May 28, 2010 – Dadaab is a refugee camp situated in North Eastern Kenya. It is the largest refugee camp in the world with approximately 300,000 refugees, a number that keeps growing every month because of the critical situation facing Somalia.
Anyway, sometime in April of this year, Film Aid and UNHCR for Japan sat down and came up with a music competition project.
“The whole competition came about after a Japanese band by the name “Yuzu” visited the Dadaab camp and did a song with one of the refugee girls. From that they realised that they could to do something further. A project that would make people know that the refugee story is real and what refugee life is like. More music came to mind and the Yuzu Camp Beat competition was born,” explains Solomon Mwendwa of Film Aid International.
The competition wasn’t going to be just about music and entertainment though, as one of its main objectives is to raise funds to improve the standards of education and awareness on refugee existence.
There are three camps within Dadaab: Ifo, Hagadera and Dagahaley. Competitors came from the three camps and some tough competition was witnessed. There were rappers and singers, and the youth sang songs based on the themes of human rights, peace and reconciliation and education. In the end, there were three finalists one from each camp in an event that created quite a buzz in Dadaab.
The main judging panel composed of Solomon from FilmAid, Natalie from UNHCR and a talented musician who is also the project’s music consultant Maia Von Lekow. The performances were a testimony to the various musical cultures existing in the camps.
The finalists were taken through extensive training on voice control, breathing skills, and microphone techniques among other essential musical skills that would enable them improve their singing and stage performance.
From a group of about 27 contestants, three winners were chosen; namely Batman Soldiers from Ifo camp, Ahmed Mohamed Hassan from Hagadera, and Golden Blue Girls from Dagahaley.
They are now at a new level where they will compete with each other.
They are in Nairobi, where they will record their tracks and do a music video. They will work with the music resource persons to come up with beats to accompany their songs.
Once the recording has been done, the songs and videos will then be shared online for people to vote for the ultimate winner.
Josephine Daniel, a young girl who hails from Sudan and her group the Golden Blue girls (made up of three girls and a keyboard player) spoke to Capital Lifestyle. She is one elated finalist. She loves to sing and is excited to be in Nairobi. Education and the African continent are subjects very dear to her group’s hearts and that is why they did two songs on those themes.
“The competition was quite tough but I had faith that we would make it through to semi finals,” she beamed. Now in Nairobi, she is praying that things go her way so that the Golden Blue girls are crowned winners.
On the other hand a confident Ahmed Hassan is making the most of his experience in Nairobi. He is learning a lot. Already he has gotten a chance to see Eric Wainana and the Village band (whom he admires musically) in action. His song is themed on peace and he cannot wait to get to work.
As for the Batman Soldiers, the whole experience has been awesome. Danny from the group who has loved music ever since he can remember will do two tracks on HIV and Refugee life.
Maia von Lekow, a professional music consultant and musician, has been involved with this whole project from the beginning.
“I approached Film Aid a while back to see if they could include me in some workshops they were working on that involved music and art. So when they called me for this project I jumped at the chance,” shares Maia.
She would love to see music available to everyone. “There’s been great support from NGOs and I hope for such projects in future. The idea of working with fellow musicians from different areas, different styles and different backgrounds really excites me,” she concluded.
The three finalists are hoping against hope that they will emerge the ultimate winner. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner so…we will wait, vote and see. The journey meanwhile has just begun for these talented youth from Dadaab refugee camp.
Capital Lifestyle will keep you posted on this worthy ongoing project…