Emile Faga | Cover Me Canada Finding out that one of your songs is going to be…
- Posted on Nov 29th 2011 3:00PM by Heather Cleland
Courtesy of John Mann
Swaziland is the only developing nation with negative population growth and experts like former Canadian UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis project that if this trend continues, the population will die out by 2050. Add to that the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world (38 percent of the nation's population is affected) along with ongoing issues associated with ignorance around the disease, and it's clear help is needed.
"The witch doctors still have quite a bit of control in Swaziland," Mann explains to Spinner. "If you're a man and you have AIDS, the witch doctors will often say, 'Well you go out and you rape the youngest girl you can find, and that will cure you of AIDS.' There's a lot of ignorance there."
The Canadian rocker visited the town earlier this year to see for himself the work being done in Bulembu -- where there's now a bakery, dairy, orphanage, library, timber manufacturer and more -- so he could encourage other musicians to help. He ended up being so moved by the people there -- particularly the many orphaned children -- that he felt compelled to write a song about it.
"In the end, I really feel like I learned so much from these kids, from the people that work there, how absolutely giving they are," he says.
Once he wrote the song 'Bulembu' (released Nov. 29 on iTunes with all proceeds going to the village -- buy it here), he recorded it in Vancouver with Spirit of the West then headed back to Swaziland to record back-up parts with the village's children's choir.
"These kids, a lot of them have gone through such horrific things," he says. "But these kids in the orphanage have been so incredible. They're so full of love and laughter and music. For me, it was just such an eye opener."
Mann picked up on the kids' sense of joy as soon as he arrived in the village for the first time.
"The first day I got there when I went to Bulembu the first time, we were taken into town on the bus," he reflects. "These kids were playing and there was this one guy kind of dancing around. There was this percussion instrument coming from somewhere. In his underwear, he'd put just tons and tons of rocks, and then he would reach down between his legs and would be shaking the rocks up and down and would be creating this fantastic percussion instrument while these three other kids around him were laughing and dancing. There they are, basically in the middle of a gravel pit, and they can find ways to find joy and beauty."
On his second trip, he brought with him his friend and fellow musician Dan Mangan and they recorded the children that can be heard in the charity song, which talks of the beauty of the place. With the song, Mann hopes to not only raise awareness of the challenges Swaziland faces, but to also bring to life some of the inspiration and joy that comes from the people that make Bulembu what it is -- things you can't pick up on by just reading about the place.
"In many ways, the future of Swaziland lies in places like Bulembu. These kids are going to be the ones that are going to be the future of that country if it's going to exist."
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