By Benjamin Cohen
After about 10 months in Ghana, and a couple more months of fundraising after I returned to San Francisco, I have completed the last unresolved portion of my Fulbright-MTVu Fellowship proposal. Before I left for Ghana, I had hopes of learning about the musical history of Ghana and the current cultural impacts that music has on the country’s Political Economy. I further wanted to use that research to 1) produce consistent articles for publications from MTVu to Afropop Worldwide, and my own music websites and 2) find a way to increase access to music education, be it through starting my own program or helping an existing one.
I was familiar with the work that the Playing For Change Foundation had been doing for years, well before I applied to move to Ghana but I hadn’t realized they had a school in country until I received my Fellowship.
The PFC Foundation was very helpful in connecting me to Mohammed Alidu, founder and director of the Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale, Ghana. I was able to visit the school a number of times and immediately knew that Bizung was where I wanted to help.
After a number of talks with Alidu and his wife, Serenity, some assessment of the school, and a look at my fundraising capabilities, I set out to raise enough for the Bizung School to buy a new van. This new transportation would allow Bizung to bring more students to the school, and bring musicians and teachers to more remote, outlying areas because, in all honesty, the entire region is lacking music education. We all hoped that with a new van, Bizung could build on their foundation of 9 teachers serving 200+ children.
Through an IndieGogo Campaign, we were able to raise $3,235 from 59 backers – enough for Alidu to purchase a van! As you can see in the photos, the van is already hard at work with plans to help the Bizung School travel to one of the PFC Foundation’s other projects soon!