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WAR DIVIDES, MUSIC CONNECTS
Using music to bridge divides, connect communities,
and heal the wounds of war and conflict.
August 1, 2011 •• Rwanda Youth Music
In Africa: First days thoughts
I’m truly blessed to have had the opportunity to return to Rwanda this summer…

I’m crossing my legs in the airplane, sitting in the middle seat between a talkative, well-dressed man from Holland and a beautiful Rwandan woman. He is seeing his Rwandan girlfriend and bringing a tennis racket stretching machine to his friend at the Dutch embassy. She is visiting her homeland for first time after 4 years since she moved to America. We all stare at the green hills down below but probably see different things. It takes less than 3 hours to cover a distance that would take 5 weeks just a hundred years ago.

What would I see and hear if I did this route back then? In 5 weeks of traveling I would hear hundreds of different dialects and languages and accents, I would listen to magnificent music, prayers and chants, I would hear so many different songs of birds, they could fill the history of music, and the rhythms of galloping animals, of ritual drums and of women battering flour with sticks and stones.

Underneath me is Kenya, and there is Sudan, and on my far right is Congo, and soon we will fly over Uganda and enter Rwanda. Each country name brings up the inevitable connotations of war, poverty, hunger, diseases, genocide, rape. But what about food, and dance and music? What do I know about the people in Africa that doesn’t include the stereotypical image of an African child with a distended belly?

Last year I felt like a stranger, and when we left I felt we had made new friends. Last week when I met these people again a feeling of joy swept through me; such a strong feeling that I hadn’t expected.  We hugged like a family reunited and laughed and sang songs from last year. The next three weeks I will be giving workshops to the youth leaders and work with the children at the summer camp. I’m so honored to be able to give them just a little bit back of what they have been giving me. Africa is a continent with unending amounts of wisdom, beauty, and love. I am trying to absorb everything but am only a child and have still much to learn. With teary eyes I looked into my friend’s eyes, and he smiled and said, “Come on, Dan, let’s make some music.”

•• Topics Rwanda Youth Music