems can be solved by military force.

At any rate, the music begins with a simple folk song by an Inuit girl, and then becomes a "musical journey." As if tracing one half of the Mongoloid migration out of Africa in reverse, it passes through the Korean Peninsula, skips over Cambodia, India, and Tibet, skims past Europe at Bosnia, and then goes to Angola in Africa. It ends in Mozambique, at the southern end of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, the birthplace of the human race. There are many other countries in the world besides these, of course, which are concerned with land mines, but these were chosen so that it would not end up as some sort of crude collage. At the end of the journey, the music ends with a chorus of many musicians. After considering a lot of things, I asked my friend of many years, David Sylvian, to write a "simple, tender lyric that could be sung by children." What he sent me, two or three days later, was a simple, tender lyric that one could not have imagined, looking at David's usual work. His warm heart impressed me. I sent his lyric on to Ryu Murakami, who translated it into Japanese. Kraftwerk, who I have not seen in 20 years, sent a sound logo titled "Zero Landmine" over the Net. Brian Eno hinted by saying "leave it up to me" and produced by himself. I was very happy when those sounds arrived! There were also many people with whom I was working for the first time - the young band I met in Nampula; Waldemar Bastos, who fled the civil war in Angola and is living in Lisbon; Kim Dok-Su and his wife Rie, who introduced me to that unimaginable instrument, the ajaemg; the marvelous Japanese vocalists...

With each copy of this CD sold, the removal of some number of land mines is assured. I would like to make this sort of flow of the money clear. I would like to show on the Web the status as they are being cleared. It's not just the land mines. We must not bequeath any negative legacy of the 20th century to future generations. Is it naive, after all, to hope for a world in which people are not killed over wealth, power, or religion? I don't want to think that this is a delusion. If we have such hopes, they should be made reality. Doesn't everything start from "the things we hope for?"

Through the actions of non-government organizations (NGOs) like the Halo Trust, land mines are verifiably being removed from the world one by one. The large map that I was shown in Mozambique was stuck with red pins indicating places where there were thought to be land mines still buried, and with countless blue pins indicating places where they had been removed. It is expected that in this country in the next 5 years the blue pins will have been replaced all the red ones. Here it is, slowly but surely - a real hope.

Ryuichi Sakamoto

© 2001 Ryuichi Sakamoto

© 2010 KAB America Inc.
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