Sounds of Change: Egypte
Since 2018 I am part of the Sounds of Change team. Sounds of Change is an organisation that trains community builders in conflict arias through music.
"Are you sure this is the right place? It is a dangerous neighbourhood!"
Our Uber driver had dropped us at the side of the highway as we had asked him to do so. He had taken off already, but he stopped and opened his window to warn us. We assured him this really was the right place and walked down the little stairs next to the highway.
Indeed, it's not a place for us to go and have a walk alone, but still the warning of the Uber driver felt like a big contrast with our experience in the neighbourhood 'Ezbet Khairallah'. This neighborhood, with it's 1,000,000 habitants, is one of the biggest and most densely populated informal settlements in Caïro. People here have been living under the constant threat of having their homes demolished. The “illegal” status of 'El Ezbah' has also deprived it of basic public utilities, like water, electricity and a sewage system.
Every morning before the training started, we would sit outside to go through the planning of the day and enjoy the sun. This would soon shift into music making with the children from the neighbourhood and drinking tea with the neighbours. (Maybe the Uber driver should join us one day).
The theme of the week was ‘non-verbal leadership’. Everyday they practised their leadership skills on the rest of the group. Starting with leading a simple clap they developed into non verbal leaders using signs, call and response, mirroring and other movement and sound games to create music without any verbal instruction.
Besides the development of leadership skills the trainees made their own songs inspired by the 'secret powers' in the group and in the neighbourhood. During the second day they went out of the building to speak with different people on the street. They came back with strong and inspiring stories which became the starting point for the songs. There was for example one old lady who said that they, these youth volunteers, were the secret power of the neighbourhood. There was also a young boy who had to work to earn money for his family. This ended up in lyrics about the wisdom of the old and the power of the young.
The second part of the week we used to write three new children songs.
The fourth day showed a huge shift in vulnerability within the group. During the check in, emotions were out in the open and apparently so safe within the group. They really took the responsibility for creating a safe space together for expression.
This bonding was exactly needed for diving into the workshop and performance with the children and teenagers on the last day. In those moments you really need to feel the support of the group. And a success it was!!
We performed on the neighbourhood stage, which we've been wanting to do since the very beginning. So much fun and energy with everyone singing songs, performing cool body percussion rhythms and very strong and energising non verbal leadership of our trainees.
It was interesting to hear that most of the sharing during the final check out was not about the work with the children but about their own feelings and growth within the group. They felt supported, trusted, empowered, and able to break some of their (inner) boundaries.
"I feel comfortable in this circle. When I share something vulnerable I don't worry about it at home as I would normally do. I trust my sharing is safe in this group."
"The training is a space for me to let go of my negative energy."