Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Singing About Collective Responsibility

This is our land This is our world what we do today determines our future.
Achieng Abura, Musician from Kenya

I am writing this enroute Bulawayo from Victoria Falls which is about 171 kilometers away. Yes, we are in Zimbabwe. The falls were beautiful. Pause. I will tell you about that in my next blog.

 Right in the heart of Zimbabwe achieng abura is belting out a song on collective responsibility in as far as climate change is concerned. If you don’t know, Achieng is one of the most prolific singers in Africa and who is based in Nairobi, Kenya. This mother of one is also an environmental scientist who understands the whole climate change issue.
I have heard her music  but the first time l heard her play live  was during a tribute to the Late Prof Wangari Maathai that was held in Nairobi Kenya. I was so tongue tied at her performance. Achieng has a voice that is so strong that l remember thinking during her performance it sounded more like a Bob Geldof concert, It was thunderous.

‘Matching your act after that was a nightmare,’ l told her the very next week as we sat in her cozy house discussing the possibility of working together. I was with my colleague, Ann, at the time. We were humbled that a musician of her caliber would even let us come into her home to discuss our project. Something that never happens with musicians at her level. The project? The Trans African Caravan of Hope, where she got to perform during the flag off in Kenya.  

So now  we listen to her. Her music is Trans African because right at the back of our bus, a Zambian 50 plus year old caravanite is dancing away. She is so carried by the music that she adds a rhythmic stump as she sways back and forth. I smile knowingly as all the attention goes back to her. 

‘I worked on this album for about a year,’ Achieng had told us when we met her. ‘It takes time to come up with songs that stay with the people, ‘ she had added. It is true. Her music is timeless and authentically African. The meticulous work included bringing in a musician from the Borana community to sing along in one of what has become our favorite song. Of that she says, ‘we had to get it right especially in terms of accent.’ 

She has two complete environmental albums and she is still doing more. ‘What is your drive?’ l remember asking her. ‘I do music to change lives. My music is about people remembering the message,’ she had said. I sit back and think as we get closer to Bulawayo, isn’t this what we need as we head to COP17? That the world remembers Climate Justice is NOW. 

By Maria Wanza

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