American musician Jono Manson, known for hisfamous track “Almost Home” that featured in Kevin Costner’s Postman, was working on a music project in collaboration with Sufi rock band The Sketches in Jamshoro, when anti-US protests against the controversial video Innocence of Muslims rapidly gained momentum.
To avoid any serious repercussions, Manson decided that the sensible option was to leave the project incomplete and flee the country.
“While we were in the deserts of Sindh, I felt no sense of threat whatsoever till we turned on the television and saw the news,” Manson told The Express Tribune when he was contacted via Facebook. “So we decided just in case things get worse and anti-American sentiments grow, I should leave — there’s no room for music, in times of protest.”
Manson believes the circumstances would have stabilised and he would have had the opportunity of meeting the “beautiful and kind” people of Pakistan, but his decision to leave was based on concern for his family back in the US. “If I was a single man with no family to consider, I would have stayed,” he said. “But my thoughts were with my wife and two-year-old daughter.”
More than the upsetting scenario in the country portrayed by local news channels, it was the peculiar behaviour of the government officials which ultimately triggered his decision to leave. “I felt no sense of threat from any of the common people like ourselves, who we met on our journey,” he confessed. “However, I was surprised how the government officials traced our location.” Manson and his fellow musicians were chased from Sindh all the way to Thar for “inquiry” purposes. “I was concerned about their motives and felt a bit nervous.”
On the other hand, he also believes that this may have been a natural reaction to the situation and the officials were probably concerned about his safety with the intent to avoid any untoward incidents. “This event made me realise how someone like myself might stand out in this region,” he said.
Sources close to Manson reveal that his song “Almost Home” also raised questions, resulting in the officials suggesting that Manson should leave the country. The track, which remains to be a US army favourite, is contextually harmless as Manson explains: “It explores the theme of a traveler who is separated from his loved ones and all he wants, is to get home.”
Because of the mellow and poignant lyrical content of the song, many including military personnel serving in foreign countries, have written to Manson telling him how the song has touched their hearts. “I was once asked to travel a great distance to perform the song at the side of a dying veteran,” he said, proud of his composition. “Of course I agreed — I would have done this for anyone in that situation regardless of nationality or religion.”
Commenting on the film which was the primary cause of the riots and outrage taking place in the world, Manson said: “I have not seen the film and don’t plan to either.” He believes that the film was designed to offend and provoke Muslims, and he personally doesn’t know anyone who would commit such an immoral act or even permit it.
“It’s important for your readers to understand that an average American has nothing but respect for Islam,” he added. “We want nothing more than for everyone to live in peace — this is the truth, as I see it every day.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.
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