Ghetto Classics

Wednesday 18.07.2018
Puppet Theater - Summer Stage in Old Town Park, Teatralny Square 4

free entry

Main programme
phot. Emmanuel Jambo

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 both the classical music (e.g. compositions by Bach or Brahms), and songs of African diva Miriam Makeba or Kenyan composer Fadhili Williamas.

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. 
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. During their performance in the Old City Park, the young musicians will present both traditional African compositions and works by contemporary African musicians including  Fadhili Wiliams, Olivier Mtukudzi and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

Short documentaries about Ghetto Classics project: