Liberian Refugees CD Launched in Halifax

This Tuesday the Dalhousie Grad House hosted the East Coast launch of Giving Voice to Hope: The Music of Liberian Refugees, a CD of African music. The CD is the outcome of a project that began in 2008 between the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana and the University of Alberta.

By Kate Howell

Andrea Landriault (left) and Shelly Whitman at Tuesday's CD Launch (Kate Howell photo).

This Tuesday the Dalhousie Grad House hosted the East Coast launch of Giving Voice to Hope: The Music of Liberian Refugees, a CD of African music. The CD is the outcome of a project that began in 2008 between the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana and the University of Alberta.

Giving Voice to Hope, which included songs from a variety of Ghanaian musicians, launched in September 2009 in Edmonton. Andrea Landriault, an International Development student at Dalhousie who studied ethnomusicology in Ghana, decided to introduce the project to the East Coast.

“It’s a social capital that no one takes advantage of,” said Landriault. “Edmonton was a success but it should be so much more.”

Landriault played a music video made by one of the musicians, Shadow, as well as a 30 minute video about Shadow, music at the camp and their latest project, Refugee Music Television.

The musicians are not allowed to come to Canada due to lack of documentation. Landriault played a few tracks from the CD and invited two drummers from Mas Cencerro and two dancers from the Jabulani troop to keep with the African theme.

“Having live performances reaches people,” said Landriault. “Tracks weren’t enough.”

Watch an excerpt from a performance given by Mas Cencerro drummers Glenn Fraser and Dan MacNeil and Jabulani dancers Joyce Saunders and Susan Barrett.

Shelly Whitman, deputy director of the Center for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie, spoke of the power of music.

“Music is a fantastic medium for reaching people across different spectrums,” said Whitman.

In 2006, Dr. Michael Frishkopf, associate professor of music at the University of Alberta, went on a study abroad program in Ghana. The following year, he was given multiple CDs and cassettes recorded and produced by local musicians.

Frishkopf sifted through the tracks to make one CD. When United Nations declared Liberia safe in 2008, resulting in many of the musicians returning to their native country, Frishkopf was unable to reach the musicians to sign contracts.

“We had to start over with who was there now,” said Frishkopf. “We decided to try to include everyone so it wasn’t a competition and edited (the songs) down for time.”

The CD contains 16 tracks recorded and produced at the refugee camp in Ghana and includes traditional music, gospel, hip hop, rap, R&B and reggae. Five thousand copies were printed and so far an estimated 600 have been sold.

Landriault was able to sell 15 CDs Tuesday night and plans on trying to get them sold in stores.

Frishkopf said that it’s hard to get the contacts necessary to get the CD better circulated. The recording quality isn’t advanced, but Frishkopf said that aspect is part of what makes the CD so inspiring.

“It’s remarkable what they were able to do with what they had. It’s like looking directly at an artifact from the camp,” said Frishkopf.

The project aims to encourage post-conflict healing, global education, fundraising for learning initiatives in Africa, Liberian musicians and the Center for Youth Empowerment, as well as research on musical life in refugee camps and how music can be used as a tool to overcome the realities of conflict and displacement.

The Center for Youth Empowerment, a Liberian non-government organization, has been a liaison between the Buduburam camp and the University of Alberta.

“People think of refugees as poor and uneducated, but everyone is just displaced by war,” said Frishkopf. “The project is raising awareness about their careers and forced migration.”

External links
Music of the Liberian Refugees Webpage
Michael Frishkopf
Center for Youth Empowerment Website