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Heartbeat promotes unity through music; Jewish, Arab youths to play at Clark.

Byline: Lauren M. Falco

WORCESTER - Young Israeli and Palestinian musicians are taking strides to form a connection despite their ethnic history of conflict and violence, using music as a unifying thread.

Heartbeat, made up of musicians 17 to 21 years old, began its first tour of the U.S. this week, and will perform at Clark University on Sunday.

"We've been working very hard for a number of years to build a movement of people using creative arts for the conflict transformation in Israel and Palestine," Heartbeat founder Aaron Shneyer said in a telephone interview this week.

Heartbeat will give 15 performances, beginning in Vermont and ending in Washington, D.C.

"The tour was conceived to build our global engagement and support for coexistence and cooperation in Israel and Palestine," said Avi Salloway, tour producer. "The young artists of Heartbeat are a living reality of people working together to build important relationships through musical dialogues."

Heartbeat was founded in 2007 under a grant from Fulbright and MTVu to offer programs for Jewish and Arab youth to use the power of music to build trust. The group has performed in the Middle East

and in Germany, but for many of its members, this is their first experience of the U.S. as adults.

"A handful of them visited when they were very young; for most of them this is their first visit as adults," Mr. Shneyer said.

Mohammed Kablawi, 17, also known as Moody, has been rapping since age 12 and has been involved with Heartbeat for almost three years.

"Music is like a best friend to me," said Moody, who spoke on the phone from Vermont Friday.

Moody got involved with Heartbeat after Mr. Shneyer attended one of his performances at a club in Israel and took an interest in his work. Mr. Schneyer met with Moody and his sister, who is also his manager.

"I had a performance in Israel in one of the clubs, and Aaron was in the audience," Mr. Moody said. "He met us and talked to us about the project."

According to Mr. Salloway, Heartbeat often recruits members by attending performances at underground clubs and parties in Israel and Palestine, as well as by going to schools and music programs.

"For this tour we selected the best artists Heartbeat works with and the ones that are most dedicated," said Mr. Salloway.

The tour includes nine performers.

"This is our first chance to expose our work and newest musicians to an international audience," Mr. Shneyer said. "We really hope to build awareness of our programs and inspire communities to employ creative methods and understand the power of each individual to build a better world."

The program features a blend of traditional and modern Eastern and Western music. There will also be workshops, and members will share their experiences growing up amid the conflict in the Israel-Palestine region.

It may be hard to imagine youths who grew up with such conflicting views on the Middle Eastern situation being able to work together cohesively, but they do.

Most of their work focuses around building trust and building meaningful relationships. Yes, they come together as complete strangers, and it takes many months and many years to build the relationships they have now," Mr. Shneyer said.

For their first U.s. tour, the group decided to focus on a relatively limited geographic location, the East Coast.

Although unsure of what to expect from the tour, Heartbeat members are hopeful that each show will be stimulating and inspirational.

"This tour is a chance really to emphasize our group members' voices and engage audiences here in the United States with a new beginning to solving the conflict in the Middle East, and we really hope that the concerts and events that we host will inspire people to take action," Mr. Shneyer said.

Heartbeat concert

at Clark University

When: 5-9 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: The Grind, Higgins University Center lower level, Clark University, 950 Main St., Worcester

How much: Free
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 23, 2013
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