Victims of Congolese war release 'incredibly powerful' albums with help of Canadian charity

Victims of Congolese war release 'incredibly powerful' albums with help of Canadian charity
From CBC - January 13, 2018

"Within me is a lawyer that will right all the inequities / Within me is a president that will fix the country."

Those empowering lyrics appear in the songMon corpsn'estpasunearme(MyBodyIs Not a Weapon), by a singer namedSandra. In the background,a distinctively African beat gets mashed up with a bit of hip-hop.

The tune is just one ofseveral that appear ontwo albums written and performed by civilian war victimsfrom theDemocratic Republic of Congoand recently releasedthroughWarner Music Canada. The albumsMon corpsn'estpasunearmeandKeshuni situmupya(Tomorrow Is a New Day)were recorded inSwahiliand French, andcontain a total of 12 songs.

It was partly through the work of Winnipeg-based music producer DarcyAtamanthat Sandra's composition became a full-fledgedsong.

"She was raped, became pregnant, lost the child, became HIV positive from the rape and spent time in hospital," saidAtaman, whooversaw the recording and is the founder and CEO of the CanadiancharityMake Music Matter.She "came to our program for healing and wrote the song."

Starvation, disease andviolence are common lyrical themes on the albums, written and performed by those who experienced it first hand.

The music is "incredibly powerful, it resonates with other people," saidAtaman."If you live in active conflict zones, one of the last things you can take away from somebody is the ability to sing.That's why [the music] works so well."

'Africa's world war'

The release of the albums isan effort to draw the western world's attention to what has been commonly called "Africa's World War."

"Hearing these songs en masse, people can begin to understand and empathize," said Ataman.

TheDRC, formerly Zaire, has a long and troubled past.Most recently, civil war broke out in 2009 between armed ethnic militias and the government over mineral resources, subjecting millions ofcivilians to attacks, starvation anddisease and rape.

The DRCis currently home to the UN's biggest peacekeeping operation. Fifteen Tanzanian peacekeepers were recently killed there.

Civilian protests have been directed at President Joseph Kabila, who after 17 years in power is refusing to step down after his term limitexpired in 2016.Elections are scheduled for December of this year, althoughthe UN expressed doubt this week that they will happen.

Over the last several years, Make Music Matter has worked in eastern DRCsetting up small recording studios in hospitals, schools and community centres to allow victims of war a chance to open up about their experiences throughmusic.

Songs of experience

Not looking for a hit


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