Tonight, after a pleasant dinner with Kalle Kniivila and family, Phil and I attended a concert at the Universala Kongreso. More than a thousand spectators packed the auditorium: the largest part elderly white Europeans, but many Asians and some Americans and others (from Oceania and the Carribean).
The first act, Getch Gaëtano, was quite good. He was a young white guy who played guitar and had a very solid backup band. They played rock, but with a northern European, sometimes even Celtic beat. When he came on stage he said "Saluton!" but then started speaking French. This was a bit of a surprise to me, as the musical performances are usually in Esperanto.
After several songs, they performed a song where he read the words in Esperanto — very competently — and received twice the applause. Then played a couple more songs in French (and one with some English, which had the weird line "I really have to touch your balls" — I swear that's what he said. I'm not making that up.) They one more more song in Esperanto then back back for one encore and were done.
The next group was a reggae band led by Zhou-Mack Mafuila from Zaire. He is a stocky black man with long dreadlocks. He came on the stage and called out "Saluton ĉiuj! Ĉu bone?" And the audience went wild: "BONEGE!"
He held the audience enthralled for a great, long set of reggae music: some in Esperanto and some in other languages, but interspersed with conversation with the audience in Esperanto. It was striking to me the immediate connection that really sharing language can make to bridge cultures, in a way that nothing else can.
I've often wondered if we could teach kids from the barrio, the inner city, and the suburbs all to speak Esperanto, because they could meet and talk and get to know one another without the barriers of language and accent to divide them.