African Children’s Choir “Journey of Hope” ™

African Children’s Choir™
“Journey of Hope”
Dear Teachers and Students,
The State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ welcomes you to the
school-day performance of the African Children’s Choir™. The
production features music and dance from many different
African nations, performed by an extraordinary and inspiring
ensemble of children who come from the most desperate
circumstances. They bring a spirit of joy and hope for their own
future and for the future of their homeland.
These Keynotes provide information and activities to help you
watch the show with a well-informed eye and ear. We hope that
the materials will add to your understanding and enjoyment of
the performance and help you make connections to your
classroom studies as well as your own life experience.
What’s Inside:
Meet the Choir ............................................................................................3
Act One ..........................................................................................................4
Act Two............................................................................................................5
Snapshot of Africa ......................................................................................6
One Continent, Many Peoples ..............................................................7
African Music ................................................................................................8
Exploring Africa............................................................................................9
Weaving African Traditions ..................................................................10
To Do and Discuss ....................................................................................11
Resources ....................................................................................................12
Keynotes are made possible by a
generous grant from Bank of America
Charitable Foundation.
The State Theatre’s education program is funded in part by Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the Geraldine
R. Dodge Foundation, E & G Foundation, Gannett Foundation, The William G & Helen C. Hoffman Foundation,
Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, J. Seward Johnson, Sr. 1963
Charitable Trust, Karma Foundation, Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Magyar Bank Foundation, McCrane
Foundation, MetLife Foundation, National Starch, Inc., New Jersey State Council on the Arts, PNC Foundation, the
Provident Bank Foundation, PSE&G, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, TD Bank, and Wachovia Wells Fargo
Foundation. Their support is gratefully acknowledged.
The African Children’s ChoirTM is made possible through the generous support of PSE&G.
Airlines is the
official airline
of the State
Online at
Keynotes for The African Children’s ChoirTM
written and designed by Lian Farrer.
Edited by Katie Pyott and Jennifer Cunha.
© 2010 State Theatre
Funding to the State Theatre is provided by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation
in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts through the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Funding has been made possible in
part by the New Jersey State
Council on the Arts/Department of
State, a partner agency of the
National Endowment for the Arts.
Keynotes are produced by the Education
Department of the State Theatre, New
Brunswick, NJ.
Wesley Brustad, President
Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education
The Heldrich
is the official
hotel of the
State Theatre.
Find us at
Contact: [email protected]
The State Theatre, a premier nonprofit venue
for the performing arts and entertainment.
Meet the Choir
The African Children’s ChoirTM is an international cultural ambassador
for an entire continent. Through music and dance representing Africa
in all its diversity, the choir spreads hope and joy to audiences
worldwide—and at the same time raising awareness of the plight of
Africa’s children. They have performed at the U.N. General Assembly in
New York, with Mariah Carey and Sir Paul McCartney at Live 8 in
London, at Nelson Mandela’s AIDS-awareness concert in South Africa,
and at American Idol’s “Idol Gives Back” charity event.
“Helping Africa’s most vulnerable children today so they can help
Africa tomorrow” is the choir’s mission. The group was founded in
Uganda in 1984 by human rights activist Ray Barnett. It is made up of
children aged seven to eleven, most of whom have lost one or both
parents to war, to poverty, or to diseases such as AIDS. The company
has expanded its operations to serve children and families in Rwanda,
Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and South Africa.
Before joining the choir, the children attend Music for Life camps.
Each year, approximately 50 of these children are chosen for the choir.
They train for five months at the academy in Kampala, Uganda,
learning the songs and dances, going to school, and attending Sunday
school at a local church. When their training is completed, the choir
embarks on a year-long tour, performing about 200 shows.
At the end of the tour, the children return to their homelands to
attend schools sponsored by Music for Life. Many of these young
adults go on to university programs, where they train to become
doctors, engineers, teachers, social workers, or other professionals.
Others receive vocational and technical training, develping the skills
they need to lead productive, fulfilling lives. Many go on to work with
the African Children’s ChoirTM and other relief organizations throughout
Africa. Their education is completely funded by the organization.
Visit the African Children’s ChoirTM online: www.
Watch a video performance of the choir in “Journey of Hope.”
“Inspired by the singing
of one small boy, we
formed the first African
Children’s Choir™ to
show the world that
Africa’s most vulnerable
children have beauty,
dignity and unlimited
—Ray Barnett, Founder
Act One
Acholi Dance
The Acholi people come from northern Uganda and southern Sudan.
“Abataka” is a pan-African word that means family, tribe, community,
home, belonging. This piece comes from Uganda’s Baganda tribe
Fishing Song
In this Baganda song, a group of fishermen on Lake Victoria have a
close encounter with a crocodile as they pull in their daily catch. The
leader assures them that all is well and they sail ashore to safety.
Hunting Song
In this Baganda song, a hunter tells her village that while out hunting
for antelope, she discovered a leopard instead. She insists that the
leopard killed her—but since she is clearly still alive, she must have
been resurrected. The hunters finally realize that she is bluffing. They
make fun of her, saying that she must have fainted from fright.
Harvest Song
This song was first sung in the Basoga Kingdom in eastern Uganda.
The workers sing while they harvest maize, corn, mangoes, peanuts,
and sweet potatoes. When they are finished they bring their crops to
the village and celebrate the harvest with their village friends by
singing, dancing, and merrymaking.
Kiganda Dance
This dance comes from the Baganda Tribe in Uganda. There are
different variations, depending on the occassion. The most honored
one is the version performed for the king.
What to Expect
In the show, you’ll see and hear
traditional music, dance, and
costumes from different parts of
Africa. The program also
includes African spirituals and
contemporary songs. Songs will
be sung in English and in
African languages. The
performers will explain the
Rwandan Dance
meaning and traditions of the
Bandi Minya Soya Maci-Lingala
Bandi is a town in Congo, where two of the
languages spoken are Maci and Lingala.
Ding Ding
The Ding Ding dance is performed by young girls
of Uganda’s Acholi tribe. The movements imitate
birds and are meant to to attract the young boys.
Ujesu Tiathoma
A spiritual from South Africa.
This song, by Hans Zimmer and Lebo Morake,
is from The Lion King.
Act Two
Can Dance
This dance comes from South Africa.
Music by Dirke Brosse, lyrics by Frank van
Laecke & Lorraine Feather. An original piece
from the musical Prince of Africa, this song
was created especially for the African
Children’s Choir.
If We Ever
A spiritual from Nigeria.
Mwije Bantumwe / Natamba
Both of these from the Runyankole tribe are
sung at major festivals and celebrations.
Mother Africa (Power of One)
Tshoma Tribe, South Africa. Composed by
Hans Zimmer & Lebo Morake
Runyege Dance
This dance comes from the Batoro tribe
from the Toro Kingdom of western. This
courtship dance is usually performed during
the season when parents try to find wives
for their sons. The young men must put on
an impressive dance display in front of the
girls to prove that they will make good
Nkosi Sikele
The words of South Africa’s national anthem
bestow a blessing on the entire continent.
The arrangement is by Dirke Brosse.
I’m eager as a bird to fly to journey through the
bright blue sky
Back to the house I knew only there’s no one there
Wherever I was meant to be it really isn’t clear to me
Could I grow wise and strong where I was wanted
where I belong
Homeland, homeland, deep in my soul I need a
Somewhere I always will be welcome safe on the shore
Sadness, danger, why must I always be a stranger
Finding my way without the ones that I loved, those
who loved me
Lonely and lost on both sides of the sea
Homeland, homeland, deep in my soul I need a
When I’m away I hear it calling, softly
Somewhere I know I will be safe on the shore
A part of me forevermore
A bird can’t be afraid to fly so try your wings and take
the sky
Though I can tell you feel you are in no man’s land
However many roads unwind whatever in the world
you find
There will be just one place that seems to hold you in
its embrace
Homeland, homeland, all people hunger for a
Somewhere we know we will be welcome safe on the shore
Teardrops, laughter, may we be happy ever after
Joining together as we lift up our dreams, braver as one
Praying tomorrow will shine like the sun
Homeland, homeland, all people hunger for a
Its lovely colors and its music will always fill us with joy
Homeland, homeland, we are a family in our
There is no blessing like our own true homeland,
homeland, homeland
Somewhere we know we will be safe on the shore A
part of us forevermore…
Snapshot of Africa
“I dream of an Africa
which is in peace with
itself. I dream of the
realization of the unity
of Africa, whereby its
leaders combine in their
efforts to solve the
problems of this
continent. I dream of
our vast deserts, of our
forests, of all our great
• SIZE: second-biggest continent, with more than 20% of the Earth’s total land area.
• POPULATION: over one billion people—almost 15% of all humans on the planet.
• LANGUAGES SPOKEN: about 2,000.
• CLIMATE: tremendously varied, from arid desert to savannah plains to tropical
rainforest and even subarctic regions.
• NATURAL RESOURCES: lots of them—including diamonds, gold, platinum,
uranium, bauxite, and cobalt.
• ECONOMY: the world’s poorest continent. In 2003, the 25 nations ranked at the
bottom by the United Nations’ Human Development Report were all in Africa.
• MAJOR ISSUES: political corruption, tribal and military conflicts, illiteracy, disease
(particularly AIDS), deforestation, lack of infrastructure.
—Nelson Mandela
Test your knowledge of African geography
with this online Africa map puzzle.
The African Children’s
Choir was originally
created to help children
orphaned by Uganda’s
devastating civil war. It
has expanded into Ghana,
Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda,
South Africa, and Sudan,
providing food, clothing
education, and other
support for thousands of
needy children.
One Continent, Many Peoples
Colonial Africa, 1913
The diversity of Africa’s 53 countries is astonishing. Recent
DNA studies show that some Africans who live within walking
distance of one another are more genetically diverse than
some Europeans and Asians living a continent apart. Modern
humans evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and have
lived there longer than anywhere else—so African DNA has
had more time to develop differences as various groups
adapted to Africa’s diverse environments.
Outside cultures have contributed to Africa’s
diversity. The ancient Phoenicians and Greeks
established colonies in North Africa as early as
1100 BCE. Middle Eastern traders began arriving in
the seventh century.
Beginning in the 1880s, European nations seized
control of nearly the entire African continent in
order to exploit its most profitable natural
resources. They put Africans to work producing raw
materials—including copper, diamonds, cotton,
rubber, palm oil, cocoa, and tea—for the European
market. They did not build factories or teach Africans to
manufacture their own goods.
A tiny group of European officials ruled the colonies. They
created their own territorial boundaries that disrupted local
Clockwise from top: Ethiopian
marathon runner Tsegaye
Kebede; a young Kenyan
woman from the Pokot
tribe; a Tunisian
political structures and ethnic communities, intensifying
conflicts that continue to this day. Africans had no political
rights of their own, few educational opportunities, and little
or no health care. Following World War II, Africans began to
demand and then gain their independence. Decolonization
was nearly complete by 1980.
The colonial presence in Africa is still highly visible; among
the official languages of many African countries you will find
English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Afrikaans (the
language of the Dutch settlers in South Africa). Europeans also
helped spread Christianity, which today is the main religion in
most of sub-Saharan Africa. The Europeans left behind a more
troubling legacy, however: the political, economic, social, and
environmental devastation of a continent that is still struggling
to recover from colonial occupation.
Bittersweet History: Cocoa (the main ingredient in chocolate) is
native to Central America. Today, nearly 70% of the world’s cocoa
is produced in West Africa, some of it with child slave labor.
African Music
In Africa, music is an integral part of life. Chants, songs, rhythms, and
dances are used to celebrate births, marriages, and harvests; to teach, to
worship, to communicate, and to build community. Most importantly,
songs and chants are a way of preserving the history and beliefs of the
society. Traditional African music is not written down, but is passed down
from one generation to another.
A prominent feature of African music is ‘call and response.’ In this
style, the music alternates between a lead
player or singer and the rest of the
Watch the video
ensemble. The leader begins with the ‘call,’
excerpts of “Journey
and then the ensemble responds in unison.
of Hope.” Can you
The response echoes the leader’s call, both
identify the call-and-
in the words (if it’s vocal music) and in the
response songs?
music. Call and response is not just an African
Listen also for
tradition; you’ll hear it in gospel and other
examples of a
religious music from many parts of the world.
cappella singing—
In Africa, traditional music is usually
voices alone, without
performed by groups rather than by solo
musicians. The most important feature is
rhythm. African rhythms are among the most
African music has been a major
influence in the development of
American music. The influence goes
both ways! Check out African Hip Hop.
complex and intricate in the world. Instrumental ensembles use
rhythmic counterpoint—playing two, three, or more different rhythms
at the same time. Not surprisingly, African music uses lots of percussion,
especially drums. Africa is known as the ‘drum continent’ because it has
a greater number and variety of drums than any other place in the
world. Other types of percussion instruments include xylophones, rattles,
bells, scrapers, and handclaps.
Watch the drummers of the African Children’s ChoirTM.
African percussion, from left:
dundun, a bass drum from West
Africa; djembe drum from Ghana;
ensaasi rattles from Uganda; bongo
drum from Kenya.
“Drumming is the
heartbeat of God.”
—West African proverb
Exploring Africa
Choose one of Africa’s 53 countries. Use the table below to create a
comparison with the United States. Find out all you can about the country,
adding additional research questions if you wish. Organize your information into
an oral report or multimedia presentation to share with your class.
Research Question
Total land area
Population size
Climate and geographical
Natural resources
Languages spoken
Principal religions
Special holidays and
Form of government
Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) per person
Average life expectancy
Literacy rate (percentage
of people who can read)
Major problems/issues
Additional research
Additional research
African Country:______________
United States
Weaving African Traditions
The performers in the African Children’s
ChoirTM wear colorful costumes from different
regions of Africa. The costumes are made from a
variety of materials, including fabric, straw, shells,
and beads.
One of the most widely known fabrics
associated with Africa is KENTE CLOTH, made
by the Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory
Coast. It was known as the “cloth of kings”
because it was worn only by royalty on
important occasions. The name ‘kente’ comes
from the word for basket; both are made by
weaving. Colorful threads are woven on a loom
into strips of fabric in different patterns, each
with its own name. The strips are then cut into
shorter pieces and sewn together into a single
piece of cloth.
Resources for information about kente cloth:
The colors and patterns woven into each kente cloth have
symbolic meanings that represent an idea or quality: for
example, wealth, knowledge, high status, or peace. Like a
work of art, a finished kente cloth is given its own name. The
largest-known kente cloth—measuring about 12 x 20 feet—
The National Museum of African Art’s
“Wrapped in Pride” exhibition website
The cloth section of the Akan Cultural
Symbols Project. website
was presented to the United Nations to commemorate
The History and Significance of Ghana’s
Ghana’s becoming a member of the international
Kente Cloth, with interpretations of different
organization. The cloth was called tikoro nko agyina,
meaning “one head does not make a council.” At his
Create your own kente cloth that represents
inauguration as President of Ghana in 2001, John Kufuor
yourself or an idea or event that is
wore a kente cloth called dako yesere: “we will smile one day.”
important to you. You can color strips of
paper or create the designs on your
computer, or use fabric paint on pieces of
cloth. Join the pieces together into one large
cloth. Present your kente cloth to the class,
tell its name, and explain the meanings of
John Kufuor, the former
President of Ghana,
wearing kente cloth.
the colors and designs you used.
Learn about the tradition of American
story quilts, such as the NAMES Project
AIDS Memorial quilt and the quilts of
Harriet Powers and Faith Ringgold. What
do they have in common with African
kente cloth? How are they different?
To Do and Discuss
In Their Shoes
Imagine you’re a member of the African Children’s
ChoirTM while they are on tour in the United States. Write a
journal entry from this point of view. How is America
different from your home in Africa? What is it like to stay
with a host family in another country? What do you like
about America? What do you miss about Africa?
Call and Response
In Africa, the circle is an important symbol of community
and cooperation. Drumming, dancing, and singing are
often done in circles. Sit in a circle with your class and try
some call and response exercises. Form a percussion
ensemble using regular instruments, or use something as
Ready, Set, Go!
Here’s what you need to know and do to
simple as handclaps. One person is the leader, and the rest
be ready for the performance. Knowing what
of the group is the chorus. The leader plays a short phrase
to do and what to expect will help you
with a simple rhythm, then the chorus plays back the
understand and enjoy the performance.
rhythm. Take turns being the leader, and see if you can
build up to longer and more complicated rhythms. You can
• Go through the materials in this guide to
learn about the show.
also do this activity with singing or poetry.
Before and After
Before you see the performance brainstorm with your
class and make a list of things you think you will see and
• When you get to the theater, remember to
turn off and put away all electronic devices,
including cell phones, portable games and
music, cameras, and recording equipment.
Keep them off for the entire performance.
hear at the show. Afterward, make a list of all the things
you noticed in the performance. Compare your before and
after lists. How close were your predictions? What were the
most surprising things about the show?
• Once the theater lights go down, focus all
your attention on the stage. Watch and
listen carefully to the performance.
• During the show, be an active watcher and
listener. Observe as many details as you
can: the music, choreography (dancing),
costumes, lighting, and the way the
performers work together.
• Don’t disturb the perfomance by talking,
eating, or leaving your seat. And please—
no texting or checking messages during
the show!
• After the performers are finished taking
their bows, stay in your seat until your
group gets the signal to leave the theater.
Africa, by John Reader; photographs by
Michael Lewis. National Geographic,
2001. Companion book to the PBS
series, discusses the history,
topography, and people of Africa.
African Folktales, by Roger Abrahams.
Pantheon, 1983. Nearly 100 stories
from over 40 tribal creation myths,
epics, ghost stories, and tales set in
both the animal and human realms.
Faces of Africa, by Carol Beckwith and
Angela Fisher. National Geographic,
2004. Hundreds of photographs depicting the
traditional life of African peoples in 36 countries.
From Afar to Zulu: A Dictionary of African Cultures, by
Jim Haskins and Joann Biondi. Walker Books for
Young Readers, 1998. A detailed guide to Africa’s 32
best-known cultures. Grade 4 and above.
Mzungu: A Notre Dame Student in Uganda, by Michael
Sweikar. The story of two American college students
who volunteer to teach second graders in Uganda.
Audio and Video
It Takes a Whole Village, by the African Children’s
Choir™. Music for Life, 1998. Audio CD.
Teach Me to Dance, starring the African Children’s
Choir™ and The Young Africans, directed by Mark
Mardoyan. Music for Life, 2005. DVD.
Wonders of the African World, hosted by Henry Louis
Gates, Jr., explores African history and culture.
Global Issues: Conflicts in Africa has information about
political, cultural, economic, environmental, public
health, and other issues in many African countries.
Resources for Teachers
African Rhythms & Beats: Bringing African Traditions to
the Classroom, by Calla Isaak. JPMC Books, 2006. A
curriculum developed to bring African music into
University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center K-12
Electronic Guide
Exploring Africa! features curriculum resources on
social studies, humanities, and regional perspectives,
with curriculum maps and activities.
Africa: Imperialsim and Colonialism offers extensive
resource links to explore the history of European
colonialism in Africa.
African Odyssey Interactive, created by the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, promotes an
exchange of ideas, information, and resources on
African arts and culture.
PBS’ Africa website, with information about the
different regions, images, teacher tools, and a special
section for kids.