Supporting world music through Covid-19
ABRSM’s mission is to inspire musical achievement, globally. Our International Sponsorship Fund (ISF) is one means through which we do this. In this interview, director Alessia Lombardi introduces the Dhow Counties Music Academy (DCMA), recipient of the ISF 2020:
Tell us a little bit about your organisation:
DCMA is the central hub for Zanzibari music and cultural heritage in East Africa. As the only music academy of its kind in the region, DCMA has gained an ever-increasing international reputation for preserving traditional music, by protecting and promoting traditional Swahili music such as taarab, kidumbak and ngoma as essential forms of intangible cultural heritage. We keep the legacy of these musical traditions alive through workshops, seminars, classes, certificate and diploma programs
and live performances.
What is your vision for DCMA’s future?
The academy uses music education as a catalyst for social, cultural and economic development. Since 2002, the DCMA has trained more than 1,800 students and it is very active in creating job opportunities for its students. My vision is to blend the heritage and culture of Zanzibar with a modern and vibrant expression of the artistic and social output that the islands offer, using their venerable and time-honored premises, equipped with technological capability, and broadcasting to the world.
How has DCMA been affected by the Covid-19 pandemicand managed to overcome the difficulties?
Sadly, key work streams were severely curtailed by the Covid-19 Pandemic, as academic and commercial operations were halted by necessary closures of educational centers, public events spaces and hotels. DCMA is an organisation that relies on income from its performances as well as donations, and has managed to survive through the development of new initiatives to promote the academy and its musicians/students, such as its popular it’s ‘our’ Monday appointment with Nyumbani Kwetu (Our Home).
Every week DCMA offers online performances, through our Facebook page, promoting musicians and giving them an opportunity to play together and share knowledge. Additionally, DCMA teachers and students came together shortly before lockdown to create a music video #COVID19 called "Mgeni Asiye na Kheri (Unexpected guest), in order to use music as a form of solidarity. DCMA wanted to show that it stands together with the whole world, united against the COVID-19 pandemic and we will come out of this Global Pandemic stronger, prouder and ready to continue our cause as the musical ambassadors of Zanzibari culture, heritage and tradition.