To dream the impossible dream
To bear with unbearable sorrow
No matter how far
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
J. Darion e M. Leigh.
Every human being dreams. Every human being daydreams. And, one of the most common kind of dream is to have a better life.
One day, in 1993, while in Spain, I heard on French TV, that eleven homeless children were murdered in front of the big, beautiful "Candelaria Church" in downtown - Rio de Janeiro. It impacted my dignity as a Brazilian and as a person.
And, from that moment on, I decided to work in Music Therapy with homeless children. The decision wasn't difficult, but, strange it may seem, it isn't easy to engage oneself in an existent project, even though this is to be carried out as voluntary work.
In inviting another music therapist to work with me in co-therapy, whose participation in a religious project would make possible our insertion in a non-governmental institution, I would have, at the same time, a support to face the unknown reality and to confront the challenge which presented itself in working with homeless children - since there was no current music therapy work with this kind of people in Rio de Janeiro.
So, the day arrived and we went to the institution. We wore special clothes and we parked the car far from the place where we would work. It is necessary to say that this institution was located between two of the many slum area of Rio de Janeiro. But, the fear was not enough to deter us from the decision to develop this work.
On this first day, we faced many contradictions: The house was wonderful but in a state of disrepair! The view was amazing: it was possible to see all Copacabana beach from the top and the house swimming pool which was big but, empty, was employed as a soccer stadium!
So, from the moment we entered, our view was at the same time both rich and poor - Copacabana beach with its high-rise buildings and the children playing soccer in their poverty. The sadness of their poverty in contrast with the joy of their game! But, little by little, we got in touch with them and their reality.
But, the contrasts didn't stop. Our room was big and in that space there was only a sofa. The children occupied the sofa and we sat down on the floor! But, we understood this attitude since the only "sofa" they had until now, was the sidewalk street.
The "picture" was terrible: all of them had been using every type of drug; almost all had been submitted to family or police violence; all were negroes; many of them had been submitted to sexual abuse by the police and, as they had been living in the streets from one to seven years, the majority had completely lost all contact with their families.
In our first meeting we asked them about their musical likes and dislikes. RAP, "Pagode" - which is a kind of Samba, Funk and "Slow Music", were among their preferences. Immediately they informed us they had some percussion instruments in the house. Then, they brought the instruments and they started to play freely and with much ability.
And the contrasts continued. The extensive lyrics of RAP were sung by them from the beginning to end and the rhythms marked with precision. We followed the rhythm but was almost impossible to remember the lyrics. The marked and rigid funk choreography was danced with perfection by them.
So, for some time, in an attempt to be accepted, we "submitted" ourselves to their "classes" and enjoyed them together, dancing Funk in every pleasurable form to ourselves but, certainly, in a very strange form to them. They danced following rigid choreographies, in contrast to their apparent looseness and, paradoxically, it was we who broke this rigidity through our mistakes, which I called "involuntary interventions".
Immediately we realized that despite their having voice, they expressed themselves in an almost "mechanical" way - "outside in". The challenge would be to make them express themselves "inside out", using their own voices. But, could this be expected from someone who didn't know his/her parents, or the place or date of birth? In this reality would it be possible to express themselves in an individual way? Even without knowing his/her own name? Would it be possible to have such a subjectivity having to fight even to maintain him/herself alive? Certainly not!
So, until then, we played, danced and sang the music we heard on the radio they brought and tuned into a station which only played Funk and RAP. But we knew, this was the central objective of the music therapy work: to transform their initial expression, which almost exclusively used cultural elements, in an individual expression. To give them a way to develop subjectivity and voice!
But we knew we had to wait for the right moment, to transform those activities they controlled with such ability, without impositions.
One day, after having chosen a name for the group - "Dream/Hope" - one of them said he'd had a dream. At that moment we realized we could transform their expressions and we asked the group to put music to this sentence. They reacted immediately: "we don't know how to do that"! And we understood this reaction: they were accustomed to destroying and not constructing. But we stimulated the creation of a musical phrase, which was suitable to what had been said.
So, all the group helped him to add music, little by little, to the lyrics that were being said. The composition became a process which, instead of expressing their ideas through the words of another composer, gave voice to them, and enabled them to voice conflicts, wishes, thoughts and even their opinion about how the country treats the social issues.
Here we can "hear" their Voices and ask ourselves:
Is it "An Impossible Dream"? :
Dream I (Paulo Cesar)
Today I had a dream
That everybody was human (everybody was kind)
We are the dream
How can this country, continue then,
Brazil can't live without you!
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes, 2001 An "Impossible Dream"?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 18, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2001-impossible-dream