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Development as Music: Using Africa’s Creative Wealth to Improve Lives across the Continent

Patrick Kabanda's picture
 Patrick Kabanda
Traditional dance is performed by young Swazi women at the Mantenga Nature Reserve in Swaziland. Photo: Patrick Kabanda


When I was a child I lived in two worlds. The first world was a creative one, filled with music, a teeming treasure of sounds that stretched from church to nature. It included thunderous organ chords, melodious tube fiddles, and raspy frog choruses, to name a few.  The other world I inhabited was more sober in nature, marked with political instability, hardships, and poverty. These two worlds came together in a loud cacophony that is my home country, Uganda.  

Quote of the Week: B.B. King

Sina Odugbemi's picture

B.B. King Live im Audimax der Uni Hamburg, November 1971“Growing up on the plantation there in Mississippi, I would work Monday through Saturday noon,” he said. “I’d go to town on Saturday afternoons, sit on the street corner, and I’d sing and play.

I’d have me a hat or box or something in front of me. People that would request a gospel song would always be very polite to me, and they’d say: ‘Son, you’re mighty good. Keep it up. You’re going to be great one day.’ But they never put anything in the hat.

But people that would ask me to sing a blues song would always tip me and maybe give me a beer. They always would do something of that kind. Sometimes I’d make 50 or 60 dollars one Saturday afternoon. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.”


-B.B. King, an American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues rock guitarists

The fumble that may have saved his life

Alexander Ferguson's picture



Ahmad Sarmast may owe his life to a fumble with his cellphone. He bent down in his seat to pick up his mobile just as a suicide bomber detonated his charge behind him at a music and theatre performance at the Institut Français d’Afghanistan in Kabul.

The founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music survived the December blast that killed one and injured more than 10. Dr. Sarmast suffered perforated ear drums and shrapnel in the back of his head.  But the experience has not deterred him from his ambition of reviving and rebuilding Afghan musical traditions through establishing and leading the country's first dedicated music school.

“Music represents the right to self-expression of all the Afghan people,” he told me during a tour of the modest building in a suburb of Kabul where ANIM is housed.

girl playing piano

The institute’s young musicians, many of them former street vendors or orphans, have toured the world to showcase Afghan music and present a more positive face of the war-torn country. An ensemble played at the World Bank in 2013 and went on to perform amid great acclaim at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Mozart seduces the World Bank and the IMF

Patrick Kabanda's picture
Something curious happened recently at the D.C. enclaves of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Mozart, no less, seized hold of the two institutions. The 18th-century Austrian composer emerged with his Grand Mass in C minor, K. 427, engulfing the modern glass and steel halls of the Bank and the Fund. The outcome was nothing less than a majestic and glorious sound — in the name of development.
 

Quote of the Week: Esa-Pekka Salonen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Many of my colleagues say, ‘Well, you know, music is above or beyond politics.’ I have the opposite view. I would very much like to be in the centre of the political debate. And I think one of the problems of classical music, or whatever you call it, is that we have been marginalised as part of the uppermost crust of society.  We play our Mozarts and our Beethovens, and it’s quite pretty and it doesn’t annoy anybody.”

Esa-Pekka Salonen, a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. Salonen is currently the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Campaign Art: Africa Stop Ebola

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Since the start of the current Ebola outbreak, music has been a part of efforts to sensitize and educate people about the disease. Artists in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries, have produced several songs to inform people that the virus is real and "don't touch your friend".

The latest song to hit the airwaves, "Africa Stop Ebola", was written by Kandia Kora and Sekou Kouyaté, both of whom are from Guinea and are among the performers. It is based on lyrics outlined by Carlos Chirinos, a professor at New York University who specializes in music, radio and social change. The lyrics express messages of caution and comfort, warning people not to touch the bodies of the sick or deceased and encouraging them to trust doctors, wash their hands, and take proactive steps if they feel the symptoms of Ebola.

The song aims to build confidence in the public health sector through the cachet of the artists. Across West Africa, music, theater, and radio are popular media to spread public information, and performers are well- respected public figures with enough social weight that people to listen to them.

In order to ensure the song's messages are clear regardless of the level of literacy or education of the listeners, it is performed in French and local languages widely understood across the region.
 
Africa Stop Ebola

Campaign Art: Ebola In Town

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Ebola virus is experiencing a break out summer. The latest outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is the worst ever, resulting in the death of almost 900 lives and infecting more than 1603 people across West Africa. The virus is also experiencing unexpected popularity on the dance floor.  

A new song, "Ebola in Town," recorded by a trio of West African rappers, warns of the dangers of Ebola over a catchy electronic beat. Residents of Monrovia and Conakry, the capitals of Liberia and Guinea, and have created a dance to go along with the song.  The lyrics warn "don't touch your friend" and "no eating something, it's dangerous," and the dance, fittingly, does not include any touching.

This advice is technically incorrect (you cannot contract Ebola virus from simply touching another person but rather through contact with bodily fluids) and may increase the social stigma that people recovering from Ebola face, an issue health workers are attempting to adress.  While the song is off-message, it may nonetheless be helpful in raising awareness. Many people in West Africa are not sure of the actual danger level, which may be exacerbated by illiteracy-  43.3% of adults in Sierra Leon, 42.9% in Liberia and only 25.3% in Guinea's are literate.  In these countries, music, theater, and radio are popular media to spread public information.

From Afghanistan to World Bank, Youth Orchestra Brings a Beautiful Harmony

Ravi Kumar's picture

Available in Español, Français

Afghanistan National Institute of Music Concert

Students from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) play in the Wolfensohn Atrium.

There are days when your faith in humanity is not only restored but strengthened. Today was one of those days.

On a sunny afternoon in Washington, D.C., young students from Afghanistan showed off their musical talent in an orchestral performance at the World Bank.

I was inspired and excited to see the group of musicians, aged 9 to 21, who had travelled so far from a war-torn country to perform. As someone who grew up during a decade-long civil war in Nepal, I can in some ways relate to their hard work, persistence, and determination to excel despite all odds.

Colombia: Building a Future without Violence with Juanes and Mi Sangre

Gloria M. Grandolini's picture

También disponible en español

money under the mattress

“A microphone, a guitar and a spray can; these are their weapons.” These could be the lyrics of a song by the wildly popular Juanes, but the singer-songwriter was actually referring to the work of his foundation, Mi Sangre, which campaigns for a Colombia free from violence for young people.

The Foundation’s programs offer Colombian youth, many of whom are victims of violence in the country -- 4,000 minors died in 2003-2006-- the chance to practice the art of singing, painting and composing to exorcize the threat of violence on the streets, in their neighborhoods, homes and schools. 

Rwanda's Artful Path Toward Peace: Cultural Industries and Post-Conflict Reconciliation

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

In my last blog, I wrote about a medium that plays a critical role in post-conflict reconciliation: art.  I argued that the cultural industries—film, music, crafts, architecture, and theater, among other art forms—provide important benefits to post-conflict societies; therefore, policies that encourage the development and growth of these industries should be a critical part of a country’s comprehensive post-conflict reconstruction plan. In a further reflection on these points, this blog examines the story of Rwanda, a post-conflict society that is using film, theater, music, and other creative industries in its journey toward reconciliation and rebuilding.


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