Sixteen days after the Gezi Park Protests began in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 2013, musician Davide Martello blew into the city with a piano on wheels. I had been living there as an American expat for more than two years working as a consultant and freelance writer, and had heard his music before I knew his name. I was determined to meet him and get his story.
Davide had become a symbol of hope for the protestors. I asked him why he came to Istanbul. He explained that he was in Sofia, Bulgaria, and when he watched the news about what was going on in Istanbul he couldn't help but wonder what would happen if he brought his piano in the middle of the police and protestors. So he drove 12 hours until he reached Taksim Square.
Davide wanted to play his piano, and contribute to making the world a bit more peaceful—and he was actually doing it.
The only thing holding him back from playing a fourth concert were the police barricades blocking all the entries into Gezi Park. Davide got as close as he could. But, long story short: he played half a song before he was tear-gassed and his piano was taken by police. He was left without his car, piano or any cash.
Davide spent the next few days with me while we tried to get his piano back. He didn't speak any Turkish and mine was subpar. We spent most of our days chasing an arrested piano. Despite the bizarre circumstance, we managed to become great friends. We shared travel tales, and competed over who had been to the most exotic place. Neither one of us owned a lot, but both of us valued our passports most. We were kindred spirits that met in a bizarre way.
In our conversations over that time, I revealed I wanted to do some good. Davide told me to just do it, so I packed up my things and joined him on the road. The Stop Killing Tour was born out of a simple idea: wouldn't it be ideal if there were peace all over the world? Violence happens everywhere, and too many lives have been cut short for senseless reasons. It doesn't matter if it is in Kenya, Syria, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Turkey, Cambodia, India or the U.S.—we are all our brothers and sisters. We are all interconnected. So what are Davide and I doing to spread this message?
Right now, we're driving in a G60 around the world, playing in spots that have been affected by tragedy, such as the sites of shootings that took place in North Philadelphia, at the Hialeah apartment complex in Miami, and at the the navy yard in Washington, D.C.
I coordinate the tour, write, and take photos. Davide will be playing across all continental states, and will be doing performances for some amazing organizations, such as United Community Action Network, the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute, Partners in School Innovation, and others that are working towards social justice and creating a more peaceful tomorrow. Music causes all of us to reflect for a moment in the midst of our busy lives—and this type of reflection can be an important part of moving towards peace. So, we're also visiting schools, and giving talks about how we all have a part in making the world a better place.
We are no doubt an odd pair, just an Italian/German pianist and an American writer doing the best we can to help contribute to a better, more peaceful tomorrow. It is through these impromptu shows that we are able to raise funds for the tour. Davide's albums are sold, and donations are taken.
Here's How You Can Take Part
If you're a student, teacher, or parent, and are interested in hosting us at your school, please contact me at abby[dot]james[at]abby[hyphen]james[dot]com. We will be in all cities across the USA, and you can see where we are headed by following us on our blog.
If you're a film student, cinematographer, or enjoy filming as a hobby, and would be interested in filming us performing at at schools or organizations to document our journey, please get in touch.
If you work at an organization, prison, homeless shelter, elderly home, or a place you think would benefit from Davide performing there, please get in touch. We would like to have concerts in places where people don't usually get to have access to music.
And finally, we take donations from people who want to support the cause. If you can donate a gas voucher, a hotel room, an extra bed, or some positive words, please visit us at stop-killing.com.
You too can do some good in small ways by organizing your own peaceful protest. Tell us how you would do that here.
This project is part of GOOD's series Push for Good-- our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.
Image via Ruya Barza