Spotlight on Jessica Jane Hart

Jessica Jane Hart is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker. A Montana native, Jessica studied photography at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. She later moved to Munich, Germany, to work as a freelance assistant to photographers who include Elias Hassos, Anja Frers, and Matthias Ziegler. Jessica returned to the US in 2009 and has worked as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in Montana, New York, and California. Her first documentary film project, Makoshika, was completed in 2015. Jessica is currently in the process of working on a documentary film about Music Beyond, which she started filming during Music Beyond’s most recent trip to Congo this past November and December.

Music Beyond had the chance to speak with Jessica about her experiences with Music Beyond and her hopes for the upcoming film.

Jessica Jane Hart interviewing a Congolese musician in Kinshasa. 

Jessica Jane Hart interviewing a Congolese musician in Kinshasa. 

Music Beyond: How did you first become involved with Music Beyond?

Jessica Jane Hart: I met Kaori Fujii [Music Beyond’s founding president] through her husband, Eric, who has been a good friend of mine for more than 10 years. I have always been impressed by Kaori’s humble and kind nature, and when she started Music Beyond, I started thinking of ways that I might be able to help. After seeing her success working with musicians in Congo over the past few years, I thought that a short film could help to get the word out about what Music Beyond is doing. It took about a year to raise the initial travel funds, and we are still trying to come up with editing funds to finish the project, but we are very close to that goal now.

MB: You recently traveled to Congo with Music Beyond for the first time. What was that experience like?

JJH: I was absolutely blown away by the experience in a way that is hard to put into words. I have traveled to countries that I considered to be poor, but after seeing Kinshasa, Congo, and the complete lack of functioning infrastructure in much of the city, I realized that this is a different level of poor than anything I had ever witnessed. In many other places there is evidence of a middle class. In Kinshasa, the poverty can be overwhelming, particularly when juxtaposed with the landscape of the embassy villages and high-rise hotels for foreign business people and NGO workers. It is a clear case of haves and have-nots, with no apparent middle class.

Despite the struggles that the average Kinshasan faces every day, the musicians of the Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra show up ready to work with fresh smiles and clean outfits. I mention the clean outfits because I was particularly struck by that fact. Running water is not a dependable utility in Kinshasa, meaning that some days maybe it is not there at all and some days maybe it is there for an hour or two at a time. Many of the streets are unpaved dirt roads, so the task of keeping your clothes clean is not an easy one. It takes a lot of work. From appearance alone, you would never guess what life might be like for many of the people on the street.

From inside the church [where Music Beyond’s workshops take place], it is easy to forget the struggles that lie just outside the concrete walls. It is a compound of peace and tranquility surrounded by chaos. At times the many different instruments practicing different pieces at the same time felt a little chaotic too, but the space always felt safe and comfortable to me.

Jessica and Kaori in Kinshasa.

Jessica and Kaori in Kinshasa.

MB: What do you hope to communicate about Music Beyond in your upcoming documentary film?

JJH: If I can clearly communicate exactly what it is that Kaori is doing and the potential for Music Beyond in communities throughout Congo (and maybe other parts of the world), then I will have done my job. It is hard to put into words the importance of a program like Music Beyond. Why spend the money to send a top musician like Kaori to foreign places that might be difficult and expensive to travel to and have logistical and safety issues? It is not an easy sell unless people understand the profound effect that the practice of music can have on people who want it as bad as these Kinshasan musicians do.

If you haven’t experienced similar struggles, it is difficult to fathom the lengths that some people are willing to go to just to learn how to create music. People in the US cry about not having time to exercise, and so they just don’t do it. Music Beyond’s musicians are traveling long distances, maybe hours, by foot or by hanging off the back of a smashed-up minivan “bus” just to get to the church and have some practice time on an instrument. They do this in the middle of their daily struggles to eat and survive. It makes you realize that this is more than just learning to make pretty sounds. What Music Beyond offers is extremely important to each one of these musicians.

What Kaori is doing is helping the musicians to unlock little pieces and make their practice easier and more fulfilling. It is something incredible to witness, and it’s worthwhile in a way that I know I don’t even fully comprehend yet. I’ve never had to work as hard for anything as these musicians do on daily basis to simply keep up their practice. I have been truly humbled by their dedication, and I hope that I can share some of that through the film.

Join the music education movement in the Democratic Republic of Congo by becoming a member. Member support of Music Beyond brings you closer to Congo with priority updates, the opportunity to sponsor a musician, member-exclusive events, special discounts, and more.


写真家・映画監督として多くの賞を受賞している、モンタナ州出身のジェシカ・ジェーン・ハート。ワイオミング州のノースウェスト大学・パウエル校を卒業後ドイツのミュンヘンに渡り、エリアス・ハソス、アーニャ・フレール、マティアス・ジーグラーを含む多くの著名な写真家のアシスタントとして研鑽を積み、2009年に帰国。以来写真家・映画監督として、モンタナ、ニューヨーク、カリフォルニアの3州を拠点に活躍しています。彼女が作った2015年のドキュメンタリー映画、Makoshikaはイタリアのヴェネツィア国際映画祭やカナダのトロント国際映画祭でも上映され好評を博しました。そんなジェシカ・ジェーン・ハート氏は現在Music Beyondの短編ドキュメンタリー映画を製作中。昨年11月〜12月に行われたコンゴの旅に参加しました。

今日はそんなハート氏にMusic Beyondとのコンゴでの経験や、映画に向けての気持ちを伺いました。



Music Beyond: Music Beyond関わりを持つことになったきっかけはを教えてください。

Jessica Jane Hart: Music Beyond設立者の藤井香織さんのご主人エリックは、私の10年来の親友で、彼を通して香織さんに出会いました。出会った時から謙虚さと優しさが滲み出る香織さんの人格にはいつも感銘を受けていて、彼女がMusic Beyondを初めて以来、どうにか役に立つことはできないものかと考えていました。そして彼女がコンゴの音楽家たちとの活動を成功に導いているのを見て、この素晴らしい活動をさらに多くの人々に紹介するために、短編ドキュメンタリー映画を作るのがいいのではないか、と考え始めたのです。彼女と一緒にコンゴに行く旅の資金を調達するのに約1年かかり、現在は編集や最後のマスタリングにかかる資金集めをしているところですが、ゴールはもう目前です!

MB: コンゴでの経験はいかがでしたか?

JJH: びっくりの連続で、この経験はとても言葉では言い表せません。これまでにもいわゆる貧困国と言われる国々を何度か訪れたことがあったのですが、道路・水道・電気などの最低限設備が全く存在しない場所が街の大部分、という状況に初めて遭遇し、これは今までに私が見てきたものとは全く違う次元の貧困だ、と思いました。他の国では、たとえ貧困国であっても、少しは中流階級が存在していました。でもキンシャサでは、街の大多数を極貧階級が占めている、そしてその厳しい現状は、同じ街の中に存在する大使館や外交官が集まる特別エリアや、ビジネスで来ている外国人や大手のNGOなどを顧客とするきらびやかな高層ホテルと比べてさらに浮き彫りになっているのです。『全てを獲得した者と何も持っていない者』という両極端な2種類の人々で出来上がっていて、中間が見えない街という印象でした。





MB: 現在製作中のドキュメンタリー映画を通して、Music Beyondのどんな部分を伝えたいですか?

JJH: 私の映画を通して、香織さんが現在コンゴでしている活動を理解して、彼女の活動がコンゴのコミュニティー (そして世界) へもたらす影響の可能性、を伝えられた時に、私はすべき仕事を成し遂げた、と思えると思います。Music Beyondのような活動の大切さを言葉にするのはとても難しいと思います。なぜ大きな出資をして、わざわざ香織さんのようなトップの音楽家を、行くだけでも大変で旅の費用も高く、日々の問題も安全上の問題も多々あるような国に送り込む必要があるのか・・。この活動の重要性は、私たちのような普通の人が簡単に理解できることではないと思います。でも音楽がキンシャサの人々にもたらしている大きな力、を実際目の当たりにすることができれば、一目瞭然なのです。

同じような苦悩を経験したことがない私たちには、彼らが音楽をするためにどれだけ大変な思いをしているかを想像することは難しいと思います。例えばここアメリカでは、時間がないから、という理由で嘆きながらも、したいことをしない人がたくさんいますよね。でもMusic Beyondが教える音楽家たちは、練習をするためなら、時には何時間も歩いて、または『バス』という名のボコボコに壊れたミニバンの後ろに掴まって練習場に通っている。それも次の食を見つける、とうにか生き延びる、という日々の苦悩の最中にです。この姿を見ると、彼らにとって音楽は、ただみんなで綺麗な音を奏でるためだけのものではない、ということがはっきりと分かります。Music Beyondは彼ら一人一人に、生きる上で何よりも大切な時間を提供しているのです。


スポンサーとしてコンゴの音楽家と個人的な関わりを持つ機会や、一早いお知らせ、会員のみのイベント、特別割引などなど、様々な特典が付くMusic Beyond会員になりませんか?

Music Beyond