Preserving Music and Culture in Saharawi Refugee Camps

Ethnomusicologist & Project Leader Violeta Ruano writes about Stave House in the Sahara early childhood music education project and the socio-cultural landscape of the Saharawi refugee camps in Southwest Algeria.

Anywhere I go, few people know what on earth I am talking about when I mention that I teach music in refugee camps in the middle of the Sahara desert. Wait, what? Refugees? Western Sahara, is that a country? But are they Algerians? Nevertheless, despite being rather unknown, the Saharawi is one of the longest protracted refugee stories in Africa. The country where these refugees come from, ex-Spanish colony Western Sahara, is still pending decolonization since Morocco annexed it to its territory after Spain left in early 1976, forcing more than half of the population to flee and seek refuge in the nearby harsh Algerian desert. And there, daily battling with extreme temperatures, sandstorms, dust and lack of resources, the resilient Saharawis have been building their own nation in exile for the past 40 years.

stave campView of the Saharawi refugee camp of Boujdour, by Violeta Ruano

One of the most important survival strategies for the Saharawis has precisely been to preserve and bolster their traditional oral culture, which has always had music at its heart. Closely linked to the musical traditions of other parts of West Africa, especially Mauritania, traditional Saharawi music combines powerful poetry in Hassaniya – their local Arabic dialect – with a musical system based on modes, usually sung accompanied by instruments such as the tidinit (lute) and the tbal (drum). Throughout the past decades, the Saharawis have introduced many changes to their music, including revolutionary lyrics documenting their struggle and new instruments such as the electric guitar and the keyboards.

In addition, the Saharawis have also worked hard to provide as many varied educational opportunities for their children and youth to grow strong and independent. Since 1976, they have joined international grant schemes, built and managed local primary and professional schools, and supported a vast number of collaboration projects such as children’s libraries, art residencies, film festivals, concerts and much more. Stave House in the Sahara, officially launched last February 2016, is one of the newest additions to this list.

This project consists on the facilitation – and by facilitation we mean working collaboratively, without impositions – of early childhood music education through the English language in primary schools in the camps. Our methodology aims (we’re still developing it!) to combine oral traditions with innovative and fun music teaching method Stave House (www.stavehouse.co.uk), which has already been successfully implemented in many schools around the world. This method is based around captivating stories and light and portable teaching materials; it doesn’t need electricity nor fancy equipment, which is ideal for the living conditions in the camps.

stave children

Between March and April 2016 I worked alongside 3 Saharawi teachers – Gejmula Mohamed, Fatimetu Melainin and Tekwen Mohamed – to develop lesson plans and activities that link in with and enhance the Saharawi children’s daily study routines, while teaching a pilot project with a group of 30 children. It has been wonderful to see the children thrive with the stories in the lessons while learning basic music concepts and a few useful words in English. Apart from the music curriculum, we also aim to develop a full English language course that draws on poetry, stories, and song lyrics.

Stave House in the Sahara has a simple, but very powerful idea at heart – every child should be able to experience the joys of making music (any music!) no matter the circumstances.

Stave House in the Sahara is a collaborative partnership between Stave House, British charity Sandblast, the London College of Music, the Saharawi Ministries of Culture and Education, and the primary school of Lal Andala, in the refugee camp of Boujdour (although we hope to be reaching other schools soon!). If you want to get involved, visit our recently launched JustGiving fundraising campaign, and please consider making a contribution if you can!

http://campaign.justgiving.com/charity/sandblast/stavehouseinthesahara

Find general information about the Stave House here: http://stavehouseinthesahara.weebly.com/

 Or check out their “sponsor a child” campaign where you can give a year’s worth of music education to a child in the refugee camp: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1Nvmu8QFRGgRmZOSmJndGlDTGs/view

“Weeping”- An Anti-Apartheid Song Written By South African Songwriter, Dan Heymann

sowetoWe’ve just reviewed the new Bala Brothers cd on Warner Brothers records which showcases two of the most widely known anti-apartheid anthems.  Our last post shared the background of the song: “Something Inside So Strong”.  Here’s more about singer-songwriter, Dan Heymann and his powerful song: “Weeping” which appears on that same cd, but has also been covered by a host of artists both in South Africa and around the world.

Although it’s hard to find a great deal of information on the author of this song, we do know that Dan Heymann is a South African citizen who spoke out against apartheid and recorded a 1987 version of his song, “Weeping” with his band, Bright Blue.  That original version played on the radio in South Africa and included a refrain from the “illegal” anthem of the African National Congress.  Checking out Dan’s webpages, you can see he was actively involved with many artists, including Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Vusi Mahlasela, many of whom risked life and limb to express their desires for freedom and equality.  In 1999, readers of the South African Rock Encyclopedia voted “Weeping” the “All-time favorite South African Song”.

You can see two video versions of the song below.  The first is by popular American artist, Josh Groban, performing live on the David Letterman show.  The other is from Dan Heymann’s band, Bright Blue.


2008 – Josh Groban’s Performance of “Weeping” on the David Letterman Show

Bright Blue’s Version of “Weeping”

Lyrics – Weeping
Written by Dan Heymann/Copyright Bright Blue)

I knew a man who lived in fear 
It was huge, it was angry, it was drawing near


Behind his house, a secret place 
Was the shadow of the demon he could never face 


He built a wall of steel and flame and men with guns, to keep it tame 


Then standing back, he made it plain 


That the nightmare would never ever rise again


But the fear and the fire and the guns remain

It doesn’t matter now 


It’s over anyhow 


He tells the world that it’s sleeping 


But as the night came round 
I heard its lonely sound


It wasn’t roaring, it was weeping

And then one day the neighbors came


They were curious to know about the smoke and flame


They stood around outside the wall 


But of course there was nothing to be heard at all 


“My friends,” he said, “We’ve reached our goal 


The threat is under firm control 


As long as peace and order reign 
I’ll be damned if I can see a reason to explain”

What Does The Lyrics Mean?  

Although it’s easy to grasp the concept behind the song, the author explains the symbolism behind the lyrics in his own words:

“I’ve been asked many times about the symbolism in the Weeping lyrics, so maybe I should say something here. The man referred to in the Weeping lyrics is the late P. W. Botha, one of the last white leaders of South Africa before the end of the Apartheid regime; The demon he could never face (in the Weeping lyrics) refers to the aspirations of the oppressed majority, while the Weeping lyrics also refer to the neighbors, literally the journalists from other countries who were monitoring the situation in South Africa.”

Check out Dan’s webpages, resources and other songs which can be found at the links below.  He is an incredible writer with a wealth of talent as well as powerful songs and valuable cultural resources.

Resources

Dan Heymann’s Webpage for “Weeping”
http://www.weeping.info/index.html

Dan Heymann’s “Compressed History of Apartheid”
http://www.weeping.info/anti-apartheid-movement.html

Background of the Song: Something Inside So Strong

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/something-inside-so-strong-a-powerful-anti-apartheid-song-and-much-more/

The Bala Brothers – New CD release on Warner Brothers Records
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/do-you-know-the-bala-brothers/

Do You Know The Bala Brothers?

bala long shotAlthough the Bala Brothers – Loyiso, Zwai and Phelo – are household words in South Africa, they’re not so familiar to American audiences. Until now.  This month, a new Warner Brothers CD release, a PBS documentary and a DVD will certainly bring this superbly talented trio of brothers into the US spotlight.  A US tour is scheduled for May 2015.

Who are the Brothers Bala? Here are the basics. Born into a poor household in the Kwa-Nobuhle township of apartheid South Africa, the family household was filled with music. Everyone in the family sang and the children’s parents met while participating in church choirs. The boys’ grandfather was a choral composer who saw the talent in the children and even asked Zwai to help with musical arrangements. By age ten, Zwai had his own choir and his stunningly beautiful voice won him a place in the then-segregated Drakensberg Boys Choir.

Although it was extremely difficult to be the first young black man in a high profile, all-white choir, Zwai, persisted and eventually made way not only for his 2 brothers but for a host of other talented singers to follow after him. Eventually, two of the brothers would form a group and then recruit the third. Finally in 2013, this beloved group would wow an audience of 55,000 when they performed a powerful concert tribute to Nelson Mandela in December of that year.

How can audiences in the USA experience the Bala Brothers? Their powerful music and personal saga is chronicled by the PBS special and the DVD (links below), but you can also purchase their latest cd which is a live recording of many of their most popular songs including “Circle of Life” (from Elton John’s score for The Lion King), Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies”, “Masibuyelane” (A love song in the Xhosa language) and the album’s centerpiece – a powerful anti-apartheid anthem entitled, “Something Inside So Strong”.

This short video is a great introduction to the latest release plus the powerful story of this majestic trio. Below, you can also see a full length video of “Something Inside So Strong” sung with the famous (now integrated) Drakensberg Boys Choir.

Links and Resources

Official Bala Brothers Website  http://www.BalaBrothers.com  

Purchase Links – Amazon, Itunes and Spotify

http://www.balabrothers.com/newalbum/

CD:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S1QQ8TW

DVD/Blu-ray:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00S2T3U1M

We Are Happy – A Song Of the Abayudya of Uganda

JJ Keki UgandaWe’re so pleased to have a guest post here from a musician who had truly traveled the world to share music. Take a moment to meet Jay Sand and learn about the “We Are Happy” song he uses to open his wonderful concerts that shares world traditions with the children.

I’m Jay Sand, a music teacher from Philadelphia and founder of All Around This World (http://www.allaroundthisworld.com), a global music and world cultures program for little kids. In 1999, long before I discovered my passion for multicultural music, my backpack, my camera, my guitar and I ventured to Africa where I visited, photographed and sang songs with members of several communities of Africans who practice Judaism–from Tunisia to Ethiopia, Ghana to Zimbabwe. My goal at the time was to document the multicultural reality of the Jewish people and share images, music and stories from my travels with an American Jewish community that seemed reluctant to accept Jews that were not Western and, especially, not white.

The African Jews who welcomed me most fully on my first voyage were the Abayudya of Uganda, a group of about 1,000 Bagandans who live scattered among several villages near the eastern Ugandan city of Mbale. “Abayudaya” means “the people of Judah.” In 1919 a prominent Ugandan leader, Semei Kakungulu, completed his process of religious exploration by committing to following Jewish laws and practices as described in the Old Testament and declaring himself and his several hundred followers to be Jews. For the next 75 years the Abayudaya had very little contact with others who practices Judaism, save for some meetings with visiting European-descended Jews who informally shared information about observances and holidays. The community didn’t wait for Jewish travelers to tell them how to practice. They built their own customs based on Jewish books visitors brought them and wrote their own Jewish music using lyrics from Bibles Christian missionaries had translated into local languages. In the mid 1990s community members decided to reach out, sending their young “Rabbi,” Gershom Sizoumu to Nairobi, Kenya to connect with the wider world.

In Nairobi Gershom connected with a friend of mine who sent me a cassette of the Abayudaya’s unique African-Jewish music. It was melodic, joyful and so inviting that I began to formulate a scheme to visit Uganda that I finally realized in 1999. The highlight of my time with the Abayudaya was getting to sing with Gershom and other members of the community. Over the next several years I traveled around the United States making multimedia presentations about African Jews at museums, universities and for community groups. The audiences responded most enthusiastically, and were most accepting of the non-traditional Jews I had visited, when I taught them African-Jewish music.

“We Are Happy” is one of two songs the Abayudaya sing to greet important visitors. Rabbi Gershom and his brother JJ Keki wrote the two songs and led the community in singing them for me during my first visit. When I founded All Around This World in 2009 and realized every children’s music class must — must! — have a hello song, I couldn’t have been more pleased when Gershom and JJ gave me permission to blend their two songs into one and sing that song with my students. Since then I have sung my version of “We Are Happy” at the beginning of every class, each time changing the language of our greeting to match that week’s featured country. In my classes I’ve taken “We Are Happy” to well over a hundred countries and taught it to thousands of children and their grownups. Every time my students sing “We Are Happy,” while my tiny, enthusiastic students are thinking about how much fun they’re going to have learning about the world music class, I think of Gershom, JJ, and their tiny, enthusiastic community that appreciates the mind-opening power of a song.

Listen to the “We Are Happy” original on YouTube:

Listen to the merengue version of “We Are Happy” found on the All Around This World: Latin America CD:
http://allaroundthisworld.bandcamp.com/track/we-are-happy-hello-hola-merengue

Meet the Abayudaya:
http://www.bechollashon.org/projects/abayudaya/abayudaya.php

Lyrics of “We Are Happy” on All Around This World: Latin America:
Ooh, bop bop bop! Ooh, bop bop bop.
We are happy, we are happy on this day.

Hola everybody! (“Hello” in Spanish),
Bom dia everybody! (“Good morning” in Portuguese),
Buiti binafi everybody! (“Good morning” in Garifuna),
Imaynallam everybody! (“How are things going?” in Quechua)
 

 

 

Pictured at the top left of this post is JJ Keki, composer of one of the two greeting songs Jay blended to create his own version of “We Are Happy.”

Bead Your Own African Shekere

traditional-shekeres-from-around-the-world- A shekere (or sekere) is a beautiful and unique instrument originating in West Africa that appears in various shapes, sizes and forms throughout the continent of Africa.  Made from a simple dried gourd with a beaded “skirt”, shekeres are a great addition to any environment where children are learning about music or world cultures.

mini shekere for storeIf you’re finding it hard to locate or purchase a shekere for your classroom, home or homeschool, you might consider making your own.  Other then the dried gourd, the additional materials are easy to find and the beading process is “easy to moderate” for beginning crafters.  In fact, since the stringing and beading is the part of the process that generates the most questions and confusion, we’ve partnered with Carrie P. from a wonderful blog called Crafty Moms Share to develop a step-by-step tutorial for making your own dried gourd shekere.  (Complete gourd tutorial and other related shekere posts can be found at the links below).

beads for shekere kitsBeads, Seeds, Nuts or Seashells

Along with beads, almost any small, roundish, rattling object can be used as the noise-makers on a shekere.  If you take a close look at the shekeres pictured above, you’ll notice beads as well as seeds woven into the netting.  In Africa, some shekeres also use seashells or hard seeds or nuts with holes drilled though them as part of their unique design.

Add Some String

The skirt of a shekere is created from a type of string or twine that is durable and will not break or stretch.  Since cotton twine will stretch, nylon or hemp is a better choice for creating a working shekere.  Because the top circle or collar of the netting holds all the other strings in place, some craftspeople pick a thicker string for this or braid the twine for a more durable start to the project.

shekere skirt no beadsAnd Some Knots!

With your collar in place around the gourds neck, you are ready to add the strings.

Cut a number of strings (enough to fit around the gourd) approximately 30 inches long.  Fold each string in half and make a slip knot with it around the collar.  To make a slip knot, put the folded string under the collar with the fold on top and then bring the ends through the loop of the fold and collar and tighten.

Once you have all the strings you desire in place you will tie a loop knot to secure each location. A loop knot is where you make a “6” with your strings and bring the end through the loop of it. This is the type of knot we will be using for the rest of the project.

starting to beadAdd The Beads

Here are Carrie’s great suggestions for getting the hang of adding beads to the skirt:

Adding the beads is where you creativity really comes into play.

You can do many different things with the beads. Some put a bead on each string, others put two strings through a bead. Some put a single bead between knots and others go up to three beads before knotting. The important thing is to work with a string from two different knots.

Once you have your bead(s) in place, tie a loose loop knot. I re-started many of mine because I did not like how the first round looked and found they lay better with looser knots.  Do an entire round before starting the next.

Once you have one round complete, start the next.  Stay consistent with however you’ve started with beads and knots, but again you want to use strings from different knots. This will bring the beads in the first round closer together. Continue doing a round at a time until you have the skirt you want.

finishing the bottomFinish The Instrument!

Here are Carrie’s two descriptions for two methods of finishing the skirt and completing the shekere:

Method 1: The first is to have another loop similar to the collar (braided if you used braided) and the same size. Then you tie your ends to the loop so it hangs loosely below the gourd.

Method 2: If your gourd is small you can take an 8-inch string and tie the ends together. This is easier to do with another person holding your shekere for you to tie them together.

colorful kids shekere beadedMaking Music!

If you take a look at the resources below you’ll find many wonderful ways to check out the sound of traditional shekeres or explore music with the ones you’ve created.

Enjoy!

Complete Tutorials

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Make-Your-Own-Shekere-African-Percussion-Instrument-Tutorial-992550

http://dariasvillagestore.storenvy.com/collections/34585-all-products/products/4084121-make-your-own-shekere-african-instrument-tutorial

tall-and-thin-sekere--PMLinks and Resources

Hear A Shekere
http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a Shekere Online
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Carries Crafty Moms Share Blog
craftymomsshare.blogspot.com/‎

Sekere.com – Beaded Sekeres from Master Craftswoman, Sara Fabunmi
http://www.sekere.com

Cultural Value of the Shekere, Article By Sara Fabunmi
https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-cultural-value-of-the-sekere/

Make a Classroom Shekere (From A Gourd)
http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/easy-gourd-shekere-for-a-child-or-a-classroom/

Make a Recycled Shekere (From A Milk Jug)
http://www.dariamusic.com/make_Shekere.php

An Alphabet Shekere Game
http://www.trueaimeducation.com/2012/10/guest-post-learning-letters-with-an-alphabet-shekere.html

African Roots of the Banjo

Most people associate the banjo with bluegrass music or with the culture of the rural South of the United States.  But if you dig a bit deeper, it appears that the banjo has African roots.  In fact, most scholars and music historians trace the banjo back to amazing, creative “banjo ancestors” found in various regions of Africa.

If you’d like to learn more about the cross-cultural travels of the banjo, check out the resources below.

           

NPR Reconsiders The Roots of The Banjo

In a short podcast, NPR’s Greg Allen tells to story of Gambian musician, Laemouahuma Daniel Jatta and his banjo-like akonting.  The akonting has three strings, a long neck as a fretboard and a main sounding area made from a gourd stretched with goatskin.  Jatta, who learned the instrument from his father, belong to the Jola people and the similarities of this instrument to modern American banjos are explored in this short audio podcast with great photos and a striking Youtube video.

The Banjo’s Roots Reconsidered

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/23/139880625/the-banjos-roots-reconsidered

Bela Fleck’s Throw Down Your Heart

Acclaimed US banjo player, Bela Fleck was so intrigued with the banjo’s roots that he took a trip to Africa to make his own comparisons.  The result was a documentary called “Throw Down Your Heart” which follows Bela’s journey and offers interviews with African master musicians as well as plenty of jam sessions between instruments.  The short excerpt below gives you a taste of this cross-cultural banjo experience.

African “Banjo” Music and Bluegrass

Want to compare African “banjo” music and bluegrass?  Here’s Banjo Bloggers list of top 10 songs that can illustrate bluegrass banjo music.  Checking out these tunes can show you some striking similarities and differences between the musical styles of both continents.

http://banjoblogger.com/?p=125

 

It’s A Caxixi!

caxixis 4 lying downCaxixi (pronounced ka-shee-shee) rattles are beautifully woven, small, hand percussion instruments that can be found in Africa and South America.  These simple rattles have a flat piece on the bottom originally made from a dried gourd.  Modern caxixis can have plastic or metal bottoms as well.  The rest of the rattle is a woven “basket” that holds small items which create the sound when it is shaken. The basket area is made of pliable fiber and can be one color or beautiful patterns of colors woven together.  Some caxixis have two baskets attached to one handle.

Although this instrument may look quite simple, a caxixi rattle can make a wide variety of sounds.  You can shake the contents against the softer side of the woven rattle for one sound or against the harder bottom part for another tone.  Skilled percussionists can create some really intricate rhythms with caxixis and they are often used by singers in West Africa when performing with a drum group.  In Brazil, the caxixi is often seen creating the percussion sound for a unique stringed instrument called a birembau.

On modern jazz recordings, you can frequently hear the caxixi played by Brazilian percussionist, vocalist and berimbau player, Naná Vasconcelos.

Make Your Own Caxixi

If you are up for some serious crafting, a Brazilian site called Soul Capoeira shows you how to make real caxixis from fiber and gourds at the post below.  If you’d like to try an easier version from recycled materials – a great project for kids – check out the post from Tiny Tapping Toes, below.

During the month of August 2013, you can win a caxixi rattle in an easy Rafflecopter contest here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Links

Soul Capoeira’s Make Your Own Caxixi Post – From Reeds or Rattan and Gourd Shells

http://soulcapoeira.org/music/how-to-make-a-caxixi/

Make Your Own Caxixi From Recycled Materials

http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/make-your-own-woven-caxixi-rattle/

Vuvuzelas – The Horn That Is Loved (And Hated) All Over The World!

Although this horn originated in South Africa, it seems to have found it’s way all over the planet – especially where soccer fans want to cheer on their team.   One South African fan claims he fabricated the original vuvuzela from a metal bicycle horn, but since that time you can see many different versions made from a variety of materials, including some pretty creative homemade horns such as some of the ones seen here.

We’re grateful to the Media Club South Africa for sharing these many images of how different cultures have adopted, altered or welcomed this unique instrument into their world.

Above: A vuvuzela playing a duet with a Slovakian wind instrument called the fujara.

Above left:  A homemade vuvuzela decorated in team colors played by a child in São José dos 
Campos, Brazil.

Above right: A dad and daughter in Seoul, South Korea watch their team at the 2010 Fifa World Cup match.

Below left: Even Spiderman loves the vuvuzela! Photo from Berlin, Germany, 2010 Fifa World Cup 
quarterfinals.

Below right:  A soccer fan from Uruguay plays his homemade version of a vuvuzela as his team beats Ghana in the 2010 Fifa World Cup 
match.

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During June 2013, you can win a vuvuzela on DARIA’s monthly song page here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

You can also find easy directions to make your own from recycled materials here:

http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Vuvuzela.pdf

What is a Vuvuzela?

The vuvuzela has been called the most annoying or irritating instrument in the world.  Originating in South Africa, this loud collapsible horn became popular at soccer matches – especially the World Cup 2010 – and has since spread to countries all over the globe

Although it’s roots are not certain, many historians believe it was inspired by the horn of a kudu (antelope) and early versions were used to call villagers to community gatherings.  The word “vuvuzela” is a bit of a mystery.  Some people trace it to a Zulu phrase meaning “to make a vuvu sound”.  However one South African soccer fan named Freddie “Saddam” Maake feels he invented this unique creation by fabricating one from an aluminum bicycle horn and he identifies the word vuvuzela as coming from Zulu words meaning “welcome”, “unite” and “celebration.” Another group, the Nazareth Baptist Church in South Africa, has evidence that the vuvuzela was used as part of their worship before it became universally popular in the soccer stadiums.

So why do people love or hate this horn?  Well, first of all, it’s loud.  In fact, some sporting events and other venues and locations  have banned the horns.  Experts agree that being too close to one played at full volume for an extended period of time can cause noise-induced hearing loss.  Secondly, they only make one note and can drone on, although some serious players claim they can get a variation in sound by playing the vuvuzela like a didgeridoo.

Can you make your own version of a vuvuzela that won’t be as loud as it’s soccer match cousins?  Yes!  Check out the pdf below to find a craft activity that uses recycled materials to make your own homemade version. http://www.dariamusic.com/docs/Vuvuzela.pdf

Want to hear one?  Check out Vuvuzela Radio at the link below where you can hear a vuvuzela proudly proclaiming it’s one note,  24/7!

http://www.vuvuzela.fm/

Photo Credits:  Image of a boy playing vuvuzela and a South African Stadium worker playing a vuvuzela in the World Cup stadium in South Africa (above) are courtesy of MediaClubSouthAfrica.com.  This outstanding website shares a wealth of information about all aspects of South African life, arts, history, travel and tourism and can be found at:

http://www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com

World Fair Trade Day – A Great Time To Explore Musical Instruments from Around The World

Almost everyone can relate to this.

They’ve had a job for which they were underpaid or underappreciated.  Well, picture that in a third world setting where people have few employment options.  They work in dirty, unsafe conditions with unreasonable work hours and sometimes cannot protest or complain without fear of retribution or brutality.  The recent fires in Bangladesh clothing factories have highlighted how the worst of these unfair practices can create deadly and tragic results.

Is there an alternative?  Especially if people want to purchase special items from other cultures, such as clothing, chocolate, coffee or musical instruments like these beautiful handbells from Nepal?  Yes, there is fair trade!  And May 11th marks World Fair Trade Day, so it’s a good time to learn more about this important topic.  You can check out the 10 principles of fair trade below.

One of my favorite fair trade stores was started by a Mennonite woman in the 1940’s named Edna Ruth Byler.  She knew that if people in third world nations or village settings could do what they loved such as traditional arts and crafts and they were sold at fair prices, then these people could live with dignity and keep vibrant, safe communities alive.  She named her project: “Self-Help Crafts Of The World”.  Over 60 years later, the store is now called Ten Thousand Villages and has numerous physical locations as well as an online store for purchases.

What does Ten Thousand Villages sell?  It has an amazing array of handcrafts, jewelry, coffees, teas, soaps and other items.  And musical instruments.  You can find rainsticks from Chile and colorful folded palm rattles made in India.  They offer delicate tingsha bells and beautiful singing bowls in a variety of shapes and sizes.  There are gourd rattles, kalimbas (pictured here) and drums from Africa, ocarinas and whistles from South America and an ever-changing array of products that have been purchased and certified fair trade.  For most items, you can read the story behind the artisans as well as how and where each object was created.

This year on World Fair Trade Day, I’ll be at my local Ten Thousand Village store sharing the magic of singing bowls – how each one is different and unique and can be used to create beautiful sound as well as for healing purposes.  If you can’t get to one of these stores, feel free to visit them online and consider purchasing some of the wonderful goods that they offer.

Purchasing “fair trade” makes a difference for the planet, not only in the lives of an artisan, but because it makes a statement.  It’s great to know that we can vote with our dollars for a world that treats everyone with dignity and respect!  And if you purchase an instrument “fair trade”, you’re contributing to world harmony – in more ways than one!

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During the month of May 2013, you can win this beautiful rainstick made by a cooperative of artisans in Santiago de Chile.  (2nd give-away on page)

http://www.dariamusic.com/monthly_song.php

Resources And Links

World Fair Trade Organization

http://www.wfto.com/

10 Principles of Fair Trade

http://www.wfto.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2&Itemid=14

Ten Thousand Villages – Home Page

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/

Musical Instruments From Ten Thousand Villages

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/products/musical-instruments