On Sunday July 28, the Agape concert took place in Kampala, Uganda, with choir director Jude Luwaga conducting the Cherubim Chamber Chorale and the newly-formed Mélange Kampala Youth Choir! Dr. Jovanni de Pedro, founder and executive director of Mélange International Music Foundation, performed several songs on the piano with the adult choir, and also played a few solo works. Since Mélange.IMF and Jude Luwaga launched the Youth Choir together only two months ago, the children were not expected to be ready to perform by this year's concert at the National Cultural Centre...
But they worked hard to prepare two songs in time for the concert, and they blew us away! With just a few months of preparation under Jude's leadership and the mentorship of several Cherubim Chorale members, the Youth Choir was formed and gave their first performance at the Agape concert.
One of our great privileges at Mélange.IMF is telling the stories of those around the world whose voices deserve to be heard. Jude Luwaga is one such person. Without Jude, the launch of Mélange Kampala would not have been possible.
Jude grew up in Uganda, and anyone who has met him can testify to his passion for music education! Jude’s late father was a choir director at a parish church, Villa Maria Masaka diocese and his mother was a chorister. When he was young, he used to lead songs in his school choir. He said, "Our grandfather’s home was near Bukalasa Seminary, and we used to go there for Sunday masses. I loved the brass band at the seminary, so I grew up wanting to play in a brass band."
When he was old enough, Jude interviewed at the seminary and was accepted. It was at this seminary that he began his study of music, and started learning the trumpet. Today, Jude teaches music analysis at Bukalasa Minor Seminary and directs several choirs in the Kampala area, including the Cherubim Chamber Chorale, the Ggaba St. Denis Choir, and now, the Mélange Kampala Youth Choir!
A few months ago, because of the support of Mélange.IMF, Jude was able to start taking private piano lessons. These lessons are giving him greater skill in directing his choirs with excellence. Since music education and pianos are not easy to come by in Kampala, these lessons are truly a gift for both Jude and every choir that he directs!
We are thrilled that, under Jude's care and teaching, the Mélange Kampala Youth Choir was ready to participate in the Agape performance after only two months’ notice. The Namugongo Primary School students who comprise the Youth Choir have been identified by school officials as underprivileged, and we selected these students because we wanted this project to focus on helping those without access to music education.
Moving forward, there are several ways that Mélange IMF will continue to enhance the Kampala project and build the music program there.
Every week, Jude Luwaga and a few members of the Cherubim Chamber Chorale have covered their own costs to travel via public motorcycle (locally known as "boda boda") to rehearse the Mélange Kampala Youth Choir at the Namugongo Primary School, an hour away from Kampala’s city center.
Although efficient, boda bodas are extremely dangerous. A 2018 UN report says that 10 people die daily on Kampala roads in boda boda accidents, and boda bodas have caused the injury of 25,000 people over the past 3 years.
Additionally, when the Youth Choir traveled from the primary school to their first rehearsal with the Cherubim Chorale, all 34 children were fit into a 12-passenger van. As you can see from the picture below, fitting that many children into a van meant for 12 is not ideal, much less safe!
Mélange.IMF would like to ensure the safety of both Jude and the Youth Choir as they travel to and from rehearsals from this September through next July’s concert. $10 will cover one safe car ride for Jude and 2 to 4 Cherubim Chorale members to the primary school for weekly rehearsal. $45 will cover two roundtrip bus rides for all 34 children in the Youth Choir to one of their monthly off-campus rehearsals. All donations are tax deductible, and 100% of proceeds go to the Mélange Kampala project. Check out our Facebook fundraiser for more information and details on how to donate!
Besides providing a sustainable skill set for generations to come, the Mélange Kampala Youth Choir is also building a safety net for these students. Despite its joyous people and vibrant culture, Uganda is also home to much violence and poverty. Many widows and orphans are victims of crimes like land theft, kidnapping, and abuse because of their vulnerable state. Jude Luwaga communicated to us that this choir provides a support group, a kind of family, for these students. It helps to keep them from falling into dangerous activities or even getting kidnapped, which is sadly a common occurence in Uganda.
We hope that you'll join us as we move forward in Kampala and continue to support Jude Luwaga and the Mélange Kampala Youth Choir. We are excited for what lies ahead!