Shangilia Dancers

June 14, 2007 at 2:00 am (The Group, Trip 2007)

Here is a video of the performance the kids at Shangilia put on for us on the first day we visited. They’re beautiful dancers, and they are so young! Most of the girls are around 10-13 years old. Enjoy!


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Shangilia Acrobats

June 12, 2007 at 6:35 pm (The Group, Trip 2007)

This is part of a performance that the kids at Shangilia put on for us on the first day. Enjoy!

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The tears finally came and now they might not stop

June 7, 2007 at 2:49 pm (Spencer, Trip 2007)

Maybe I am just following in suit behind Beth who made a similar post yesterday, but when I woke up this morning I decided to finally check the blog for the first time in a while.

Of course my mum has been checking it every day and telling me about all the posts, so I was prepared for what I was reading and seeing, but the video brought me back in ways I didn’t realize it would. I immediately broke down in tears for the first time since I have been back. My feeling have also been cut off and pushed away not wanting to deal with the depression and disconnect that we all were told to be prepared for.

My days at home have been filled with seeing old friends and new, catching up on the latest in my hometown, commuting to Boston as much as possible to keep busy and get away from my thoughts.

As I sit here with the utube video on repeat and the sound of the kids singing from my computer I feel as though I was just there yesterday, picking up Joseph and giving him my hat to wear all day, arm wrestling and playing “thumb war”, getting chased and tackled by five kids at once who are all yelling “Rooney” at me, trying to learn lyrics in Swahili from Charles. God I miss Charles so much, so so much, I miss all the kids so much. I’m not even in the video that was recorded because I was hiding in a back classroom with Joseph and John letting them take turns strumming the guitar while I made up songs and they sang along. My heart feels pain that I am not there, and that there is not more I can do at this time for the kids I fell in love with, all of the kids.

I miss the quiet kids, the ones that didn’t run up and grab your hands, or start singing really loudly the moment you taught them a new song, the kids that needed so much work just to get them to crack a smile, the kids you just wanted to hold all fucking day long and never let go of and tell them you would take care of them forever but you couldn’t.

I miss everyone that I traveled with and saw everyday for two weeks, I miss njeru and don. I miss my roomie Amanda (come back to us!), and as the thoughts and fears of being really done with Berklee start to settle in I realize that people like my roomie won’t be in Boston next year, and I have no idea where I’m going to be.

Even as I sit here and write I feel my guard start to go up, something in me that keeps me from letting me feel it all. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard to talk to people about what my experience was like, in order for someone to get a true answer out of me, I would have to open my heart and let them look inside, I would have to break down in tears and tell them what every little step of the way felt like, I would have to explain exactly what it was like to walk away from the orphanage at the end of the day, get into a van, and try not to scream and punch the chair in front of me for the whole car ride back to our hotel, chocking back tears and thinking about the kids.

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From Samite Mulondo, Founder of Musicians for World Harmony

June 7, 2007 at 12:59 pm (Samite, Trip 2007)

I am so happy that I had a chance to meet and work with you all. This was again a life changing experience for me. The energy you brought to the orphanage in Kenya was amazing. Its hard to explain in words.

When I left everyone after hearing that amazing song “Asante Sana” at Java house, I was filled with so much love and I knew then that my dream had come true. I was finally helping other musicians share the healing power of music. It was great to know that even without me the work can go on! Thank you all for sharing my dream.

The young people whose hearts you touched will never forget you or the experience. It does not matter that you are not there now, your touch will always feel like a warm fire burning in a cold winter and it will keep giving them hopeful even though they have sadness in their lives.

I know exactly how you feel right now, so many questions in your mind. I always get these feelings too. Sometimes its feelings of guilt, sadness, joy at the same time, and for me its mostly guilt that I am not doing enough to make the world a better place, feeling like I could do a lot more than what I am able to do right now. But over the years I have learned that even the little I do makes a big difference.

I have learned this from the letters I get from my fans and also from the orphans or refugees I have visited. This is just the beginning, you will make so many people happy in your life time. Please send my greetings to every one and let them know I love them all.

Mirembe (Peace)


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Finally starting to feel again

June 6, 2007 at 3:17 pm (Beth, Trip 2007)


Samite said we’d be depressed when we came back to the States, but I was honestly starting to think it just wasn’t going to happen. But this morning, waking up to Miriam’s cat meowing loudly at me and walking on my head, I felt sadness swirling around inside me for the first time since leaving Kenya. And surprisingly, I was glad to feel sad. Not feeling my feelings is very strange for me, since I’m usually a self-proclaimed emotional basket case.

I think my body was protecting me from the magnitude of the experience by numbing me. It’s like seeing something really intense or jarring–the mind just says, “okay, well this is too much for you to deal with right now, so I’m just going to shut down, and we’ll deal with this later.” It’s a protective mechanism, and it works really well.

But eventually, the feelings start to come back. I think to myself, “why am I feeling like this now? I already had the experience, and it’s over now. I shouldn’t feel sad now, I should be fine.” But that’s just not how it works.

I think I’m staying at Miriam’s place for the rest of the summer, which is aaaaaaawesome. What better way to process my emotions from the trip than to hang out with my roommate from the trip and go through it with her? I’m very grateful to her for offering me her living room. And I’m very excited to be back in Jamaica Plain, which is where I lived last year. It’s so much more laid back and beautiful than the city, which really helps with the transition back into “real life.”

I’m really just rambling now, but I wanted to say hi on the blog. I hope people keep reading and responding on here, it is such an amazing way to stay in touch. I can’t wait to put the report together with writings from all of us and pictures. And the DVD!! I have no idea when that will be put together, but I can’t wait.

Love you all very very very very very much.


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Reconciling Priorities

June 5, 2007 at 4:45 pm (Karen, Trip 2007)

    We are back physically but that’s about it. How do we prioritize what to do next? Yesterday, I taught my first class for the summer semester at Berklee – MTH 431 – “Music Therapy and Medicine” – I can not teach that class the same way as in the past – music is healing, music is health and music is empowering – this, I have always believed but now it has even more meaning. In Kenya, I have seen firsthand, how music can elevate the human spirit and is woven into the very fabric of living – no separation between health and music – it is one. No need to write in medical charts, give workshops on the power of music to heal, or do extensive research projects – music as a healing modality is embraced and accepted and part of the culture.
    As the trip began to wind down, we packed more into each hour – spending time with the children at the orphanages was a priority. Listening to their stories, creating songs with and for them, and then recording the music at Eric Wainaina’s studio all seemed like a natural part of the day and night. Eric introduced us to his business partner, Tim Rimbui, a gifted recording engineer, who graciously and patiently worked with us and the children. Both Eric and Tim gave of their time and resources to support this project and for that, we are indebted.
    While the Music Therapy students spent their final days at Shangilia, I was invited to visit the African Cultural Research and Education Foundation (ACREF) centre in Baba Dogo. Eric is working closely with George Otieno to create performance-based programs for youth as well as parenting programs for those with children with disabilities. Wyndy joined me and we met children with cerebral palsy, visual impairments etc. Wyndy started singing to a little boy who was blind and again I was impressed how comfortable our students are to connect with children, no matter what the disability or where the location – from the Kennedy Day School in Brighton to Baba Dogo in Nairobi – children are children.
    On the morning before we left, Isaac Kavehere, Vocal Director at Shangilia came to our hotel to give us a vocal master class. He conducts a 250-member Unity Community Choir and he brought some members with him to teach us, “Atiyo Ni Ruodha” (I’m Working for My Lord”). With everything that presented itself, the students rose to the occasion and put their hearts and souls into the dancing and singing. It was like an aerobic workout, but much, much better. I felt quite fortunate to be able to learn and listen to traditional African melodies that still maintained the authentic elements and were left intact.
    Where do we go from here? I went on a ‘fact-finding’ mission for music therapy and Berklee and returned with much more than I imagined – the music, the children, the potential to develop innovative partnerships… Musicians for World Harmony kicked off this initiative and it continues to blossom and grow. Is there really a way to sustain the relationships and experience for others? Indeed, there is….

    Shangilia Children’s Choir is coming to the United States this fall/winter 2007. Tony Micocci, International tour agent for the children’s choir is pulling the pieces together. Last year, this group went to Greece. This year, they will be spending a majority of the time in New York, but there is talk about Atlanta, Minneapolis, Washington, DC – why not Boston? They want to come to Berklee – making that happen, would be a dream. “How” is the next question….

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