Artists creating more than music.
In 2008, musicologist Christopher Kirkley traveled to Africa with an acoustic guitar and a field recording device to capture and document the native music. This formative trip and subsequent visits developed into Sahel Sounds, a backwater Portland record label serving to produce previously unknown African artists from the Sahel Region.
Kirkley’s African travels eventually landed him in the Sahel, a geographic region of West Africa, encompassing parts of Mali, Senegal, and Niger, among other countries. Instead of recording the sought-after traditional acoustic folk songs, Kirkley was bombarded by a completely opposite form of music, high paced tinny electronic music blasted out of tiny cell phone speakers. The music of this part of the world had become a copyright free industry of home brew songs complete with electronic drum beats, auto tuned vocals, and high speed rap, all shared cell phone to cell phone via Bluetooth. Kirkley abandoned his desire to document traditional folk music and instead copied these unique mp3s and brought them back to Portland.
Upon Kirkley’s return home, he set up the label Sahel Sounds and began tracking down and producing the artists discovered in Africa. The label has now put out two volumes entitled Music From Saharan Cell Phones, available on cassette, vinyl, and for digital download. Since his first trip, the region has fallen under restrictive Islamic laws banning cell phone music. By producing Music From Saharan Cell Phones as well as other titles—full length LP’s by a variety of artists—Sahel Sounds has been able to preserve some of this unique musical culture and get the musicians some money for their work through sales in Western countries.
The western world is flooded with unethical consumer products which are directly and indirectly encouraged by media and music. In response, British Columbian guitar maker Jay Duncan (Duncan Guitars) has been producing high-end acoustic guitars for many years. Duncan realized that quality guitars could be produced to combat this unethical consumerism by helping others to gain a better quality of life.
Duncan’s vision was realized in 2007 through the starting of Duncan Africa. His vision was and is to train Ugandan locals to produce world-class acoustic guitars, giving them valuable skills and jobs. Since its inception, Duncan Africa has trained sixteen locals to produce exquisite guitars, with plans to double the number of workers shortly. Not only do the locals work alongside Duncan to hand-build each guitar, they are also schooled in Math, English, Business, Computers, and First-Aid.
Each lesson, from the shop floor to the classroom, is set on an ethical background developed through Biblical principles. Duncan Africa is not a missionary organization per-say, but a company set up by a group of people who want to share the love of Christ in a practical way. The company is providing the locals with opportunities that would not have otherwise been possible. Various artists support Duncan Africa acoustic guitars, and they have gained popularity with local B.C. worship artists such as Brian Doerkson, Norm Strauss, and producer/engineer Steve Klassen.
St. James Music Academy
A global culture has made it so easy to focus on the impoverished parts of the world and often it is easy to forget about the needs of the people in our own city. St. James Music Academy in East Vancouver is educating and empowering low income Vancouver children through classical music lessons, providing the children with the opportunity to play in orchestras and sing in choirs. Partnering with St. James Anglican church, the academy is able to provide a place for children to come to learn instruments such as violin or cello, and to get a boost in their education and confidence. The goal of St. James Music Academy is to create empowered children who can be role models and future leaders.
The local indie music scene has come alongside the academy, volunteering their time for an annual benefit concert, Sing It Forward, that not only provides financially for the organization, but also gives the kids the opportunity to sing and play alongside notable local artists such as Dan Mangan, We Are The City, Shad, and Hey Ocean!, onstage at the iconic Vogue Theatre in Vancouver.-