On the 17th and 18th of January 2004, the European Choir of Falun Gong practitioners, called the “I come here for you" Choir, gave their first official public performance at the Manhattan Cultural Centre in New York. The song, “I come here for you" was inspired by the appeal of 36 Falun Gong practitioners in Tiananmen Square in November 2000. It is a heartfelt plea to the Chinese people to come to understand Falun Gong and to see through the lies spread by the Jiang regime. One of the performers singing on both nights to the 2500-strong audience was Mikko Mattila, a 25 year-old Falun Gong practitioner from Finland. Afterwards, a Clearharmony reporter interviewed Mikko about his experiences and thoughts of singing in the choir.
Mikko, Can you explain some background about this Choir?
The idea came about after we heard of a choir performing just one song about human rights, which has become very popular around the world. We were inspired to make our own song and to do the same to clarify the facts to the Chinese people about what is happening to Falun Gong in China, and to show that all of the European countries are very concerned about this serious situation. So the idea came from our wish to stop the persecution and to save lives in China.
What inspired you to join the Choir?
One thing is the song. I think that the music is important. If you sing something it has to have some meaning. For myself and what I would like to say to the Chinese people, this is what I want to say. When I heard the song for the first time, it touched me very much. I had a very special feeling about it.
Is it correct that several people in the Choir have been to Beijing to appeal?
Yes. Most didn’t go on Nov 22nd, (With the group of 36 Western practitioners whose actions inspired the song) but at a later date. I went there myself. Let me give some background here. When I started practising Falun Gong I benefited from the practice very much. It helped solve the personal problems which had been bothering me and my health got better and my attitude to life, society and people became more tolerant and positive. Before, I had a lot of unhealthy habits which harmed myself and others and distanced me from society. Falun Gong teaches Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance. I saw that when I changed myself according to these principles things changed, such as my relationship with my family. I was able to get a job, my health was improving. That was in 2001. I would read on the Internet about what was happening in China. Every day there were reports of people killed in labour camps under Jiang’s regime. So I could see all the lies that the Jiang regime was spreading about Falun Gong. I felt that I couldn’t just quietly stay at home while 100 million people were being persecuted and while so many Chinese people were being deceived by the lies. In China, the only way to appeal is to do so in a public place; Tiananmen Square is the most famous place in China. I wanted to go there to say to the Chinese people that the whole world is saying “Falun Gong is good”, to show that the Finnish people are positive towards Falun Gong. So I felt that this was one way I could go to help stop the persecution and to show support to the Chinese practitioners.
Why do you feel it is so important to explain the facts to Chinese people?
Jiang’s Regime is most afraid that people will come to know the facts, because the whole persecution is based on the lies from their propaganda - and since their media is state-controlled, it is like a one-voice media. Before 1999 the Chinese Government supported Falun Gong because it is very good for health. As there were more practitioners than members of the communist party, Jiang couldn’t accept that as a dictator, and so he wanted to get rid of Falun Gong. And the way for him to do that was to make up some propaganda about Falun Gong to spread among the people and to justify the persecution. The most powerful way to stop the persecution is to let the people know the facts.
So do you feel this song is mostly for Chinese people?
The words in it talk about the “Precious Chinese people" , but of course it’s not just Chinese people who have been deceived so it can serve the same purpose for everybody. Also, the song is a nice song. It’s not a song about making profit or reputation, or anything like that. So it’s like true music. And I think if people hear it, they can enjoy it. And the whole song is inspired by Falun Dafa and written by practitioners, so it can also kind of ... If you hear the song, you can hear in the song, the kind of compassion, the energy of Falun Gong. These people are not singing for themselves; it’s a kind of compassion. In a way, compared to a lot of music and artists where everyone is about making money, looking for the next song to make money, it is representing some good values - perhaps the best values in the world of music! (laughing)
Are the members of the Choir are from all around Europe?
Yes, let me see how many countries? ... Sweden, Norway, Denmark, England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Holland. So that’s 12.
How do people find the time to do this, and time to rehearse together?
Many people feel that it’s quite important so they used their spare time and their vacation time from work to do rehearsals and the performance. It’s not easy, but people want to do it because it is important.
Was it difficult to learn the Chinese for the song?
I think for many people and for me too, yes. It took most of the time to learn the words and to learn what the words mean. One thing we learned was to really understand the meaning of the words that we are singing, so we are not just learning to imitate the sound of Chinese but to really mean every word that we are singing. For many people it was very nice to learn the Chinese, because Falun Gong is from China and for many practitioners they really like the Chinese culture and Chinese people and have found the language itself is a rich language.
How does it feel to sing the song together with everyone?
In New York, on a musical level, it was very harmonious to form one voice together, so in that way it was really nice. And when people hear it they feel good. When singing and rehearsing, we all share the same thoughts about this song and why we are singing it, so in that way there is a lot of heart in it. So it is a kind of powerful experience. And when we sang in New York you could hear from the audience that there was a good reaction, especially from the Chinese people.
The song is quite beautiful I think. When people hear the song, they have a good feeling about it. It represents the practitioners’ attitude and thoughts. You can hear that we mean every word we are singing.
Finally - because everyone practises Falun Gong, do you think it makes it any different from other choirs?
Well, like I said it’s not about seeking anything for ourselves. We are singing totally for other people. It’s like that. That’s how it’s different.
Thank you Mikko
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