The founder of Daniel Pearl Day in Taiwan, Sean Scanlan, spoke this week with the Wild East’s Trista di Genova about how the day-long music festival got started twelve years ago.
Trista: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Sean. Here are a few questions that are probably on a lot of people’s minds. What were your personal connections to Daniel Pearl? And what motivated you to turn this into a type of annual gathering every year for over a decade?
Sean: My sister is friends with Danny Pearl’s parents, and she helped do the PR for the first event at his high school in LA.
Its funny, but at the time, I knew three blue-grass and old-timey bands in the Taipei area (Tarry Bush, Greasy Foot, and David Chen and The Muddy Basin Ramblers). It just made sense to host a similar event here. Actually, Danny played fiddle in a number of bluegrass bands throughout his life.
Additionally, I had journalist friends that were in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time. Some had been on multiple deployments and I knew it was wearing on them. These three factors led me to believe that a concert was a good idea.
I didn’t think it would grow and get bigger, but each year people seemed happy to attend. I also learned that many folks enjoyed getting together with old friends at this event. This made me happy that people could come together in peace and share some of these important values.
We also got really great support from bands, volunteers, and the expat community in Taipei. Without this we couldn’t continue. And maybe our biggest boost came about 5 few years ago as President Obama and Hilary Clinton asked embassies around the world to support their local Daniel Pearl event.
Danny’s parents have always been supportive of our efforts. They are great people who have tried to turn this personal tragedy into something positive. We can all learn from this and be kind to people of different races and religions. As you remember, race was a big issue after 9/11 and I think we all needed to think just how far we were going with our stereotypes and profiling.
Each year there is a speech or address and we hope people listen. But also, I know that music and coming together in friendship is also a very strong and powerful message.
We have brought Danny’s good friend, Todd Mack, to Taipei on two occasions to perform and see if we were doing the right thing. He had a great time and said we definitely had the spirit and urged us to continue on.
Here is Todd Mack’s recent tribute to his friend:
Happy Birthday Danny Pearl! Today, on what would have been your 50th birthday, I am missing you more than ever. Today is a milestone we should be celebrating together. Instead I must raise my glass and sing my song without you, but raise it and sing it I will. Today is not about righting the wrongs, fixing the world, or finding the silver lining. Today is about badminton in your backyard, kicking back with a few beers, going to a show, Frisbee in Piedmont Park, road trips to NYC, crashing on your couch in DC, the craziest bachelor party ever to storm the streets of Paris, getting lost on those same Paris streets on route to your wedding with you leading the way (just sayin’), Sunday afternoon BBQs, the Grateful Dead t-shirt you gave me some 20 years ago that I am wearing today in your honor, that ridiculous bike you used to ride, wacky Howard Finster art exhibits, Spinal Tap, camping in the rain, changing the lyrics of Ohio to “Tin soldiers and Yeltsin’s coming”, Atlanta Braves games, your Mr. Bubbles t-shirt, Mark O’Connor & David Grisman at Chastain Park, a reggae version of “Smoke on the Water”, a chateau in Normandy, the awesome mix tapes you used to make me which I still listen to (on cassette). The list goes on forever. I am a better person because of you, and today especially my heart aches. I miss you like mad, Danny Pearl. Happy 50th birthday!