March 19 2010

Singing Across The World

Laura Bradshaw: Community Music Facilitator

“The trip to Ethiopia was absolutely amazing, joyous and at times very moving. The people in the music group were very welcoming, and happy to listen to my ideas as well as to share their music and way of expressing it with me.

Despite a slight language barrier I was very quickly amazed to find that I was interacting with the group as a whole group and as individuals in the same way as I interact with my groups in Wales, I really felt totally comfortable with all the people and did feel that a true kind of understanding was gained in both directions.

We did some Ethiopian songs and a Somali song which Towelda, the Gemini music teacher, prepared with the choir. The people did not seem to be afraid of making mistakes! This meant that they felt free to express themselves both in movement and voice (both were absolutely linked in all the people), and the sounds and vitality of performance was incredible!

I did have the awareness that it might be a bit strange me taking African songs to Africa, and wondered how it would be responded to, but the group were really pleased to be able to learn new songs from different parts of Africa and had a real affinity with the music.

The songs that I did were all songs that the Betws choir have learnt and performed regularly. Nanuma is a song that has worked in the UK with most of the groups I have worked with. I was completely blown away the first time we did this song with the choir. They added so much vibrancy and joy and improvisation that it was a pure pleasure to be a part of. I also did Shosholoza, a South African gum boot song, and this went down really well with a really powerful group of male voices keeping the bass line together with great effect! We sang Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’, and a particular highlight was the Welsh song ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ which is a Betws choir favourite in which we add a couple of instruments to the accompaniment, Tracy and Keisha on accordion and Macy on violin. The Gemini choir created their own version of this song, using their native instruments, the kra played by Morka, and the masinko played by Towelda. We also added some solos using their ornamented style of singing in between verses.

The group created a song to mark 25 years of the Gemini Trust and we used this to end a celebration concert at the project. During this song it felt like everything that had been brought from Wales (including skills) had been passed on and brought to life. The flute and the guitar were played and the choir was lead by Shewengay, who will be jointly leading the choir after our visit with Towelda the music teacher.

Throughout the project, members of the choir also created a musical soundtrack that may be used for the slideshow exhibition part of the project that was created by Alison and the photography group. This will hopefully be added to with ideas from the Betws choir being spliced together with the Ethiopian music using the music media skills of Neil (Neil White).

Thanks for the opportunity and thanks to Tracy and Alison for their brilliant support throughout the time in Addis Ababa!”

Laura Bradshaw, Community Music Facilitator