Saxophonist and composer Paul Winter has launched a crowd-funding campaign to record an album titled Flyways with international musicians, inspired by the Great Rift Valley bird migration route.
Until December 21, Paul Winter intends to raise $70,000 through Indiegogo.com to underwrite the completion of this exciting double album.
Flyways will feature the Great Rift Valley Orchestra, a super band of musicians Winter is bringing together from 16 countries along the Great Rift Valley, one of the world’s most important bird migration routes. More than half a billion birds of about 280 species follow this aerial corridor between Europe and Eurasia and southern Africa over Turkey and the Middle East. Flyways will chronicle the birds’ journeys, using the music from the cultures over which they fly, and interweaving the voices of the birds.
“Flyways is by far the most far-reaching and comprehensive project I’ve ever tackled,” Winter says. The project follows in the lineage of Winter’s groundbreaking projects starting with Common Ground, which was the first to intertwine the voices of wilderness “musicians” such as wolves, whales and eagles. Winter is credited with being a pioneer of the world music genre, and has also created his own genre of “Earth music,” which interlaces world music traditions with the voices of what he calls “the greater symphony of the Earth.”
Some of his recent Grammy-winning albums include Miho: Journey to the Mountain, recorded in the Miho Museum, one of Japan’s iconic buildings designed by I.M. Pei; Crestone, recorded in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Great Sand Dunes, and San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado; and Silver Solstice, recorded during Winter Solstice Celebrations at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, one of the world’s largest cathedrals.
Migrating birds face many threats. Afro-Palearctic migratory birds—long-distance migrants that breed in Europe and winter in sub-Saharan Africa—have suffered significant declines over the past 30 years, according to BirdLife International, the world’s largest nature conservation partnership. The declines are largely caused by habitat degradation, hunting, and the effects of climate change.
Under the birds’ aerial highway, many of the indigenous music traditions are undervalued and in decline. Embedded in them is a cultural heritage that is in also danger of disappearing.
“The goal of Flyways,” Winter says, “is to awaken awareness about the migration and the challenges the birds face, and also about the endangered music traditions in some of the cultures along the migration route.”
“The flyway embraces all these cultures, and we feel the timeless language of birds and music have the potential to bring us together in common cause,” Winter adds. “The birds can guide us toward honoring the whole earth as our home, and the music can awaken the universal heart of humanity.”
During the past seven years, Winter and his musical collaborator Chris Berry have traveled to countries along the Rift Valley to learn about the music and meet musicians with whom they could collaborate.
Along the way, they encountered musical cultures ranging from the drumming of the Wagogo tribe of Tanzania, to the Nakibembe people of Uganda, who play a xylophonic instrument known as the amadinda, and to the mbira, or thumb piano, music of Zimbabwe’s Shona people.
Contributions raised through the Indiegogo campaign will enable the project to bring the musicians from their respective countries to a central location, Istanbul, Turkey, to collaborate on creating new music together and also to record. Funds will also cover accommodations for the musicians, as well as post-production costs in the US.
Various incentives are offered to the project’s financial backers, ranging from CDs and digital downloads of the completed Flyways album to a private concert with Winter himself. Winter and his team selected Indiegogo for the campaign, “because of its openness to cause-oriented and nonprofit projects,” Winter says. The album is being produced under the sponsorship of Winter’s 501(c)(3) nonprofit Music for the Earth, Inc., ensuring that contributions are tax deductible.