Founded in 2005 by Lukas Pairon in Ramallah, Palestine, and running on a budget of £250,000 a year, Music Fund is a Belgian registered charity, with an affiliate - ‘Friends of Music Fund’ in the UK. Music Fund collects musical instruments from all over Europe, has them mended and tended to in an atelier inBelgium, and then ships them to music schools in conflict, or post-conflict riddled countries all over theworld, where they experience a new lease on life. Music Fund also regularly sends out repair-technicians, sets up workshops and equips them, so that the instruments can be properly maintained. The instruments all have a digital code and donors can find out where in the world their instrument has settled. Since their inception they have collected 5000 instruments and repaired 2500.
In helping to re-distribute musical instruments, Music Fund facilitates music-making with 16 music schools in the Middle East, Africa, Caribbean and Central America. In 2018, Music Fund will expand to Vietnam and Myanmar.
It is a simple idea, much like the recycling of computers – although instruments have a story and a soul. With Daniel Barenboim as one of their patrons, their story is so compelling that the BBC filmed a documentary: ‘Saving Gaza’s Grand Piano’ - click here to view, password: Beethoven. (29 minutes). Barenboim financed the repair work and has promised to come back and play it one day.
Lukas Pairon, trained as a tenor-baritone, also founded the well-known contemporary music group Ictus, in Brussels, where he was Director General for 20 years. Recently, he has been researching the impact of music-making on the ‘witch-children’ and former gangsters who become musicians, of Kinshasa, in theDemocratic Republic of Congo, for a PhD on music and conflict at the University of Ghent. Lukas saw theneed for more quantitative research on the impact of music and music-making and its ability not just to heal individual trauma, but to help re-integrate marginalized members of the community and offer a chance at living a productive life.
Interview with Lukas Pairon,
Founder and volunteer CEO of Music Fund
How did the idea of Music Fund come about?
The idea came about while I was working with Ictus, organising masterclasses in Israel and theWestbank in 2002. I discovered Palestinians were keen on developing music education and that their main request was for instruments. Friends asked me to organise a collection campaign. The success was immediate: in one weekend, we had over 500 instruments and were first page news in Belgian newspapers. People were happy to read about something positive happening in Israel and Palestine. Donors loved idea that their instrument was going to have another life. I didn’t really ‘plan’ Music Fund, it happened so easily and was such a success that it grew from there.
What kind of music is played at the music schools you send them to?
Lots of different music…Many are very interested in western classical music and techniques, but also play Congolese jazz, Arabic – all kinds of music depending on the country.
In terms of Western composers – have you noticed any favourites?
Hmmm…. Some people would say Beethoven - and he is popular in Gaza, Ramallah and Maputo, but I don't have enough evidence to back this!
What is the biggest challenge for Music Fund?
Accepting that we are working in very fragile working circumstances which we cannot change, or control. People might be trained as repair technicians, doesn’t always mean it will lead to a successful career because of the political context.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The work and the travel that I do for Music Fund means I travel in and out of DRC, Gaza…situations that are hard to imagine if you have not been. We live in such luxury here – being confronted with the fragility and difficulty of how people are living out there, makes us appreciate how lucky we are.