GLI Imagined Community Concert: Ubuntu Bulamu at Brass for Africa

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GLI Imagined Community Concert: Ubuntu Bulamu at Brass for Africa

Maryen Muñoz (author), Atteqa Malik, Keziah Ntwiga, Kenneth Mwiti, and Catherine Aziz Shawky, Global Leaders ’23 cohort members


Students perform at a 2022 Brass for Africa concert. The proposed concert would use a similar stage to that in the background of this photo. Photo: Brass for Africa.

Editor’s Note: The Global Leaders Institute (GLI) develops music for social impact leadership through an intensive year of learning and small-group work. As part of GLI’s teaching artistry course, working groups are tasked with researching a youth arts program and then designing a hypothetical community event for that program. These hypothetical concerts have a simple objective: to deepen connections with each program’s surrounding community.

This is the first in a series of imagined concert proposals, shared with Ensemble readers to spark creativity in your own community work. Our thanks to the Global Leaders for sharing their visions of what’s possible.

Serving over 2,000 disadvantaged children and young people in Uganda, Liberia, and Rwanda, Brass for Africa (BFA) harnesses the magic of ensemble brass music to support future generations in choosing a brighter, more sustainable future. During interviews, BFA Founder Jim Trott emphasized gender inequality as a prominent issue in the places where they work, citing data that indicates the problem has worsened during the pandemic. As Jim referenced alarming practices—domestic violence, dowry violence, acid attack, forced marriage, sexual harassment, human trafficking, forced prostitution—it became clear to us that our imagined concert would need to raise awareness of this issue.

To that end, we designed a two-day concert titled Ubuntu Bulamu, which means “Healthy Humanity” in Luganda, Uganda’s most widely spoken language after English and Kiswahili. The phrase connotes a socially minded way of living humanely—a proposed journey to find the real meaning of manhood and womanhood.

As BFA usually advertises their concerts by marching and playing through town, a short tune that includes the word “Ubuntu!” will be composed for musicians and singers to perform in advance of the event. In addition to getting the word out, this marching performance will familiarize the community with the concert’s theme.

The concerts will take place outside BFA headquarters, using a mobile stage truck outfitted with a public address system. We chose this location to save transportation costs, one of BFA’s highest expenditure items. We also knew that it will improve security, as the BFA team knows the layout of their premises better than anyone else. Audiences will be welcome to sit or stand, and musicians will be dressed in BFA tee shirts. We chose this not just as a branding strategy but to identify and unite the players. The concerts will run during the daytime, as there is a lack of security and reliable power sources after dark.

The activities and repertoire will include local songs that can be sung and danced to by the audience, a medley of famous classical and non-classical BFA repertoire pieces, an upbeat piece, reggae or other forms of popular Ugandan music, and, in the final performance, an audience-requested piece.

We assigned each day a different theme.  Day One’s theme is “Hear Your Voice,” intended to empower the next generation of men and women to make their own decisions in life. While staying respectful of local traditions, we want them to think freely about which practices might help or hurt them. “Hear Your Voice” consists of three concepts, starting with Identity, a personal journey. One boy and one girl BFA participant will play pieces of their choosing and share how the program has changed their lives. The next concept, Justice, will feature a classical European-style brass piece played by BFA students. The day will end with its final concept, Coexistence, inviting audience members to join the performers in singing locally known tunes.

Day Two’s theme is “Hear My Voice,” inviting the community to respect the new generation’s chosen paths. The opening will be Uganda’s National Anthem, after which several women Ugandan influencers will share their story to encourage girls to continue their education and learn the power of the word “no.” Local compositions will follow, with audience members encouraged to clap and snap along to the music.

“BFA for Ubuntu” will remain a key phrase in celebrating gender equality in the community. But our hope is that attendees will let change be the norm for the rest of their lives.


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