Musician Lanny Cordola and Peace Jam III bring healing through music
For Lanny Cordola, moving to a war-torn Afghanistan city was not a cause, it was an emergency.
The rock musician, who graduated from Cypress High 37 years ago and toured with Ozzy Osbourne, Cheap Trick and Slash and Gilby Clarke of Gun N’ Roses, read a story about two young sisters killed four years ago in a suicide attack near what was then the NATO headquarters in Kabul.
The children needed his help, he said, so he packed his possessions into storage and moved to Afghanistan’s capital, taking residence in a room above a grocery store.
Cordola unpacked his few belongings — a laptop, guitar and Bjork CD — and set off on a mission: open a guitar school for street children in the country’s largest city.
That was in February.
For the past nine months, Cordola has strummed an acoustic guitar with over 100 children, teaching them not only how to play music, but also learn song lyrics that resonate in daily occurrences.
They are called “The Miraculous Love Kids” and together they study and play a number of songs on a dozen donated guitars, practicing melodies like Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” in class and on the streets of Kabul.
Each note played is an act of mercy and compassion for humanity, for Afghanistan, for their families and for themselves, Cordola said.
It’s the reason why Cordola is hosting Peace Jam III, his third annual benefit concert for children living in poverty and conflict zones.
The third installment, planned for Nov. 27 at the Gaslamp Restaurant & Bar in Long Beach, will present an evening of music, featuring appearances by musicians Cordola calls friends, including John Stamos, Andy Vargas of Santana, Gary Griffin of The Beach Boys and rapper Sen Dog of Cypress Hill.
The funds generated through previous Peace Jams provided a family, who lost three members to a suicide bombing, a new home with running water and electricity. With the third show, Cordola said he plans to continue helping this family and others in need.
“It’s been a big awakening for my spirit,” Cordola said, calling from Los Angeles where he was making final arrangements for the concert. “What can we do as artists to show our care? Music is one of those things that can do that kind of thing. This is a mystical thing for me, and I feel so blessed.”
But there was a time when Cordola faced a challenge in whether to continue his mission or leave the ravaged city and head for home.
In the early morning of April 19, Taliban militants attacked a security team responsible for protecting government officials in Kabul, killing over 60 people and wounding over 300. It was the biggest attack on an urban area since 2001.
He thought of a song from the 1980s that seemed to come to him as a prayer.
That afternoon, when the children arrived to school upset about the attack, Cordola shared with them the importance about responding to acts of hate with a song of love.
He taught them Sting’s “Fragile” and together they sang lyrics, “Lest we forget how fragile we are, on and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star, on and on the rain will say, how fragile we are.”
After the lesson, one of the girls approached Cordola and asked if she and the classmates could play the song at the site of the attack as an offering of love and hope to her late mother.
“There was a healing that started to emerge,” Cordola said. “You could see the transformation on their faces.”
Since he and the children have performed songs by Twenty One Pilots, Pink Floyd and Bob Marley, Cordola has received complimentary messages from fellow musicians like Chris Martin of Coldplay and Peter Gabriel.
Cordola, who has collaborated on musical projects with Nancy Sinatra, Donovan and has also appeared as a musician opposite Stamos in episodes of “Full House,” said playing in safe arenas no longer appeals.
He enjoys helping the children of Afghanistan but would like to go wherever he is needed. Algeria is next on his list.
“I want to teach children what I love and open their imaginations,” Cordola said. “I think of their smiles because when I first meet them, they’re downcast, but now, they know there are people from America who care for them.”
IF YOU GO
What: Peace Jam III
When: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 27
Where: Gaslamp Restaurant & Bar, 6251 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach
Cost: Suggested donation is $30