October 15, 2013

Dakar, Senegal

Today, on the UN-recognized International Day of Rural Women, nine albums of never-before-heard West African music recorded in villages in rural Senegal will go on sale.  

Developed by not-for-profit Community Voice International in collaboration with Senegalese communities, international NGO Tostan and volunteers from Peace Corps Senegal, the release of the albums will leverage local resources for development, connecting these communities to the global music market, with 100 percent of profits generated going directly back to the communities.

Featuring communities from across Senegal and representing five ethnic groups – the Bambara, Mandinka, Pulaar, Soninké, and Wolof – each album reflects the unique and rich musical traditions of the village in which it was recorded. The majority feature women singing in their local language, and many include the use of traditional instruments such as the kora, hoddu, and ñaañeru, and the percussion of hands, drums, bowls and buckets. These songs are a snapshot of community life, ranging from ceremonial songs sung during weddings to the songs of daily life, sung when doing laundry and tending crops.

Many of the communities have participated in the Tostan Community Empowerment Program and have their already set up their own grassroots development organizations, made up of local residents, often with the majority of the members being women.  Their projects align with community priorities and include: the setting up of a health center, the training of midwives, repairing farm equipment and water pumps, and campaigning to end gender based violence. The profits from the music sales will provide capital for these projects and create a ripple effect—facilitating future development efforts and economic growth.

“The world is changing. If we want our children to be part of the new world, we must take advantage of opportunities such as these. When a partner comes from so far away to work with us, we owe it to our children to work with that partner so that we might continue to evolve and develop our community for our children and their future.”

Village Chief of Keur Bakary, Senegal (Translated from Wolof)

“These communities are creative, intelligent, and talented; they have specific ideas for the future, and a vibrant culture highlighted by music and dance. This project will help them transform their existing cultural resources into financial assets for development.”

David Bleckley, Executive Director, Community Voice International


Notes to Editors

1. The music was recorded with assistance from the international NGO Tostan and volunteers from Peace Corps Senegal in the communities of Dar Salam, Keur Bakary, Yelingara, Thielao, Soudiane, Santankoye, Sare Bidji, and Keur Daoda Cisse. Nine albums of traditional West African music will be produced with one album from each village and a compilation album containing contributions from each. In addition to the music, each album will contain a description of the village and the projects they plan to undertake.

2. Each individual partner community’s album and the compilation album will be available for purchase at www.communityvoiceinternational.org and communityvoice.bandcamp.com for US$0.99 per song. The recordings will also be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and many other online music sources in the coming weeks.

3. Community Voice International is a nonprofit organization that facilitates cultural understanding and supports international development by improving communities’ capacity to share cultural resources. For more information visit www.communityvoiceinternational.org/

4. Tostan is a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Dakar, Senegal. Tostan works primarily in rural and remote areas, delivering a three-year nonformal education program with impacts in the areas of governance, education, health, the environment and economic growth. Tostan is currently implementing its program in Djibouti, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and The Gambia. For more information, visit www.tostan.org

5. Peace Corps Senegal has partnered with the Senegalese government since 1963 placing American volunteers in communities throughout Senegal to help fulfill the country’s development needs and facilitate cultural exchange. Peace Corps volunteers serve for two or more years, and in Senegal work in the areas of Agriculture, Agro-forestry, Health, Environmental Education, Small Enterprise Development and Ecotourism. For more information, visit www.pcsenegal.org

For further information, please contact:

David Bleckley, Executive Director, Community Voice International

Email: david@communityvoiceinternational.com

Telephone: 616-916-4218

Amy Fairbairn, Director of Communications, Tostan

Email: amyfairbairn@tostan.org

Telephone: +221 33 820 55 89 / +221 77 877 55 13