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By Jamie Ehrenfeld
The United Nations recognizes 54 distinct nations on the African continent. Within each independent nation, there are dozens of unique languages and ethnic groups, each with their own cultural traditions and communities. The music and art cultures of the continent and diaspora consistently communicate profound humanity beyond the documentation of written language, which is why so many extended variations of African music — like jazz, blues, and hip-hop just to name a few — have proliferated and spread globally over the last century.
The integration of music into fundamental community practices (as opposed to sectioning music out as a separate subject area) may contribute to how many African musical traditions have gone largely unstudied by foreigners. In other words, music is daily life in many parts of Africa. But as a result, many African music educators do not permit or encourage written documentation of their work, as it is understood to dilute the lived experience. This in itself contributed to Afrocentric music continuing to be undervalued in the canon (largely upheld by traditions in the West), despite prominence across mass populations worldwide.
For all these reasons, we’re super happy to be able to experience musical life in Africa through the work of a handful of amazing nonprofit organizations, learning communities, and platforms for creative expression, and we believe that the future of global popular music is already being shaped on the African continent as we speak. Here are six initiatives in Africa today doing constructive work for the future of music and music education.
∇ Kigali, Rwanda
Beginning with lessons at Gisimba Memorial Centre, Turi Kumwe has fully constructed a music studio in the former orphanage and is currently incubating a growing community record label. Each summer, up to 300 children participate in a fully subsidized arts camp led by local Rwandan and international artist educators, and the studio is open year-round for community use.
Hear more from the studio here.
Found Sound Nation
∇ Senegal, Zimbabwe, and South Africa
Found Sound Nation leverages mobile technology to create opportunities for youth and underrepresented communities to record and produce high quality music worldwide. Found Sound Nation utilizes a grassroots partnership model with local organizations and has developed work with artists and communities in Senegal, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
Listen to a ton of incredible global collaborations here.
Kronendal Music Academy
∇ Western Cape, South Africa
Kronendal Music Academy is a local music program aimed at engaging at-risk youth in the Hout Bay Valley of the Western Cape in South Africa. Located about 20 miles from the next nearest music school, they opened in 2007 to facilitate creative exchanges among the three distinct cultures native to the region. The academy provides quality instruction in diverse genres, instruments, and traditions.
Playing for Change Foundation
∇ Ghana, Mali, South Africa, Morocco, and Rwanda
Playing for Change supports local music programs worldwide, including L’Ecole de musique de Kirina in Mali; Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale, Ghana; Imvula Music Program in Gugulethu, South Africa; and Joudour Sahara Music Program in M’Hamid El Ghizlane, Morocco. PFCF also partners to support the Music and Sports Program at Star School in Masaka, Rwanda.
Check out a ton of great videos from their programs here.
Generation Hip Hop Global
∇ Uganda, Senegal, Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Rwanda, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, and Tunisia
Generation Hip Hop was created by the Universal Hip Hop Museum and the Africa Rising Foundation to establish a network of non-profit organizations committed to promoting hip hop culture and creative practices globally. With satellite affiliates listed in over 50 countries, GHH also aims to support localized, globally-connected community development, with music and creative expression at its core.
Masaka Kids Africana
∇ Masaka, Uganda
Masaka Kids Africana is a community hub providing wrap-around services to children in need throughout Nyendo, in the Masaka region of Uganda. The children’s performances of traditional music and dance capture the hearts of audiences worldwide, and the organization is currently building its capacity, expanding their facilities to house and feed even more young people around the region.
Don’t stop there! Check out these funky kids dancing around having a great time here.
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Jamie Ehrenfeld is the founder of CORE Music NYC, an artist services agency incubating upcoming musicians and teams committed to community engagement. She has worked as a music educator with the featured programs at Eagle Academy for Young Men and City as School.