Tunnel Talks: Music that Rebuilds

Can music have the power to rebuild? A Couple'O Friends seems to think so. The group is organising a concert in Prague to raise funds for the earthquake survivors of Turkey and Syria. The Rights Studio talked to Roksan Mandel, a Turkish singer and songwriter who will be featured in the event.

The interview was edited for clarity and length. ‍

The Rights Studio: How do you see the relationship between music and social change or social justice?

Roksan Mandel: I believe that music has a powerful way to bring people together; it's not necessarily because of a social situation but rather an emotional reaction to the said situation. When we look at historical examples, many genres were born because of social pressure and injustice: blues, jazz, hip-hop, and punk, just to name a few. The way these genres spread was due to the message they were carrying. It was a protest to make a change, to demonstrate anger, frustration, or grief. People get a sense of well-being when they get to share a common emotional state, and music is one way to do that. 

TRS: People say that music is a universal language. How do you interpret this?

RM: Music is a universal language because every single culture around the world has music, with or without lyrics in them. If we hear a song from a culture that we are not quite familiar with, we can still have a general idea about what type of song we are hearing: a sad song, a dance song, or a love song. We can achieve this by simply paying attention to the rhythm and tonality. 


TRS: How do you think music can generate empathy toward a cause?

RM: I think that music is able to carry many emotions, and psychological and social purposes. Music has no borders, it can travel anywhere and help raise awareness for any cause. The way a musician carries the tone of a piece can awaken many feelings in other people which could then make them feel more connected to the cause. 


TRS: Do you remember the first song or artist that made you feel something? How was that experience?

RM: I must have been around the age of four when I first heard the song "Bicycle" by Queen. I didn't speak much English back then but I knew the word "bicycle" and I loved the fact that a bunch of men were screaming the word in harmony. The song has such a beautiful energy that I could listen to it on repeat and dance to it for hours while also screaming "bicycle".

TRS: You are organising a fundraising concert. With what feeling do you want people to walk away from it?

RM: Turkey and Syria were recently hit by two devastating earthquakes one after another. About 10 cities in Turkey were almost completely destroyed. Around 60 000 people lost their lives, while over a million are left homeless. 

Living abroad during these types of crisis situations is very difficult, especially when there is so little you can do to help. However, there is one thing that we can do, which is to raise awareness. As musicians and artists who live in Prague, we came together and created a small organisation called "A Couple'O Friends". 

We decided to create a fundraising event where all of us musicians will perform for free and all the artists will sell goods. All the proceeds we will make from this event and tickets will go straight to the donation. 

I would like this event to be full of hope, and solidarity. We can make a change in the world if we all act together. I wish that people who will attend our event will walk away with more awareness of what kind of difficulties people are facing at the moment in Turkey and Syria. I also hope that we will make people remember this day because there are many bad things happening around the world that we tend to forget about after a week or two. Forgetting means we stop helping, but both Turkey and Syria need our help the most right now. 

TRS: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

RM: If you can not attend our event, you can still buy a ticket that will be donated to the cause. Tickets and more information about our event can be seen here. 

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