I opened one of my Christmas presents yesterday. My friend, Lance, gave me a gift certificate to Calabash Music, a global music web site unlike anything I’ve ever seen (or heard). Here’s how they describe themselves:
Calabash Music™ is the ultimate global music destination giving easy access to all the great, but hard-to-find, music from around the world. We’re providing you with the most unique and broadest based international catalog – served the way you like it, via the Internet.
Our equal exchange business model and focus on international artists is revitalizing the music industry in developing nations around the globe. When our artists sell their music directly to you, they keep half the money from each sale and they avoid the high costs of manufacturing, marketing and distributing their music on CDs.
Needless to say, my time spent roaming around on their site, which is full of chances to listen to great stuff — including a free download of the day, helped to lift my spirits. Thanks to their willingness to share, I’m including two things: a video trailer to a movie about The Refugee All-Stars in Sierra Leone and a listening sampler of the Mutubambile Orphan Choir from Zimbabwe, which is what I got with my gift certificate.
The civil war in Sierra Leone is one of those conflicts that doesn’t break into our news cycle very often. Many of the refugees from the war have fled into the neighboring country of Guinea. Calbash describes how the two men who began the band came to do so:
Reuben’s and Franco’s collaboration actually goes back to 1998 in Kalia camp. “I had nothing to do,” recalled Reuben. “In the morning, I would go to the center were all the refugees would just be talking. I saw that many people were not happy. I thought: If I start to play music here, people will really feel well.” Precisely so, and soon a Canadian NGO provided the band with PA gear so they could tour to other camps and raise spirits there. “Me and Franco,” said Reuben, “we were very serious over the matter. At first, my wife was not happy. She didn’t want me to go sing in remote places. But I was so stubborn.” His wife, Grace, eventually joined the band once she saw how the music was helping to build community in the camps, drawing people to meetings where they could discuss their circumstances and options.
The Mutubambile Orphan Choir is made up of children from Zimbabwe who were orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Again, here is Calabash’s description:
‘We are the Orphans’ was produced by popular Zimbabwean musican Oliver Mtukudzi alongside children who are part of the Mutubambile Orphan Choir.
The children composed their own songs with Mtukudzi, who also worked on the musical arrangements. This extra-ordinary album by children who have lost most of their parents to HIV/AIDS reflects a sigh of hope and spreads the message of the disease that has taken their loved ones. Through the beautiful, often sad, songs of the choir, produced in collaboration with Oliver, highlights the national problem posed by the many orphans left by HIV & Aids every year. The sale of their album will contribute to the orphans’ education.
Use the player below to hear samples. It will also connect you to Calabash if you want to buy some of them.
Reuben is right: when I start to play music, I feel well because I can hear what hope sounds like.