Singing Wells: Preserving Threatened Heritage
Now here's an organisation we couldn't praise more: The Singing Wells is an international music project that aims at preserving and promoting musical traditions of East Africa, and does so in a remarkably refreshing way.
'Our goal is to record, archive and share the traditional music of East Africa for two important reasons – to sustain and celebrate the extraordinary cultural music heritage of the region and to help make this legacy relevant and fresh to today’s audiences.'
The Singing Wells consists of producers, musicians, sound and video engineers from Abubilla Music, a record label in London, and Ketebul Music, a non-profit music organisation in Nairobi. The project is supported by the UK charity, The Abubilla Music Foundation.
Their approach is unlike those of 'fossil collectors', making their archive as accessible as possible through digital albums, YouTube, Facebook and SoundCloud. It seems like the Singing Wells have managed to strike a great balance in preserving traditional music without wanting to prevent this music from evolving and changing. This can be heard in their two different types of releases; field recordings and the 'influences' series.
The field recordings are celebrating musical excellence and diversity, used as sources of reference but also as a source of inspiration for artists from around the world. After having identified regional music styles, the Singing Wells team usually spends up to a week in remote villages with their mobile recording studio. This allows for the performances and recording sessions to take place in a relaxed environment, with friends and family watching. So far, the Singing Wells have visited several villages in Uganda and Kenya, but like to expand their project to the whole of East Africa. The project tries to encourage the development of village music groups and offers tangible benefits to the musicians and village communities involved.
That music traditions continue to alter through a constant process of exchange is illustrated through the 'influences' series. The music from this series mixes traditional and contemporary, African and Western styles. During each field recording trip, the Singing Wells team invites a talented artist to the Ketebul recording studio in Nairobi to record new material, collaborating with artists in the UK. The aim of these recordings is to show that East African tribal music is definitively relevant for audiences and artists of younger generations.
Have a look (and listen!) on their website, you won't be disappointed!
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New City Music, Chicago: 'a great showcase of the funky sounds currently made in Crescent City'.
The Guardian, UK, 3*** stars: 'A classy compilation'.
Guardian, UK 4****stars: 'A highly original, compelling set'.
Froots, UK: '... a superb album of an under-represented music ... and comes highly recommended'.