In the few days I have been back from the Congo, I have had a difficult time speaking about our time there. There is no simple explanation to what we saw and felt. When I did find words, they came all at once, jumbled and emotional. I have been moved in ways I have yet to understand. When I listened back to field recordings of the women of a village singing in harmony, I couldn't speak. When I listened back to the recording of the electric response of a Congolese church service, or the young musicians from the mountain town of Lemera singing their song Pole Pole Tu Ta Shinda "Slowly we will Succeed" a plea to end the violence in their village……. I could not speak. There is a rawness and beauty that is indescribable.
As musical ambassadors, we were in the country to learn, share and break through barriers. We were there to amplify the stories, struggles, passion and talent that we saw, and relay back. To start a call and response between our communities and theirs. I have a lot to say about what I heard. Akili has a lot to say about what he heard. The artists, villagers, farmers, soldiers and children have a lot to say for themselves. I just hope we can do them justice in the music that we create and the stories that we tell.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is messy, politically insane and overwhelming. There are gigantic gaps in infrastructure, general safety, access to healthcare or hospitals, education, clean water….. I mean, a solution to help the country as a whole is beyond our comprehension….. but, to start small… to think local….. Artists are always at the front lines of change. They speak for the people even when it is not safe to do so. Helping empower young voices to become the next unified voice for their communities. Helping them send their songs and stories out to the world and having the world relay back, letting them know that we hear them. That is why we were there. That is why we will go back. Call and response.
The Earthwork Music collective believes in the intrinsic and historical power of music to raise both community and self-awareness and serves to facilitate and encourage original music in the state of Michigan and beyond.