“ The experience with the elephants was a mystical type of collaboration that I have never experienced before. They gave me the gift of love beyond barriers, beyond spoken language and beyond imagination. Interacting with the elephants was a remembering back to a time when we related deeply to the planet and to all beings on this earth.” Jami Sieber
In February of 2001, Jami was invited to Thailand to play music “for and with” elephants. It was an unusual invitation, and she had no idea how profoundly moved she would be by this experience. The Asian elephant is an endangered species, and to see and really feel it in captivity is heartbreaking to say the least.
At the Thai Elephant Conservation Center outside of Lampang, Thailand, a group of elephants have been trained to play instruments that were built expressly for them. The group is called the Thai Elephant Orchestra. The purpose of this orchestra is to bring attention to the plight of the elephant and the intelligence of these magnificent beings, as well as to raise money for their protection and preservation. Jami says, “I was filled with mixed emotions about the orchestra itself, but what I know is that the elephants’ willingness to enter into the world of sound and music led me to a deep connection that has forever changed me.”
Jami spent two days with the elephant orchestra. On the first day, she set up her electric cello in an open field and began playing music while the elephants gathered around her in a tight circle. It was amazing to see how they responded to the music; listening, swinging their massive heads in perfect rhythm, and then joining in with their own vocalized sounds.
The following day, the entire elephant orchestra was brought in and the recording equipment was set in place. Jami and the elephants created a remarkable dialogue and the unspoken language was music. The connection made that day captured her heart. The following year, she returned to Northern Thailand for two months to further explore her relationship with the elephants, while continuing to compose for what later became her CD, ‘Hidden Sky’.
Many people and especially children would say there is no more magnificent creature on earth than the elephant. And now it could be said there is no more tragic figure than these huge, graceful phantoms struggling for their own survival and dignity as they loose migration routes, familial bonds, groupings, and habitat.
Forty years ago there were 50,000 elephants in Thailand, and today only approximately 2400 wild elephants and 2500 captive elephants remain. Centuries of hunting, habitat destruction and tragic interaction with humankind has caused their dramatic decline. As logging in Thailand was made illegal in 1989 due to deforestation, the Asian elephants captured and trained to work beside their Mahouts (handlers) in the logging industry are now unemployed and hungry, and in some cases are left to panhandling on the streets of Bangkok and searching for food in garbage dumps. This is a tragic and desperate circumstance for the still revered elephants and the end of a centuries old lineage of employment for the Mahouts and their families.
Though the circumstances are tragic and sometimes even horrendously brutal we can find hope in those who are devoting their lives and minds and resources to attending to the crisis with insight and expertise and unending resilience and devotion. Jami has joined these others in service to the elephants who have served us for centuries. Her intention is to continue to add her artistic and musical gifts to communicate to as wide an audience as possible about the extraordinary nature and plight of the Elephants of SE Asia. Her hope is that together we will re-imagine the dismal future, rescue those in need of help and healing, recreate habitat and conditions for future populations to thrive, and inspire others to protect that which is most dear to us: shared life on this planet.
Here are some suggestions of ways you can help support the Asian Elephant Project:
- Purchase Jami’s CD, ‘Hidden Sky’. A portion of the proceeds from sales will go to organizations supporting elephant care andpreservation. Support an artist and support the elephants at the same time.
- Host a fundraising concert in your home or community where she can share stories and music inspired by this experience. For booking email Jami.
- Jami has created an inspiring multi-media performance “Hidden Sky” that brings together beautiful film footage, still images, and stories in a concert setting. She has toured with her band to Memphis, Little Rock, Nashville, New England, Portland, Eugene, Ojai, Berkeley, Vancouver, BC, and Seattle. This is a concert that is performed in venues that can accommodate multi-media concerts.
- Make a tax deductible donation to support a collaborative performance/installation piece: Trumpet: An Elephant Call conceived by Colleen Kelley and Jami Sieber.
- Sign up for Jami’s tour to Thailand: “Come Find Your Elephant Self”. The tours take place in January. For further information visit Thailand Tour or contact Jami directly by email.
- Make a tax deductible donation to one of the organizations mentioned here or on her links page.