To many people, migrating birds are harbingers of the seasons, and spirit messengers, revered for their extraordinary powers. To others, they are symbols of power, peace and freedom. But migrating birds face many threats, and each year, fewer birds of many species succeed in returning to their breeding grounds, largely because key habitats along their routes of passage, or flyways, are altered, damaged or destroyed.
Each spring and fall, traveling between breeding grounds in Europe and Eurasia and wintering areas in Africa, more than half a billion birds of about 280 species follow at least a part of the Great Rift Valley flyway, crossing Turkey and the Middle East to Ethiopia into southern Africa, and back again. The Great Rift Valley flyway is one of the most important raptor and soaring bird migration corridors in the world.
This aerial highway encompasses tremendous biological diversity; also extraordinary richness of human expression, since along the birds’ route live millions of people of different races and cultures, with their own music and dance. However, along parts of the Great Rift Valley flyway, 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.
Flyways tells the amazing story of the birds’ long journeys, using the voices of the birds and music from the cultures over which they fly. As a musical metaphor for the richness and interdependence of life in all its forms, the project aims to support conservation relating to the birds, affirm the music traditions found throughout the region, and encourage international collaboration to protect a shared heritage.
Flyways is a project of Music for the Earth, a non-profit organization, in collaboration with a range of partners, including environmental organizations, ornithologists, conservationists, ethno-musicologists, and musicians.
Aspects of the Flyways project include:
Building new musical collaborations across cultures. Learn more about our work to date in thirteen of the sixteen countries of the migration route: South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Bulgaria and Russia. Local videographers documented the work. (Videos).
Composing and recording the Flyways work, interweaving music from cultures along the Rift with the voices of the birds.
Performing concerts by the Great Rift Valley Orchestra, created by composer and saxophonist Paul Winter, and comprised of musicians from cultures along the migration route. To date this ensemble has presented Flyways concerts in five countries.
Engaging new audiences, raising awareness in both urban and rural communities about birds and their migrations, and highlighting the musical and cultural traditions.