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Eku-Tanbur (as described by the Eden Foundation on the Eden Fest ’06 leaflet) Eku-Tanbur (the integrated percussion orchestra) is an initiative of the Department of Creative Arts and Psychotherapy of The Eden Foundation. This Department works with the arts (visual arts, music, dance and drama) in order to promote physical, social, emotional and cognitive development and integration. The percussion orchestra has three primary aims: • To use music and rhythm at the service of personal and social development of our clients. (Participants in the orchestra develop skills such as discipline, perseverance, flexibility, team-work, the ability to work with large groups of people, and most important they get the message that they deserve to be seen and heard). These are skills which then help to cope better with school, work settings, in their social life etc. • As a forum for integration. The orchestra embraces in it children and adults with developmental disability, as well as an increasing number of people from the community. Our challenge is to bring together people who differ in terms of age, social background, professional orientation etc. • To teach all participants to play the drums well, so that the orchestra in itself reaches Eku-Tanbur and the Third World Group After several meetings with the staff at the Eden Foundation and experiencing the thrill of playing a percussion instrument together with their orchestra, we realized that we just had to encourage our children to participate in this program. At that moment in time we couldn’t even imagine the end result, but we had to give it a try. Some years ago the group had participated in another musical project, where together with the international percussionist Renzo Spiteri, we had several drum circles to help the children to express their emotions through music. It was a success and the children never stopped talking about the feelings that were born inside them while they were playing along. The children we cater for today were too young to participate then. They kept asking questions for which we had no answers since none of us really knew what to expect. Whereas during the drum circles everyone was free to express himself, as he deemed best, this time we were joining an already mature orchestra where we had to abide by their rules and to learn specific beats. About thirty children started this experience with the group, but after the first few months there were less than fifteen for the training session and in the end only ten made it to the performance. Usually we never screen children, and each child is encouraged to express his individuality. This time they were dragged into a totally different world, where being different was not accepted. What we feared most in the beginning was the children’s reaction towards the disabled members of this orchestra. This turned out to be the least of our problems. The children eventually made friends with all the other members and after a couple of sessions they were all joking around. Our biggest challenge was to help the children understand the idea behind the orchestra. They had to stay in a pre-determined fixed point without neither moving nor shuffling their feet. They had to remain silent until the maestro said that it was ok to play. They couldn’t look backwards, giggle or sit down. They had to learn five different beats and two different steps. We were also required to participate in the orchestra ourselves. Our philosophy is that there is nothing better than leading by example. The problem was that none of us had ever played any instruments before. Obviously, with the volunteers going off-beat and the children doing just the opposite of what was asked, it was turning into a sour experience. This is where we were forced to choose among them. Those that showed most interest stayed. Choosing the best would have been much easier, but it would have resulted in more disturbed sessions. In the end, during the month of July, after eight months of practice, the children together with the volunteers and the original members performed twice and on both nights were applauded. The magic was done. The end result was by far better than what we had expected. Coming from one of the most disturbed environments in Malta, it was definitely not easy for these children to integrate themselves in such a project, but against all odds they had managed to.



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