from BERTA MADIME in Maputo, Mozambique
MAPUTO, (CAJ News) – A VENTURE that started some years ago as an all-girl school band has, against odds, modified into a much-need platform to empower Mozambican girls with the requisite skills to eke a career out of music as well as end the undervaluation of music as a career in Mozambique.
Through this project, The Divas, which is among the few female-only bands in the Southern African country, is changing the musical and social outlook of the capital, Maputo.
The five-member group started as a school-band as the offspring of the Music Crossroads Academy, which started as a music festival in the city in 1996.
The Divas, comprising of Kaluza Banda, Ingrid Dyrnes, Amelia Felizarda, Amelia Mondlane and Nina July, still study at the academy.
Mondlane, the drummer of the music outfit, said the group’s aspirations had always been to do something more than music with the uplifting of untapped music talent among local girls the ultimate.
This has led to the implementation of the Girls Rock Camp initiative in Mozambique.
Through the scheme, the divas aimed to put together inexperienced girls in their early 10s, teach them to play music instruments and give them a possible future in the industry.
“We realized that the Girl’s Rock Camp was taking place in other countries but nothing similar was taking place locally. So we decided to design a project for Mozambique. Our academy approved the project straightaway,” Mondlane explained.
However, things have not been plain sailing in a country fraught with gender stereotyping and the undervaluing of music as a profession.
Mondlane recalled that when The Divas tried to mobilise children from schools for the project, authorities were not supportive.
“As we presented our projects to the schools, they kindly explained to us that such activities could disturb the normal flow of the classes in the schools,” Mondlane, who is a drummer for The Divas said.
She believes the project faced such reservations from authorities because the music industry is overlooked.
Mondlane disclosed with this undervaluing of music widespread in Mozambique, she also had doubts before joining the Music Crossroads Academy.
“Sometimes, before starting my classes I would ask myself, ‘what will people think when they ask me what I study and I answered: Music’?”
Years later, she asserted that fear was now gone and to date, is the only female attending drum classes in the academy that has also proudly launched the careers of numerous of recording artists nationwide, including acts such as Timbila Muzimba, Dulce Band, Marove, Nfithe and Nyacha.
The Divas believe that stigma against music must be eliminated.
After facing resistance and rejection by most schools in the city centre, The Divas have resorted to the outskirts of Maputo where they started by contacting primary schools of neighborhoods like Chamanculo, Mafalala, and Xipamanine.
The neighbourhoods are synonymous with problems with sanitation and crime hence they are usually underestimated.
Ironically, it is where The Divas and the Girls Rock Camp initiative have found shelter.
Unlike school principals in the city centre, those in the outskirts were receptive.
“We explained our project to the schools’ principals, assuring them we sought children willing to play music instruments. We also clarified that no experience was needed, just willingness,” Mondlane explained.
“We went on to say that we could meet the children’s parents to explain our project. Then, the principals promised to evaluate the project,” Amelia explains.
That proved a breakthrough.
“A few days later, we were called again to the schools. We found out that the schools not only had contacted the parents of the girls for our sake.
But, also the parents had accepted the project with open hands and the schools were just calling us to hand the girls over to us,” the drummer recalled.
The Divas currently have 22 girls under their Girls Rock Camp wing.
The children are taught to play a diversity of instruments including basses, drums, guitars and keyboards among others.
Thanks to the Music Crossroads Academy, which is a global project, The Divas are constantly involved in student exchange programmes.
“We work with different people. Sometimes we work with Malawians and Norwegians among others. They provide us extra support whenever they are around. The culture clash is sometimes unavoidable but we work it out,” Mondlane said.
July, one of the latest members to join The Divas, said through her experience, she realized there was more to her work than just playing the piano for the group.
“I am very fond of Jazz, which led me to join the divas, and then the Girls Rock Camp initiative. My work in the camp is to teach specifically the musical keyboard but I also teach the girls how to play other instruments. I am much honored to work with this project,” July said.
– CAJ News
from BERTA MADIME in Maputo, Mozambique