Once upon a time, on a frosty day in January, I was on a domestic flight from one city in the United States of America to another. I was seated next to a fellow named Joe, who spent the first thirty seconds of the flight flipping through the airline magazine, and the next thirty talking to me. “You going home?” He asked. “Sort of…” I replied, as my voice trailed off. “I’m returning from a trip to South Africa.”

“Oh, cool!” Joe said, adjusting himself in his seat and leaning in a little closer to hear me over the plane’s…


Presented at the 44th Annual Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) conference in Santa Marta, Colombia, as part of a panel about Itinerarios Sonoros, a podcast co-produced by Music & the Earth International (2019)

Buenas tardes. Today I would like to speak to you about music, and its relation to environmental politics in the Caribbean. The podcast episode which I developed was titled “Soundscape: Musical and Environmental Consciousness Post-María.” Its primary observation, very simply, was that music can carry great importance in the “before, during and after” of disasters. It can help us to be present with the complexity and range of…


Where the Light Enters You:’ Nature, Culture and the Ghazal in the Greater Caribbean

Presented on April 6, 2019 at Puentes Caribeños, a Caribbean composers’ conference at the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. The vocals and arrangements of all the songs in this talk, as well as the presentation itself, are by Priya Parrotta.

Here in the Caribbean, we are at a crossroads in our relationship to the environments which surround us. In some ways, this crossroads has been a defining feature of this region throughout its history. Taking a path towards sustainability implies deep choices; and ultimately, it…


Music, environmentalism, and islands. Enter these three words into a Google search field, and you will encounter a variety of results. Most have to do with the connection between the environment and the “music world.” Articles on environmentalism in music, lists of songs about the environment, information about composers and performers who place the Earth at the heart of their music. Scroll down a bit further, and Islands will begin to enter into the mix. An announcement about Disney’s recent film Moana, and shortly thereafter, links to several academic books, including:

Island Songs: A Global Perspective by Godfrey Baldaccino, UNESCO’s…


“When I fall silent, I fall into a place where everything is music.”

These words, written in the thirteenth century by the Sufi poet Mevlana, or Rumi, far predate environmentalism as we typically understand it. And yet, they express something profound about the paradoxical place that silence has in the worlds of both music and climate activism today.

On the one hand, silence in the nonhuman world — the quiet of plant life, for instance, or of mountain faces, or of the sun’s movements across the sky — is music unto itself. It serves as the inspiration for diverse musical…


Between the second century BCE and 480 CE, Buddhist monks cut and painted twenty-nine caves on the rock faces of Ajanta. Today, the Ajanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are widely considered to be among the most spectacular monuments in Maharashtra.

If my travels in India were meant to be an inquiry into the interwoven paths of history and sound, then Ajanta was a perfect place with which to end the visit. …


The landscape on the drive to Ajanta is absolutely beautiful — bucolic, mild, rolling fields that remind me of the central Italian province of Tuscany. Tuscany is where the city of Florence is located, and it is home to some of the most exemplary heritage conservation projects around. The cities, towns and countrysides of Tuscany are so tastefully managed that you’ll be wont to find a patch of land that doesn’t look like a page from a stylish coffee-table book. Florence, a living and breathing city, has carefully curated itself so that it evokes the Italian Renaissance at every turn…


Nashik is an ancient city located about 170 kilometers northwest Mumbai. After a quick breakfast of two slices of toast, and my self-determined minimum of three cups of hot chai, we piled into an Uber and began to travel in that direction.

Upon leaving Mumbai, it became easier to appreciate the vast environmental changes that take place in Maharashtra, over the course of every year. What is now a muted green will dry out completely within in the next few months. The moisture will then be restored a hundredfold with the arrival of the monsoon. …


After Matheran, we returned to Mumbai, for a few days of music, and of talking about music.

I am lucky to have a couple of good friends living in Mumbai — it made it far easier for me to learn about all the festivals and concerts that I was about to miss. “You are leaving right before the prime music season here,” one friend told me enthusiastically over chai at Café Universal, a small semi-open café owned by an Iranian family. All the posters of Persian archeological sites and of modern Tehran seemed to be looking down and laughing at…


We returned to our hotel in Mumbai late afternoon, and the neighborhood looked peaceful and quiet and dappled in golden sunlight. A group of boys played cricket in the middle of the street, and the fact that it was Sunday meant that there were very few cars around. After a brief siesta, we migrated over to the Gateway of India (not to be confused with New Delhi’s India Gate), and the confectionery of sounds available there.

The Gateway of India is an arch monument, built in the early twentieth century, on a waterfront in South Bombay, overlooking the Arabian Sea…

Priya Parrotta

Author, climate activist, singer & Founder/Director of Music & the Earth International (musicandtheearth.org)

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