BBC News

Bristol musicians' app used by peacebuilding projects

By Caroline Le Marechal
BBC News, Bristol

Published
image copyrightMindHarp
image captionStewart Redpath and Mark Smulian have also used the MindHarp to help people living with dementia to "engage actively with music"

An app designed by two musicians with the aim of helping mental wellbeing is being used in peacebuilding projects in Northern Ireland and Japan.

Stewart Redpath and Mark Smulian from Bristol developed Mindharp to help those with no musical knowledge "create soundscapes, melodies and harmonies".

They said it was inspired by Mr Smulian's work creating a band with Palestinian and Israeli musicians.

Beyond Skin in Belfast said the app was "more than just a sound-making tool".

The app allows people with no musical training or background to play and engage with music on a phone or tablet.

image copyrightMark Smulian
image captionMark Smulian and WhiteFlag were invited to play at Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2005

Mr Smulian said after co-founding what he said was the "first Palestinian Israeli pop/rock band" - WhiteFlag - in 1998, he had "realised that music is a vital and powerful tool in promoting positive change and peacebuilding".

He and Mr Redpath, a guitarist, said they hatched the idea of MindHarp because "active play with music has enormous benefits for our wellbeing".

image copyrightBeyond Skin
image captionBeyond Skin works with people of all ages and uses music to help communities "connect and learn from each other"

The app has been used by artist and peace activist Darren Ferguson, from Belfast, with the community organisation Beyond Skin, which he founded in 2004. He works with people to address "the rise in racism and sectarianism influenced by the legacy of conflict" in Northern Ireland.

Mr Ferguson said: "Mark has put his experience as a peace builder into the sounds he developed.

"To make the world more peaceful we all need to have greater inner peace. The beauty of the MindHarp is that anyone of any age and ability can use it."

image copyrightMin-On
image captionDr Urbain said the app allowed "anybody to connect with the joy of making sounds"

Director of the Min-On Music Research Institute in Tokyo, Dr Olivier Urbain said: "Music all by itself cannot do much, but people creating, performing and connecting with music can enhance their effectiveness when promoting peacebuilding through various activities.

"First we have to be clear that music is ambivalent, and can be used to do good things but also terrible things like torturing or marching people to their death.

"So in addition to using music, one must have a firm intention to protect the dignity of human life and enhance peacebuilding for this to work."

Mr Redpath and Mr Smulian said their plan was to "get more people engaging actively with music".

"We would love to get into schools, hospitals and develop the work we're already doing with people living with dementia in care homes."

Follow BBC West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to: bristol@bbc.co.uk

Related Topics

  • Japan
  • Mental health
  • Belfast
  • Music

More on this story

  • Why drill music is being used to teach philosophy

  • Yo-Yo Ma's musical mission for peace