First year of classes at the Music School of Kirina in Mali
by Francois Viguie
Just one year ago, the Music School of Kirina, Mali, started to offer classes in traditional music and dance to the children of this outstanding West African village. The process of creating and building this school has been an unforgettable journey, and was carried on through the active participation of the villagers. (Click here to watch a video of the school being built)
The school focuses on traditional music offering classes in dance, kora, balafon, tama, percussion, musical theory and history. The teachers of the music school have been enrolled for their pedagogic capacities, their talent as musicians and their commitment to the transmission of African culture. Seydou Dembelé, our head administrator also gives classes in French and English. Though French is the official language in Mali, most of the kids don't speak French very well, despite the fact that all the classes at the public school are taught in this language.
The most spectacular classes at the music school are without a doubt the dance classes. (Take a video visit to the school). Fifty-five girls are attending dance classes twice a week, accompanied by an amazing local percussion band. Last June, 25 kids from the dance classes and the percussion band were invited to perform at a Festival in Ciwara, located around 100km from the village. This performance has been a premiere and has had a really positive effect on the motivation of the students.
Even if everything is going great at the school; the classes, our collaboration with the public school, the relation between teachers and students, the main issue we have to face is the irregularity of the attendance of the kids at the Music school. It is important to understand that Kirina is a very special place, a remote village, without any electricity or water network, a place where the day to day reality of the kids is absolutely different from the reality of our western kids. First of all, nearly 100% of the villagers of Kirina are farmers, and all the children are helping their parents in the fields… However, the music school is little by little becoming more important in the lives of those kids and most of the parents are now convinced that their kids are learning positive things in this new structure. Of the 350 students listed at the music school, 110 are attending music classes at least 2 times a week. This is still a lot for our humble music school and thanks to the generosity of our donors we're going to start an extension of the building over the next several weeks: an open air classroom for the dance classes. (have a look at the plans from our local architect here)
This new space will also serve the instrument workshop program that we're going to launch in 2012. The idea for the workshop is to produce musical instruments "made in Kirina" and sell, notably through our web site, in order to help sustain the school financially. This instrument workshop will create economic activity in the village with something that is directly linked to the ancestral roots of the culture in Kirina.
Over the last few months, African musicians such as Tiken Jah Fakoly, came to visit the Music School and were able to see the powerful and positive impact of the school on the community. During the last month of September, while recording a song with the PFC crew for the United Nations, we invited some of the best African musicians to visit the school with us: Toumani Diabaté, Baaba Maal, and Habib Koité joined us for the day. After being welcomed by the all village and a brief meeting with the elders, we brought those amazing musicians to the school where they could listen and see the kids perform for them and for the villagers. A video on this fantastic day of joy and music will be available very soon…
All of this fantastic adventure, since the first brick of the school has been laid, wouldn't have been possible without your support. This is just the beginning and we are truly determined to continue demonstrating that music can be the vector of a positive change in this world. This upcoming year is going to be full of challenges and we count on you to help us to take them up and spread the word of our cause. As Mahatma Gandhi once said : "You must be the change you want to see in the world".
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