“In the dark times, will there be singing? Yes, there will also be singing about the dark times.” —Bertolt Brecht
Amy Martin is an old soul. There is something about her voice—when she sings and when she speaks—that makes you wonder if she has lived in some form or another far beyond her twentysomething years on earth. She cocks her head, her wheat hair falling across her face, and you want to take a moment to listen, or if for no other reason than to share in her sweet idealism and her enthusiasm for life.
After graduating from college, Martin roamed. She taught English in Peru, worked as a freelance writer in Chicago—her most banal project was a book on the many kinds of cardboard and corrugated paper—labored at odd jobs here and there, wrote in cafés, and seeped into the people and the landscapes. In 1999, she found herself in Missoula and stayed.
“I just sort of landed here,” she says. “I looked around and knew that I could easily stay forever.” Martin judged well. Since sinking her roots in Missoula, she has produced two CDs, the second of which was made possible by donations from the community. “I wanted to keep singing and to share my music. I just put it out there. I told people I wanted to raise the money to make another CD and then there it was. It was incredible.”
In this same spirit of openness, generosity, and making something happen because you believe in it, Martin has launched the “Harvest Project,” an endeavor to produce a new CD as a way of raising money for the women and children of Afghanistan. Unlike the average person who before September 11 had probably never heard of the Taliban or who may not have been able to find Afghanistan on a map, Martin learned about the Taliban and the repression of the Afghanistan people, especially the women and children, through various projects and human rights work.
“After September 11, I felt really pent up. I had all these urges to help, to speak out, to do something,” she says. “I don’t think going to war for war is good. But I don’t think railing against our government to be compassionate and peaceful is effective either. Instead, why not simply be compassionate?”
Rounding up some friends and fellow musicians to make the album happen, Martin plans to have the CD ready by February, along with a pot of $10,000 to send to two organizations in Afghanistan: Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan or RAWA (an independent/social organization of Afghan women fighting for human rights and social justice in Afghanistan); and the Afghan Institute of Learning (the pre-eminent Afghan women’s non-government organization in education in Pakistan).
Entitled This Fall, the CD will include 12 new songs that Martin wrote during the autumn months—some about world events, others about personal matters of the head and heart. Though she readily admits that this CD is not wholly selfless, creating it was also about collaborating and involving others who wanted “to do something positive in reaction to September 11.” Along with several friends who are donating their time to help record, produce, and organize the CD and donations, several local musicians—including Paul Donaldson, Mike Freemole, Mason Tuttle, and Sue Silverberg—will accompany her on the album.
“I don’t want to pretend there is no self-interest here. I want to make music, be heard, all that. If I could, I would be recording all the time. But maybe now, this is a good way for me to share my music,” Martin says. While discussing the CD and the desire to raise money for these two organizations in Afghanistan, Martin kept talking about borders, and the dissolution of them.
“It’s tricky when you are picking a cause to donate to. By choosing one, you are not choosing a million others and there is so much need everywhere, including right here in our own country, in our own cities and towns,” she says. “But I have thought a lot about the life of someone my age in Afghanistan, all that they have been through in their lifetime, like the Soviet invasion. It’s incredible. I look at my own life, all the peace, all the abundance. I guess I just feel the need to put something out there, to reach out with something beyond violence.”
Though Martin wasn’t too worried about the backlash she might receive from choosing to support Afghanistan, she did worry at first that the CD would be like other benefit CDs, ending up being about the “thing” or the “event” for which it was being produced. “I think it can be dangerous if it hits too much over the head. A benefit CD like that can lose its subtlety, its power,” she says. “I just want this to be a good group of songs. Music to transcend boundaries. Songs for everyone, political views aside.”
The name, “Harvest Project,” surfaced easily. “I just kept thinking about fall and fall themes and about reaping what you sow. After September 11, I heard that a lot: You reap what you sow. So I thought, yeah, let’s reap some positive seeds. Even if some people believe there is 100 percent justification for war, I can’t think they wouldn’t ultimately want peace, too. Why not attempt to sow some seeds for peace…and let those seeds be fruitful and multiply?”