Closing of Brave Festival 2018 | Ghetto Classics | Radzimir Dębski (JIMEK)
Where:Musical Theatre Capitol, Piłsudskiego 67
An amateur symphonic orchestra established by Elizabeth Njoroge has been operating for 10 years in Korogocho, the slums in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. It comprises local children and teenagers. They are changing their lives by playing the music of Bach, of the African diva Miriam Makeby, as well as "Hip-Hop History" by Polish composer Radzimir Dębski (JIMEK), with whom they will perform in Wrocław.
Thanks to the determination of one person – social activist and at the same time classical music lover, Elizabeth Njoroge – an educational project for children from disadvantaged neighbourhoods, Ghetto Classics, was launched in 2008. Its founder, having returned to Kenya from abroad, set up The Art of Music, an organization which offers free music lessons to children from slums. It all started with a group of teenagers and borrowed instruments; today, it is an orchestra of 80 people, and about 650 music students take lessons in Korogocho and the surrounding areas. Under the supervision of professional musicians, they learn the classical repertoire from Bach to Brahms, as well as traditional African compositions, or film scores by Hans Zimmer.
Marked by poverty and violence, life in the slums is not easy; what is more, their dwellers are constantly accompanied by smoke from the landfills burning nearby. And so music becomes a respite and vehicle of social change, giving the children a chance to make contact with a different world. They can later make their living playing in the streets, and the most gifted can become members of the National Youth Orchestra of Kenya. They go to university, teach music in schools or become tutors in the Ghetto Classics programme. As stressed by the founder, teamwork teaches self-discipline, strengthens self-confidence and self-agency, develops sensitivity and builds a community, because in an orchestra one cannot achieve anything alone.
The students take part in workshops with internationally renowned musicians (Salif Keïta, Branford Marsalis), who come to Nairobi thanks to Elizabeth Njoroge`s persistence and her power to persuade. Polish composer Radzimir Dębski (JIMEK) was also there in 2017. He is known for his film and symphonic music, including the famous Hip-hop History Orchestrated by JIMEK performed with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice as encore after a concert with the rapper Miuosh, as well as the awarded remix of Beyoncé’s "End of time". For a week JIMEK worked with the youths in slums on their interpretation of Hip-Hop History, and in 2018 he played with them at the Safaricom International Jazz Festival in Kenya.
At this year's Brave Festival, a 20-member representation of the Ghetto Classics orchestra will perform for the first time outside of Kenya, which will be a real adventure for them. They will perform, among others, a JIMEK composition, and the composer has invited other virtuosos collaborating with the National Forum of Music.