Seeds of a Music Program Sprout in Congo
Irismer Kasamira, violinist; Founder, El Sistema Congo
Our program, El Sistema Congo, started in the year 2020 in the city of Bukavu, in the province of South Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. I am a violin player, and I started this program with one little boy of 11 who played the recorder. A few months later, the other children in the choir where I play violin asked me to teach them the recorder. I didn’t hesitate; I immediately started teaching them.
(My own musical story: I joined a choir at the age of eight, where we learned music theory as well as singing. Some years later, I learned to play the violin and recorder.)
In 2021, I started doing online research about great violinists, recorder players, and orchestras. On Facebook, I came across a gentleman named Roberto Zambrano, a great musician and educator and a good person. I said to myself: “I have just found someone with whom to share my ideas.” I sent him a friend request and he confirmed it. Then I sent him some photos and videos of my team and he sent his compliments.
We now have 35 children participating in El Sistema Congo. The most special thing about our program is that, in our country, children are not culturally well taken care of. Aside from studies and sport, the children have no other occupations. In our program, we make music with children to help them experience team spirit and self-confidence, and to work and have fun with others regardless of religion, tribute, and social rank. This is music for everyone.
Many people have discouraged me and even laughed at me for taking care of these children. But I feel very comfortable. I would say that the only time I feel happy is when I’m making music with the kids.
Our program faces many problems. If you have read this far, you will have noticed that we have no address. We have no place to work and learn. No instruments except two violins, a single cello, a single transverse flute, and about twenty recorders. Children sometimes leave the program because they have no instruments. There is also a lack of teacher training.
I thank the El Sistema family all over the world for their encouragement. In particular, I thank my mentor Maestro Roberto Zambrano, who supports me always, and other members of the worldwide El Sistema community who have helped me, including Gabrielle Molina, Daniel Trahey, Jeannine Murray, and many others.