April 02, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Uganda

For the four weeks or so I was in Uganda, the World Cup was on every TV. No one was tuned to music channels. But you could still hear a bit in the urban streets and cafes.
Which reminds me of an incident that shows how Africans always seem to look after each other and everyone else.
(I'm pleased to see there's an Australia-to-Germany trip report on this forum saying the same thing).

This incident happened in the crowded bar of the camp site in Kampala.

One evening, the England v Germany game was on. On the TV, with all the razmatazz of the buildup and pre-match pundits.
The bar was fairly packed, mainly with Americans.
Now as I've said before I don't follow football, and all this match build-up stuff on the TV was putting me off. Not many bets seemed to be on England.
Then the match started, and although I know nothing about the flow of the game, it didn't look good. So at an anxious moment in the game I slipped quietly out of the bar to find something more interesting to do.
Now the bar was pretty busy. At a guess, 100 or so people in there. Only two or three barmen were holding the fort, handling food orders as well, and were kept 100% occupied.
Well, the next morning I popped in for breakfast. Straightaway one of the barmen, who was on duty the previous evening, called out to me, "Hey, how come you disappeared during that game last night? That was your team wasn't it??"
The barman had noticed that one, out of a hundred or so customers, was no longer there during the match. How did he do that? While constantly serving everyone else?
They keep an eye out for you......

So, from village life to big bikes and bling. Featuring Clever J:

Bakiga traditional dance, performed at the campsite where I stayed on Lake Bunyonyi:

For a complete change of tack, here's the preliminaries of a big Ugandan wedding on Lake Victoria:

A few Ugandan bikes, and a big overland 4X4:

Like Kenya, Christianity features strongly in Ugandan life. A choir sings in English:

Traditional Busoga dance from eastern Uganda:

Clever J is a big name, here's another youtube. More bikes on the streets this time:

Samite, singing 'Mutoto' ('Young child' in Swahili):

This is a Ugandan/Tanzanian song. Sung, I think, in the Malagasy language of Madagascar. It's a sad song:

Traditional folk song and dance of western Uganda:

Samite again, playing the mbira:

Posted by Ken Thomas at 06:20 PM GMT
April 03, 2012 GMT
Musical Compilation - Rwanda

I only stayed in one place in Rwanda - Solace Ministries Guest House in Kigali.
I thought I'd only stay 2 days, enough to find a cash machine if one existed, but on the second day I decided that wasn't enough and stayed about a week.
There's something about the place that took hold of me and kept me there. It's a support and refuge centre for those traumatised by the Genocide. So it's set up to be very welcoming and accepting of anyone who arrives.
Including paying visitors like me, who can stay in a first-rate guest house and take part in anything going on that they wish, more or less. The income from visitors makes a significant contribution to the running of the centre.

When I did finally depart, I sensed a strong feeling that really, there was no need to go yet, I could stay another 3 or 4 days - or more .......

And, there's music. Quite a lot of it.

During 2009 a music centre was established here. It was found that music gave a lot of comfort to those arriving for help and counselling. Music is deeply embedded in African culture after all.
So a recording studio was built by volunteer musicians and technicians from England, mainly Sussex.
And the Solace Gospel Choir was established. The members all having been affected by the Genocide.
One of their songs accompanies the home page of the Solace website here.

So this entry will take a look at Rwandan music through the work of Solace Ministries.

Here's a Youtube of the project to build the recording studio:

During my visit a concert hall was under construction, below the guest house. It was already in use by the Solace Gospel Choir and many other musicians in its partially-finished state. It's completed now.
Anyone staying there, like me, was welcome to sit in on any of the morning practices, like this one just warming up:

(This is a group of orphaned head-of-households)

And musical gatherings like this one, in the part-finished hall:

All these people have been affected by the Genocide.

The music floated around the building like silk in the breeze. Very relaxing and etherial.
During the day various music classes practise under the tutelage of the volunteer teacher and sound technician from England.

His 'day job' was to work with British charities to raise as much money as possible in as short a time as possible to equip the ministry with sufficient musical instruments so that all students wishing to learn could be accommodated.

Empty classrooms can be used by visitors to listen to the lesson next door or to access the free internet service.

One day during my visit, the volunteers, mainly Canadian, had asked the students to suggest things they'd like to learn about the West that could be covered in a single day. The consensus came back that they'd like to see what a western wedding was like. So after dinner on the evening before the event the volunteers got together to plan and rehearse a complete wedding ceremony that they would perform for the students.
Roles were allocated for bride and groom, best man, vicar, bride's dad, choir and organist and so on.
Well, after breakfast the next morning, some unexpected situation arose requiring the volunteer playing the bride's dad to head off into town for a while. A few eyes peered in my direction. I wasn't sure about that - I hadn't been around the previous evening for the rehearsals. Well, one of the others who had been there stepped forward and I could breathe again.
And what a magnificent event it was. I was out for most of it but returned in time for the start of the reception complete with simple buffet, ending when the bride and groom departed in their 'golden coach', the bride throwing a bouquet into the crowd of guests.
The students, who played the guests (all affected in some way or other by the Genocide) gave a very heartfelt and emotional ovation - their appreciation and enthusiasm could be felt by everyone, and drifted around everywhere.

So that's what this place is like. I sat in on a few morning practices by the choir and listened to individual lessons for singing and for piano.

Back then, the Solace Gospel Choir had just released a CD which was on sale in the guest house.

Songs Of Solace can be sampled and purchased here.

And a track seen here:

Since my visit, Dicken Marshall from Brighton has established a recording and production company so that the rights of Rwandan musicians to their recorded works can be properly protected. Income from sales goes to the artists and contributes to the running of Solace Ministries. Rafiki Records has now released a compilation CD, 'Rafiki Sampler', featuring Rwandan musicians, survivors of the Genocide, who previously had no access to recording or production facilities.
Tracks can be heard here,

and the CD, or individual tracks, purchased here.

Here's one of the bands on Rafiki Sampler, The EAC Troop:

And Sophie Nzayisenga who recorded at Solace Ministries can be seen on the BBC World Service here. (You may be prompted to select player settings)

Rafiki Record's website is here.

A write up in The Independent newspaper is here.

And a nice video of the journalist's visit:

The title frame above and the scene near the beginning (at about 18 seconds) were filmed in the corridor below the guest house and bring back many memories.

With the hall now completed, a counselling session, held every Wedneday, is underway:

Not always appropriate for visitors to attend, but the singing drifts all around the building.
Not easy to get on the road again, even though another African country awaits not far away.......

Posted by Ken Thomas at 03:25 PM GMT

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