For this article we had the pleasure of speaking with Ralf Niedenthal, Director at "Todos Hacemos Música (We All Make Music)", which is an NGO that, since 20107, promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities through musical experiences.
Let's start by discussing your professional journey. How did you reach this point in your career?
My name is Ralf Niedenrthal and I graduated in 2006 from the Undergraduate degree of Music Therapy from the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. I started working with people with disabilities at Centro Camino, a private practice located in the downtown of Buenos Aires. For years I kept learning by assisting courses and giving out capacity development programmes in congresses organised in Korea, the U.S., Austria, Colombia, Brazil and across the 23 provinces or Argentina. During this time in my life I decided to found the Association Todos Hacemos Música (We All Make Music). I also had the honour of earning the award “Abanderados de la Argentina”, a contest that acknowledges (amongst 800 applicants) leaders that generate positive actions.
What do you do at Todos Hacemos Música and where did the idea of creating it come from?
Todos Hacemos Música is an NGO that promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities through musical experiences. For 16 years we've been generating a positive impact in the life of people with disabilities through the following activities:
“Zapadas musicales” (Musical Explorations): These are free gatherings in parks or public squares with the purpose of making music and socialising with the people that come to the event. A couple of weeks before the event we share the place, day and time of the meeting. We use this opportunity in which we gather around 50 people to collect food for donating to other organisations.
Concerts: We organise concerts with the purpose of showing the musical potential of people with disabilities. Everyone can participate regardless of their personal limitations. We give the spotlight to the person and their musical story. In these 16 years, we’ve involved more than 16 thousand people in our concerts.
Assistance to musicians with disabilities: We accompany musicians with disabilities to help them produce their own songs and then to share them across social networks. We also help them to secure places for them to perform and create music.
Videoclips: Since 2011 we've been producing music videoclips alongside many recognized artists. This activity ramped up its frequency during the pandemic, where we invited several people with disabilities to be part of our projects.
One of these videoclips became viral and in just a couple of days reached 150k plays on Youtube. You can check it our here: “Aún estás en mis sueños”: https://youtu.be/fhBDajIAAk4
Our latest big production is a video across the whole country. In 6 years we managed to visit the 23 provinces of our country, filming people with disabilities making music. So, in a way, the result of this project is a song that gathers the whole of Argentina in it. We will be premiering the video soon.
Bands: We’ve created 3 inclusive music bands with the purpose of getting together, rehearsing and giving shows at different festivals. In this way, the people involved receive an economic reward from it, which serves our main purpose of promoting inclusiveness.
Musical Outings: We organise musical outings so people with disabilities can go out and enjoy a music show or concert during any day of the week.
Campaigns: We team up with other non for profit organisations as well as with companies to create awareness campaigns.
THM Kids: During the pandemic we created THM Kids, focused on the little ones. The kids, who had to stay at home, started to enjoy our free musical events via zoom. Currently, we do shows at hospitals, schools and elderly homes.
Which would you say are the current tendencies regarding music and inclusion right now? Which one excites you the most? Which one is having a bigger impact in the real life of musicians and people?
During these past 16 years the tendencies regarding music and inclusion have been changing. I dare to say that technology is helping musical production and is allowing for people with disabilities to showcase their creativity much easier.
So, before, our awareness projects were more focused on doing videos and live shows. However, I see that many artists are being able to raise awareness by themselves by jumping on social media trends taking place at Instagram, TikTok and Youtube.
From my personal experience, I’m very excited to produce musicians with disabilities that have a wide musical potential. We know that the collective subconscious people tend to think that “disability” is the same as “mediocrity” or “not being able to do stuff”. But I like to break those social prejudices and prove that when working with music disabilities seem to go away. The simple fact that someone on a wheelchair travels to another province, plays a show and charges for it is a wonderful thing.
Tell us a bit about the documentaries and the book that you’re sharing with us.
Mundo Alas: “Mundo Alas” is a documentary from Argentina lead by the Argentinean singer and composer León Gieco, who decided to do a national tour alongside musicians with disabilities. The result is amazing, showing that there aren’t any limits when it comes to making music.
Canning: During our visit to Grilli Canning College we had the opportunity to be interviewed by Julia Jing and Cindy Wang from Medill Northwestern University. In this 3 minute documentary we’re able to tell a bit about our history and the life of Diego Stanley, the importance of inclusion and how much fun we have making music.
Down Para Arriba / Down for up (Gustavo Garzón): “Down Para Arriba” (Down For Up) is an Argentine documentary directed by Gustavo Garzón in collaboration with his own daughter Tamara Garzón. This film talks about a theatre school for people with Down Syndrome, in which his twin sons act, sing, dance and have fun.
Looking for Reynols: Reynols is an Argentinian experimental rock band formed in 1993. It is led by their drummer Miguel Tomasín, a musician with Down Syndrome. Here they tell how they have a bast discography that has been published in many corners of the world, yet, they are practically unknown in Argentina, their home country, where they only released a “dematerialised” album (a box with nothing inside).
Todos Hacemos Música - Un camino de inclusión (We All Make Music - A Road For Inclusion): The book “Todos Hacemos Música - Un camino de inclusión” (We All Make Music - A Road For Inclusion) was written in 2016, gathering all of the experiences that lived in this NGO since its creation in 2007. This text invites you to live in a musical world that gathers people regardless if they have a disability, in which teamwork is the key in this bet for inclusion. Available at Amazon, Google Play and Kier.
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