Our choirs' interest in the music of southern Africa stretches all the way back to our first season, with repertoire from that part of the world making up part of our programming every year since. In 2004, Kokopelli's connection with Africa grew, with a month-long tour to Namibia and South Africa. While there, we made a connection with one of Namibia's top youth choirs, the Mascato Youth Choir from Swakopmund. We came to realize that many of the basic needs of such a wonderful community arts group couldn't be met so easily as our needs are met at home in Canada. Upon our return, and in response to this need, we founded our African Projects Fund. With two further African tours (in 2007 and 2013), our partnerships grew as we encountered more wonderful youth choirs.
Mascato and Kokopelli in Banff, April 2006
The African Projects Fund seeks to support music development for youth in southern Africa. In partnership with various sister choirs, our African Projects Fund has several initiatives to accomplish this goal:
MEMBERSHIP EXCHANGE PROGRAM
Each season, we bring one or more young singers (aged 17 and up) from one of our sister choirs to Canada, to live and sing with our own youth choir. These young singers stay from three to six months, touring with the choir and performing with them. The exchange singers gain myriad skills from this experience: not only an improvement in their language skills (as English is not a first language for any of these singers) but also increased confidence in their abilities, and greater vision and ambition for what they can accomplish once they return home. We support our exchange members as they return home with a modest education grant from the African Projects Fund, which is either applied to university tuition or to an educational tool, such as a laptop.
AFRICAN MUSIC PUBLICATION
We are very pleased to sell many of the arrangements we have been taught by our sister choirs. With our sister choirs' permission and approval, this music (which is largely created and learned by rote, rather than being written down) is carefully transcribed and then sold to other choirs around the country, with all proceeds supporting the choir which originated the music.
Members of our choirs have travelled to southern Africa on three separate occasions (2004, 2007, and 2013). So far, we have brought two of our sister choirs here as well: Mascato, in 2006, and UPYC, in 2016.
One of the posters from UPYC's recent Canadian tour.