Jamaica

Only the sound of this word make you dream about this far and yet so famous island in the Caribbean.

In my mind, Jamaica was always a synonymous of music. Reggae, roots, ska, mento music, dance hall, and of course, the Great Bob Marley!… “These words of freedom.” “Stand up for your rights.” “Don’t worry, every little thing is gonna be all right.” More songs are popping in mind, taking me back to so many moments in my life where this music could pull me out of a gloomy or sad moment, give me a bit of hope in difficult times, made me dance, made me think, made me rebel ,made me imagine this  place across the ocean far away.

ok bob jam

“One day, don´t know when, don´t know how, but I´ll  get there”¦ I always said to myself when I was still a teenager dancing and singing to the beat of these songs alone in my room back in Israel.

And so, years later, it´s precisely music, that brought me to fulfill this dream of visiting Jamaica. And not only visit Jamaica, sing in Jamaica, and not only sing in Jamaica, I was invited with a part of the “Playing For Change” crew, to participate in the “Women International Forum” that was held in Montego Bay, this last May.  What an Honor!!!!

The theme of the conference this year was “Music as an instrument of change” and the guests, that have traveled from all over the world, among them educators, politicians, writers, investigators, journalists, people from the music industry, musicians, and so many more, were gathered together, to debate this important subject, to learn from each other and connect together, each one from it´s field, to promote, emphasize and improve this cause all over the world.

In 2013. A year of Change.

Beside singing, I was asked to give a little speech, what at first scared me so much, because singing is one thing I love to do, I  sing since I can remember myself, but to give a speech in front of everybody is another thing and it was something new and yet unknown for me. While I decided to just throw all drafts away and to just “speak from the heart, taking Mark Jonhson´s advice, I was recalling moments and experiences in my life where music just overcome all differences of language or culture, moments in which Music IS the only language. Because we all write or sing out of love, or about love, we write out of suffering, or happiness out of pain or joy. It makes no difference where you come from, as human beings we share these emotions everywhere and we can all understand them and feel them. I can feel them strongly while singing in languages I sometimes don´t even speak, sharing music with musicians from totally different countries and culture, but yet, we ALL feel it. And as I was thinking about all that, I got to realize how music has changed ME and how grateful I am to life that gave me this gift, to sing, to change and be changed through music.

The whole event was such an inspiration and the emotions overflowed the room when Rita Marley got on stage when we finished playing with the band , to say just one phrase, written by her husband years before, but today still  remains one of the most truthful and powerful messages, that for me resumed the conference perfectly with it´s simplicity. “One love, one heart, let´s get together and feel alright.” And for a moment time stood, silence filled  my head as I watched her, I watched the band  members and the people in the crowed all smiling and applauding, in this such ecstatic moment, with tears in my eyes from excitement. Being there, in Jamaica, in THAT particular moment, hearing these words that meant more sense than ever, will be an unforgettable moment in my life forever. The incredible views, the different fragrance and sounds all mixed together in vivid memories… Jamaica has it´s own particular smell that i can still feel tickling my nose. A mix of fried bananas, sweet rose chilli and rum, mixed with the hot air and the salty ocean. The different smell of spices and beer are  taking me downtown  where we went with the guys to the market to record base for “songs around the world.” Surrounded by curious little girls that wanted to see what it was we were doing there and who we were and how did the music sounded on headphones, looking, laughing… Little wooden carts full of vegetables and fruits everywhere and rastafari passing by speaking in patwa and singing songs; us drinking beer in the killer heat with our T-shirts soaked with sweat, recording in the middle of this busy crowd. The smell of “Jerk chicken”  takes me on the road, driving into the countryside on our way to Chris Blackwell´s farm, stopping on the side of the road to taste the traditional jamaican plate, that mixes with  the smell of the mango trees that appears outside of the bus windows. On this  bumpy road, we exchange smiles and greet to the local people that always smiles back to us while we pass through their  village. The impressive beauty of nature all around us . The giant Guango trees that stand so nobly in the sunset, the endless fields to almost get lost in, on the bus, on the road, in Jamaica.

Unfortunately, my visit in Jamaica was short, too short, now knowing what this island has to offer; with it´s culture, it´s incredible people, and so much more. But I can only be grateful again, and cherish every moment of it, with hope that my destiny will lead me again to this magical land. As I mentioned earlier, I have imagined Jamaica  before this trip many times in my head, but this time I can only say that reality exceeded my imagination by far.

I wanted to finish this blog, leaving you with a song that I heard on the radio on my way to the airport. It completes the musical memory of that moment and besides, it´s a great song, by a Jamaican artist , Eric Donaldson. The song is called “My Jamaica.”

Tula

 

New Music & Sports Program in Kigali, Rwanda

 

The Playing For Change Foundation is establishing a new music program in Masaka, a village located 15km from capital, Kigali. For the first time, a PFCF program will officially include sports as one of the disciplines. Emmanuel, our young soccer teacher explains that sport is an ideal complement for the education of the kids. This new program will take place at Star School, a primary and secondary school founded a few years ago by Bishop Nathan Amooti in order to provide education to underprivileged children.

We are excited to partner with this amazing school and have the opportunity to introduce music to the students there. Like in many countries in Africa, music is part of daily life, and this was made clear by the students™ talent for singing, dancing and drumming before we even start our program. The idea of the music program is to help them to reach another level and focus on traditional music and dance. Our music teacher Samuel, is one of the best dancers and drummers in the country and has been touring around the world to represent the music and culture of Rwanda. Rwanda is a very special country when compared to other African countries: on the wall of Marjorie’s office (the Star School principal) a paper on the wall sums up the essential values of the nation. Number one : “Speed. A country in a hurry.” Rwanda is also the only African country I have visited where every person on a motorbike wears a helmet and each taxi driver asks you to fasten your seatbelt! Those two example might seem like unimportant details, but in reality they reveal a great deal about the current dynamic and the spirit of the country.

The recent history of Rwanda is absolutely unique. Since the genocide in 1994, which took nearly one million lives, the country is clearly trying to move forward as one and make a difference. This call for unity is why transmitting their ancestral cultural knowledge through music is very important. The music is an essential part of Rwanda’™s identity, and therefore, as we do in our music schools in Mali and Ghana, we are trying to value and support the preservation of the cultural traditions here. We at PFCF believe that understanding one’™s own roots and traditions is a great way to build a better future, adapted to a cultural context.

The program is officially starting in the next two weeks, so stay tuned to learn more about it!

Support the Playing For Change Foundation and help us continue making a difference for the young generations of this planet through music education.

François

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