What do you get when a man with a few famous friends uses Karinthy’s Six Degrees of Separation to send a message (and a song) around the world? You get the Voice Project, a charity that aims to support the victims of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The charity came about when Hunter Heaney heard groups of widows and rape victims writing and singing songs of a style called dwog paco whilst working at an Internally Displaced Person’s camp in northern Uganda. These songs encouraged child soldiers who had escaped Kony’s LRA to return home and be forgiven for the atrocities they were forced to commit. Taking inspiration from the women’s groups and the increasing success in their mission, Heaney, along with friends Anna Gabriel (daughter of Peter) and Chris Holmes of indie band Ashtar Command, set out to bring more exposure to dwog paco and the issue facing the women’s groups in North Uganda.
The project revolves around the idea of ‘cover chains’, whereby one artist will cover another, who will then go on to cover a third artist and so on. Artists involved with the project so far include Angélique Kidjo, Emmanuel Jal, Peter Gabriel and Billy Bragg among others, as well as many choirs in Uganda singing in both Acoli and Luo languages.
The Voice Project take their cue from Olivier Urbain, author of Music and Conflict Transformation, who says ‘The real question is why has it taken so long? It is high time for the human brain and heart to join forces to explore and apply the power of music for peaceful and effective conflict transformation.’ The project says that they apply this principles to their mission, ‘utilizing the power of music to affect positive social change, alleviate suffering and promote human rights around the globe.’
For more information and to support the project, please visit the Voice Project website.
And to whet your appetite, here’s a video of South Sudanese former child soldier Emmanuel Jal’s a capella version of ‘Road to Zion’.