News / Africa

Brass Band Provides Hope for Kampala Street Kids

The children living at M-lisada practice their instruments every day, Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 11, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)
The children living at M-lisada practice their instruments every day, Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 11, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler)
After hearing a school band practice, a group of street kids in 1990s Uganda set up a brass band of its own called M-lisada.  Today the band's original founder runs a home for street kids, teaching them to play instruments and perform in concerts and becoming a source of pride for kids who had lost all hope.

Seventeen-year-old Derick Tamale does not know how old he was when he lost his parents and his home.  As far as he can remember he spent his whole childhood on the streets of Kampala, running with a group of other boys, living by stealing and picking food out of the trash.

“It was a miserable life, because I didn’t have a home.  When it came to night, [there was] nowhere you could sleep.  We only slept on the verandas.  Sometimes we got food from the rubbish, and then sometimes we’d go to big hotels like Serena, where they throw things that are not so good to sell to people, like cakes.”

But then one day he discovered music, and his life changed forever.

Derick happened to see a brass band called M-lisada playing in the slums.  The group is made up entirely of former street kids, and their concerts help finance the orphanage where they live.  Derick joined them and is now an accomplished trombone player, eager to talk about music with everyone he meets.

Bosco Segawa with two of the former street kids at his orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 25, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler))Bosco Segawa with two of the former street kids at his orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 25, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler))
x
Bosco Segawa with two of the former street kids at his orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 25, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler))
Bosco Segawa with two of the former street kids at his orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, Oct. 25, 2013. (VOA/Hilary Heuler))
Bosco Segawa, M-lisada’s founder, understands the feeling.  He grew up as a street kid himself, but discovered music when he was 12 and chanced upon a school band playing a concert.  When he saw all the parents clapping, he says, he was hooked.

“In slums people don’t appreciate children, even if children try and try, it’s very hard," Segawa said. "So it was my first experience to see [that] people could appreciate the children because of music.  From that time, I thought maybe I could become a musician so that one day people could appreciate me.”

With the help of a music teacher, Segawa and a few friends learned to play on secondhand instruments, eventually scraping together some funding to rent a small house and start a band.

Over the years, he says, music has transformed their lives.

“All of them were not perfect musicians, but they discovered what they could do.  One is a lawyer, two are businessmen, one is a mechanic, one is a social worker who works with me, and one is an expert in education," he said. "I’m not a professional musician, but I’m a teacher who teaches young kids.”

For the 80 kids in his orphanage, Segawa hopes that music will help them discover their potential as well.

Godfrey Mboira, a volunteer music teacher, says that on a more basic level, being in a band helps former street kids build confidence and feel like valued members of a team.

“It empowers them and they will do what people don’t expect them to do," said Mboira.  "And then at the end of it they feel they are appreciated.  At at least every performance they say, ‘well done, well done.’  That’s the most important thing these children have been missing all those years on the streets.”

The children at M-lisada all go to school, but after class every day they practice for upcoming concerts.

For Derick, it is one of the best parts of the day.  He says playing the trombone makes him feel important.  And if it were not for the band, he says, he does not know what would have become of him.

“I think I would maybe be dead by this time. Because on the street everyday I would see my friends dying, using drugs and then they end up dying.  Maybe I would have been in jail, somewhere working as a prisoner, or maybe just a useless person on the street.  Music is the one which is making me to be where I am now.  It is really a thing which rescued me," said Derick.

But he is one of the lucky ones. The orphanage is small, with no more than three bedrooms. Thousands of children are still living on the streets.  Many come during the day to rest and listen to the music.

But when night falls, they melt back into the shadows of the city.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs