Bicommunal initiative uses music as a common language to show that we are all the same

In the midst of the most difficult and challenging period in recent years, a time when a global pandemic and a heartbreaking war are shattering certainties and human values, one brave woman is using music as a tool to unite and inspire dialogue between future generations of Greek and Turkish Cypriots.

Maria Kramvi is the co-founder of ‘Rhythm of Cyprus’, a bicommunal education programme striving to create bridges between children from different backgrounds.

She is also part of ‘Sistema Cyprus’, a social-music orchestra and choir established in 2018, that provides free music education to migrants, refugees and underprivileged children.

feature jon maria kramviKramvi’s endeavours earned her a nomination for the 2022 Commonwealth Youth Awards, as she has made it to the final list of 20 extraordinary young people, such as inventors, activists and entrepreneurs, from 17 different countries. Over 1000 entries were received this year, the highest ever recorded.

The winner of the award will be announced on March 16, but Kramvi said she already feels like a winner.

“Our initiative shares the same goal, to live peacefully on this island, no matter if we are Greek or Turkish Cypriots. We believe in this goal,” she told the Sunday Mail.

The whole project started in 2019, when musicians and music teachers gathered to come up with a plan that could unite people, especially children.

“It went quite well, ideas were flowing and we managed to set up classes and workshops, especially for 2020. Then, the coronavirus came.”

Kramvi said that Covid-19 did not break the spirit of the people behind the project but admitted that it certainly posed some tough challenges to overcome.

“You can imagine how difficult it was to move all our classes and our workshops online, especially since we put a lot of work into planning the whole thing based on a completely different premise,” she said.

“One of the most difficult challenges was not really the teaching part, but the change to the very core of our programme. We encourage children to communicate through music and not through words.

“We play altogether, and music inspires the children to listen to the ‘other’, to understand why we need a dialogue. Music spurs collaboration. Obviously, doing that in person is one thing, doing it through a computer screen is another.”

However, Kramvi said the obstacles posed by the Covid-19 measures have not really been the toughest ones to overcome.

The most difficult thing is always making people trust them, she explained. Their work involves children, but first their parents need to be convinced and it’s harder to convince adults than children.

feature jon education initiative rhythm of cyprus brings together children from different backgrounds

Education initiative Rhythm of Cyprus brings together children from different backgrounds

“That said, I think most of them so far understood our mission. What we tell them is that we simply plant the musical seed. Eventually children understand that they are all the same, they speak a common language even if they have different backgrounds.”

Kramvi said she and the people involved in the project were very much looking forward to the easing of restrictions, especially the ones regulating journeys to the north, where many children enrolled in the programme live.

“Now we can finally play together and put in practice everything we learned throughout the past two difficult years. Now comes the fun part.”

She was eager to underline that the programme is open to all children regardless of their level of experience or skill.

It is a community music project and, according to Kramvi, community music was developed with the goal of democratising music in order to bring it to the public.

“With this philosophy in mind, we are firmly convinced that every child should play up to the level he or she is able to reach. The goal is not for them to become musicians, but to become better citizens, more conscious, more tolerant and open to the world.”

For the co-founder of Rhythm of Cyprus, the nomination for the Commonwealth Youth Awards means the project has reached the hearts of many.

“This is the most important thing of all,” she said. “Even being among the finalists means our work is recognised and appreciated. It’s an amazing feeling.

“Knowing that what we do has an impact on people and especially on children is the most rewarding thing. The award is just further proof that what we are doing actually works.”