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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
July 21, 2010 •• Rwanda Youth Music
And The Journey Begins…
After a trip that took more than 24 hours, with three take-offs and three landings, we arrived on Sunday night in Kigali, Rwanda. As a bonus, our backpack arrived as well, and also Danny’s guitar, which caught a slight cold.
Because of the 8-hour delay in our connection flight, Ethiopian Airlines arranged for us a hotel to rest in Addis Ababa which is enjoying a very wet season right now. We slept like kings on a queen-size bed in a 4-star hotel for 3 hours. 
Showers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
The airplane changed its course and brought us first to Bujumbura, Burundi. Ethiopia –> Burundi –> Rwanda view from the airplane was spectacular, an unending snake-like river flowing in between huge lumps of green mountains. Finally, we arrived in Kigali where three angels from WE-ACTx were waiting for us (WE-ACTx is the organization where we will work next week).
As promised, the next day we took a bus to Cyangugu in the west. We sat down next to the bus speaker which for 6.5 hours played American hip-hop music from the 90s. Fortunately enough, the scenery outside was so mesmerizing that we forgot all about Will Smith‘s wish to be taller. They should change the name of Rwanda from the land of a thousand hills to the land of two-hundred thousand hills. On the road you go up and down more often than right or left. When the bus entered the enchanting Nyungwe Forest next to Cyangugu, several monkeys on the side of the road welcomed us with a grin.
The view from the bus on the way from Kigali to Cyangugu
So on the first day we did what Fabienne had promised her mother not to do. We took a bus that drove into the night, and when we reached Cyangugu, we had to cover another 5 kilometers, each of us sitting behind a 14-year-old kid who drove a shaky scooter weighing less than our backpack. We slept in a bungalow engulfed in the song of crickets and frogs.
In the morning we woke up to the African singing of fishermen on Lake Kivu, with sprawling hills of green, enormous banana trees, and Congo in the backdrop. There is a leader in the group, and the rest answer his melodic call; they sing mostly about fishery. This marked the beginning of an amazing musical day.
A fisherman returning from the morning fishing
We met with rev. Emmanuel for breakfast, where he told us that in less than an hour we were going to start training 80 teenagers in a secondary school for 6 hours (!!!). Since we did not know really what to expect, this was the greatest challenge we could have imagined.
When we entered the classroom, there were 30 girls and 1 boy, ages 17-22, including the headmaster of the school, rev. Emmanuel, and Ephraim, a youth worker who translated and helped us throughout the workshop. They welcomed us with African songs which touched our hearts and covered us with goosebumps. (We promise to upload videos when we can.)
Rwandan youth during a music training workshop, Cyangugu, Rwanda
We were deeply impressed and moved by their amazing voices. Everyone sings so beautifully! They naturally harmonize the songs that we teach them in 2 or 3 voices. We practiced different activities with the whole group, and in the afternoon continued with a smaller group who stayed with us for 2 days for more intense training.
During the training in Cyangugu
Cyangugu is home to 20,000 Rwandans. There are many orphans, survivors of the genocide. In the school there are 600 pupils, mostly girls, of which 220 are orphans. We ended the day by walking to the main city in Cyangugu district, Kamembe, escorted and guided by Ephraim, who proved to be a wonderful companion.
The town of Kamembe, Cyangugu district, Rwanda
Last gem: the restaurant in the Peace Guest House where we’re staying has a single TV which is 24-7 set to the Big Brother Africa – All Stars channel. The only positive thing about it is that in the program they rarely ever fight, only sing and sing and sing and dance…

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•• Topics Rwanda Youth Music