Wired For Sound Image Academico and Pamento, Ibo Island

Wired for Sound : Solar powered music development

Wired for Sound is a mobile solar powered recording studio. The team of Freshlyground musicians Simon Attwell (flute), Julio Sigauque (guitar) and radio producer Kim Winter are quite literally “Wired for Sound,” because they are constantly ready to play and record no matter where they find themselves, as they travel along a network of Southern African community radio stations.
Open Society foundation (OSISA)hasdeveloped a community radio strategy for Southern Africa. Through research conducted by PANOS in Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia under the title Radio Platform for Community Development (RPCD), OSISA is intending to “turn stations into real agents of change,” and Wired for Sound has become an important part of this vision.
The Wired for Sound project started in 2013 witha two and a half month 12000 km journey through five provinces in Northern Mozambique. Forcom the Forum for Community Radio in Mozambique gave assistance in advertising and identifying which musicians to record.
Wired for Sound had their mobile studio set up in many beautiful or unusual locations to record many varied styles of music.They recorded the raucus rap voices of Mount Serra Choa (one safe hilltop in a range still littered with land mines), the Sungura musical meetings in the mango groves of Catandicaat a German missionary station, the folk songs from the historic Fort of São Joao Batista on Ibo island (dating back to 1791 and still jam-packed with old shipping documents), the sweet lullaby of the seventeen year old, Josefina Zacharia and her choristers from the traditional cultural village of Mbonje and the gentle Arabicaof the cultural heritage site, Ilha da Mozambique.

Melody (indlela) means a footpath. Music (umculo) means singing. “If you can talk you can sing and if you can walk you can dance.”

Wired For Sound Image - John Issa Band, Niassa

Whilst taking a weekend off from the busy recording schedule, Kim and Simon visited the Niassa game reserve. Local rangers introduced themto a group of musicians called the John Issa Band. The electric rawness of this music was startling. Band leader of the John Issa Band, Jose, built the musical instruments and microphones for the bandby hand and taught his brothers to play from scratch. It took him ten years to create a five-piece band playing highly entertaining music. Jose said, “Some of our songs sing about the instruments. I have invented them through my suffering, to buy soap and salt. So far there is no success.”
After the recordings, two musicians in The John Issa band received an invitation from ‘Tamboril Sounds’ sponsored by The ‘Danish Centre for Cultural and Development, to teach, record and collaborate abroad. This was their first visit outside of Mozambique. Mozambican born guitarist and musical director of Wired for Sound, Julio Sigauque said, “Having this big dream to put your album out there and embrace your music as a proper career is a challenge when you are just trying to survive.” In 2015 Wired for Sound took their second journey and travelled 12 000km through Malawi,increasing their focus of creating platforms for youth to discuss and debate their challenges.
Kim Winter said, “We feel strongly about being a part of Africa’s shift to find its own narrative. Music is a wonderful way of giving young people a space to showcase their ideas and to spark conversation - illuminating the reality of people's day to day experiences.” Their development focus was to install“off the grid” solar powered recording units at theOSISA funded community radio stations, where lack of resources and major power cuts prevent them from being able to do their work consistently and efficiently. Education through shadow learning for young producers was provided and community radio brought in 70 musicians to be recorded across the four districts, Monkey Bay,Mchinji, Nkhotakota and Karonga.
They came across a mellow call and response style of music named “Canada” bythe locals after the Canadian road workers who were based in Nkhotakota in the 1970's.
Yet, it was the desire and dedication of The Shaibu Brothers that captured the imagination of the producers. The Shaibu Brothers come from the Western border town, Mchinji. After hearing an announcement on the local community radio station, MudziWathu, the two brothers cycled five hours (one way) on one bicycle with their home-made, goat skin guitar to make their enjoyable recording. TheShaibu Brothers and The Umi Gama Family Band, featuring talented youngsters, guitarist Joshua, and vocalist Memory were chosen to open the “Lake of Stars” music festival.
Wired for Sound attendedand recorded the 6th annual Manda Wilderness Community Trust choir festival at the village ofCobue on the Mozambican side of Lake Malawi. They crossed the lake on boat and recorded the exciting choir festival, directed by Richard Stephano. Sponsored by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, each of the sixteen villages in the region sends a choir made up of the twenty finest voices to the festival.Choir development is supported by a choirmaster training run by a volunteer guest choir director from the UK. The festival concludes with all choirs performing together.
The winning choir for the second year running was from the Chicaia village, and the winning choir master was a women. This was great to see for the Wired for Sound team who had experienced a shortage of female contributions to their recording sessions. Kim Winter said, “There are certain expectations of girls and young women, specifically in the rural areas, to perform certain duties at home. So they are limited in their time. Young women in rural areas can also be very shy.There is still a stigma attached to them performing on their own outside of a choir or group. It still seems to be a patriarchal society.”
Two fully solo powered recording studios are already active at Dzimwe community radio station in Monkey Bay and Mudzi Wathu in Mchinji, and the vision for 2016 is to install more in Malawi and Mozambique, as well as to install and record in Zambia … Wired for Sound Mozambique album is available on itunes. The Malawi album will be launched March 2016. www.wiredforsound.co.za

Struan Douglas

Struan Douglas is a freelance writer and author based in South Africa.