Friday, 7 December 2007


Progress, we know historically has always been made, through individual initiative. Self-determination.
Depending on governments and dodgy guys in suits, well, i leave that to your own judgement.
Let us speak about these two ladies whose only power is love in their heart and minds...

Aged 18 years, the then GAP student, Katie Martin, with the Tukolene pupils he came to love and eager to help back in 2002 (Photo by Phoebe Bryant).

Before we meet them let me, briefly, get something off my chest.
Charity is something alot of us coming from poor countries (especially those concerned with the way things have been trekking, ashamedly, past 40 years) glare at with total suspicion. Lately, for example, there is absolute loathing amongst us musicians (in the Diaspora particularly)who only get invited to play in small gigs called charity events, whereby organisers claim there is no money, that the hard sweat is for those far away, suffering in distant lands.
(Then you have to get on a self defence over-drive and explain that we boarded aeroplanes, to try our luck, in rich countries, because of that very situation!)
Many musicians are resorting to working in supermarkets as sales clerks, cleaners, security guards, bus drivers, taxi drivers, school teachers, waitresses,elderly care-workers, ( i can go on all day) simply because there are no gigs, no engagements, nobody wants African music at the moment.
Yet everywhere you cast your eye, are people carrying African Djembe drums,folks trying to learn African traditional dancing; African rhythms and songs can be heard in the most minute details, skeleton and veins of contemporary pop music. However, when huge gigs come with alot at stake like say, publicity and exposure; (e.g. the infamous London Live 8, in 2005) African musicians are Uninvited with a capital U.
So, it is with such disdain, I treated Katie Martin's emails and phone calls a couple of months back, when the attractive duo (and her friend Phoebe Bryant), invited Kitoto Band to play at this major charity event. This would be held at the Hammersmith Town Hall, West London, on Friday November 30th...
How wrong was I !!!
Katie Martin was totally, understanding. She paid us a decent fee, made sure everything I demanded discussed, weighed and checked, before committing.
Katie proved that having worked briefly as an English teacher in Africa (Tanzania 2002) she knew poverty, genuinely liked people, sussed the struggle for survival.
For example when i protested that some of the band's friends and fans coming would not be able to afford the £50 per person fee they agreed a £10 charge for them to enjoy the ocassion but minus the dinner.

On stage during the evening, the team of Friends of Tukolene withKiota members address the audience...From left: Vikki Ommanney, Phoebe Bryant, Katie Martin, Nicki Sumner, Pippa Brown, Ericka Hicks. (Photo by Lewis Hicks)

The gig was good, vibes of the evening great, there was colour and an easy going feel about.
They had at least 250 guests and made around £14,000 for school children at Tukolene in Chang'ombe, Dar es Salaam and for Kiota another charity organisation that had joined hands with them to help make the ocassion succesful.
Phoebe and Katie made sure a wide picture of art-forms was represented : Ugandan food, fashion models, photographers, High flyers acrobats (Fab Moses and Emmanuel the Magnificent); and the Kitoto Band.

From left back: Nicki Hutchins (UK: Sax/ Vocals), Oli Savill (Portugal/Percussion), Andre Mathurin (St Lucia/Bass).
From left front:Koko Kanyinda(Congo-Percussion/ Vocals),Christina Binder (Japan/Austria: Vocals),Mutsa Mankona (Zimbabwe/ Dancer), Simone Aquino (Brasil/Dancer) and Freddy Macha (Tanzania/Vocals/Guitar/Perc). Missing, Gwang (Grenada) on Percussion.

Pic by Barry Ayton

We had a hard time with the sound as Hammersmith Town Hall is a huge place and the lesson for these organisers would be to make sure they sort out the technology next time (enough speakers in the massive hall, monitors, adequate cables to avoid fuzzy-fizzy-foozy sounds, etc)...Barry the engineeer struggled/straggled, yet managed to stay calm...nevertheless.
Despite the hitch ( and hassle); people danced, ate, oggled, wobbled and swam in the atmosphere.
And what did Phoebe and Katie say a few days later ?
Will the money collected be useful to the children?
...On my visit to Tukolene in September, the manager Darius Mhawi laid out Tukolene’s future plans. One of the main things he would like to use the money for is ensure that children who pass exams to secondary school are able to continue attending – so Tukolene will be providing successful graduates of their supplementary education with uniforms, fees and home visits to guarantee long-term success for the pupils.
Tukolene would also like to expand its tailoring training by buying more machines to produce uniforms and become a permanent source of income for the Centre.
Did you get much support from authorities, or was it more personal initiative?
Will you do it again?

...Africa Alive! success was largely down to the initiative of family and friends. We didn’t have much support from Tanzanian authorities, apart from KaiRo International which supports Tukolene on a long term basis. If we were to hold the event again (perhaps in 2 years time) it would be fantastic to expand involvement to Tanzanian groups in the UK, and raise awareness of Tanzanian support here.
Do you think charity work is good for poor countries like Tanzania? Some argue it encourages dependent on aid and begging…
The focus of charity work is really important in developing countries like Tanzania. Sharing knowledge is much more important than, for example, building a hall or a school, as knowledge helps people to think beyond their current situation and make long-term improvements. Skills like literacy, manual expertise and business management can open up possibilities for people’s self-employment in communities without resources to spend on training.
Dependency on aid arises mainly where monetary handouts are given without the considering whether the recipients can use the money efficiently; for example providing capital for new businesses without providing business management training or a loan scheme. If aid is focused on improving knowledge first, this is a more permanent way of contributing and generates economic growth within the community without direct monetary aid. Smaller charities and NGOs also stand to gain a lot more and quicker as the funds can be directly applied without going through a lengthy and costly administrative process.
Are you two going to continue your work with these types of projects in the future?
...Tanzania and in particular Tukolene has been part of my life since 2002, and having returned there recently it has definitely become part of my agenda to continue to work to support their projects. We are both Chair and Secretary of Friends of Tukolene in the UK, which we hope will gain charitable status very soon and continue to support Tukolene.
Anything else…
...Tanzania is a beautiful country with amazing people who should be celebrated for their everyday achievements as well as their tourist attractions. If you agree, and would like to know more, please visit

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