The peace troubadour
James Twyman sings for peace, children in Iraq

Oregon singer/songwriter James Twyman takes a break from the Durango Film Festival outside the Strater Hotel on Monday. Twyman is in Durango to perform a peace concert Friday night in conjunction with the film fest. He has performed his concerts in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Croatia. Proceeds from Friday’s show will benefit children in Baghdad affected by the war./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

It has been almost a year now since the United States invaded Iraq to depose the country’s leader, but Oregon singer/songwriter James Twyman is still hoping for peace. In fact, he’s singing for it.

Friday night, as part of a special Durango Film Festival event, Twyman will entertain and inspire a Durango audience who is as interested in obtaining peace in Iraq and other politically volatile nations as he is. Those who attend his benefit Peace Concert will not only contribute to the energy of evoking peace through congregating and organizing, they also will provide financial support for sheltering Iraqi children who are homeless because of the battle.

For Twyman, the Durango concert adds to an already long list of peace concerts he has performed throughout the world. His concerts are an effort to use a mass of energy, which he believes has an impact on world events. As nebulous as singing peace songs may seem, Twyman believes in the medium.


His endeavor started a decade ago when someone gave him peace prayers from 12 major religions of the world. The prayers profoundly impacted Twyman, who grew up in a “traditional Catholic home.” He sat down with them and within an hour had written music to accompany them. That swift creativity reinforced Twyman’s ideals that he was given a gift to promote peace. From there, he felt an undeniable obligation to share these prayers and his music with audiences. After all, he says, peace isn’t about politics.

“The root of the problems in the world is spiritual,” he says while sitting in the Strater Hotel lobby earlier this week. “These problems that lead to war are not political problems, but are spiritual in nature.”

It’s true that Twyman is a religious man. He says he grew up wanting to become either a rock star or a priest.

“I was a mix of St. Francis and Bono,” he says with wit.

He studied for two years to become a priest but never fulfilled the dream. Instead, he found a way to mix his two passions of spirituality and music. Since writing the music for the peace prayers, Twyman has developed a repertoire of other spiritually inspired songs. As a one-man performer, he enhances his guitar playing by layering it with high-tech electronics and other instruments including a Tibetan singing bowl and a wooden flute. The music is part new age, part progressive and part mystical. The lyrics provide the message – and were key to prompting spiritual leaders nicknaming Twyman the “peace troubadour.”

Twyman has performed the Peace Concerts in Iraq, Northern Ire-land, Bosnia, Croatia, South Africa, Mexico and Serbia – always at the behest of world leaders. He says there are dozens of stories about how he believes these concerts and audience participation have influenced world events. Take Iraq, for example. Former ruler Sadaam Hussein invited Twyman in 1998 to perform his concert in Baghdad. This was the first time Twyman asked people around the world to pray for a peaceful solution to the upheaval in this country. Twyman later learned that during his concert (this was after the United Nations inspector was kicked out of the country), former President Bill Clinton had sanctioned the military to bomb Iraq.

“Planes were in the air and everything was ready to go,” Twyman explains.

But at some point, someone halted the orders. The bombing did not happen – then.

“Indigo,” a film produced and co-written by James Twyman, will screen following his Friday performance. The film is billed as an exploration into the decisions we make and the fine line between success and failure, love and regret.

“This seems to happen over and over again, and it begins to be a phenomenal thing,” Twyman says. “Some people might say it’s a coincidence, but I don’t believe that to be true.”

Twyman’s nonprofit foundation, The Beloved Community, grew from his peace promoting. Based in Ashland, Ore., the foundation works toward creating a world “of lasting compassion and peace.” Besides providing courses for people to discover their own inner spirituality, it also undertakes several humanitarian projects. The foundation, though based on “esoteric” Christianity, focuses on a universal path to peace.

“We don’t have any agenda,” Twyman explains. “The greater goal is to promote wholeness. We can’t have a world where there are just the desires and motivations of one country. That’s not very holistic.”

He’s mindful to say that this isn’t a political movement. He and his supporters are pro-peace – hoping to change world events by promoting, not protesting.

That’s one of Twyman’s chief goals next week, when he will return to Baghdad. An entourage of spiritual and aboriginal leaders from around the world (including Durango Film Festival Executive Director Sofia Van Surksum) will accompany him. They will gather at the city’s National Theater to offer prayers and ceremonies of peace for the world.

Timing is important, Twyman says, because an end to the yearlong fatal conflict does not appear imminent. In addition to the concert, Twyman will visit, for the first time, the Children’s Center in Iraq. Twyman’s Beloved Community funded the center, which opened in December and shelters children who have been left homeless from the war. Beloved Community volunteers staff the rented home.

Currently, he says nearly 20 children – ranging in ages from 7 to 12 years old – live in the home, where they receive food and shelter. It is also a safe haven from perpetrators, because many of them are being “preyed upon” by adults – crimes that Twyman will not discuss.

“There are various situations for each of them. But they are all suffering.”

Twyman intends to make the day important enough to prompt coverage from world media outlets. That’s why his cadre of supporters includes so many spiritual luminaries.

“We are trying to have one positive story coming out of Baghdad that day,” he says. He believes the event will garner major publicity.

Though the Iraqi war – and political strife elsewhere across the globe – may continue to rage, Twyman’s message is optimistic: There is hope for creating a new world.

“I want Durango audiences to know that the ways we’ve been solving our problems for a long time don’t work. The solutions are about politicians or policies. Each person has a part to play in attaining peace. Peace is in the best interest of everyone. Itthe only thing to do.”







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