Using Music to Connect People to Conservation
Every day a lot is said locally and globally about conservation – what is happening to our planet, wildlife and us – but it might be time conservationists started to sing about the conservation agenda rather than talk about it, for “Where words leave off, music begins” Heinrich Heine says.

According to Tania Kross, a classical musician from the Netherlands, “music is the language we all speak, it is a common ground that gets one into the emotional realm and speaks to the soul. It allows us to experience the same emotions and gets all people thinking alike hence making it easier for them to identify a common solution.” Richard Kawesa, a Ugandan-based artist notes that “music is an educational, public relations, and mobilization tool.” Richard adds that many other sectors have successfully advanced their causes through music, and it’s about time conservationists strategically exploited this powerful tool to sell their objectives.

In 2014, Richard Kawesa and Myko Ouma in collaboration with Uganda Poverty and Conservation Learning Group (U-PCLG), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and ARCUS Foundation wrote and produced a conservation song “Imagine Bwindi” along with local Bwindi musicians to raise awareness about the need for equal and fair distribution of the costs and benefits of conserving the invaluable natural resources of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

This year, 2015, WWF Netherlands among its many strategies of creating awareness about conservation is working with musicians from all walks of life to compose songs on different conservation agendas around the world. The composed songs will be aired Dec 16th on AVROTROS on NPO1 and also be shared with their partners and the world over through different online platforms. In light of this, IGCP and WWF Uganda on 15th – 20th November 2015 hosted a team of two classical musicians Tania Kross,

The duo conducted several activities in and around Bwindi Forest, among which included trekking mountain gorillas, working with the local community in Kalangala parish to maintain the Mauritius thorn hedge to reduce crop raiding by wildlife, visiting energy saving cooking stoves, visiting park edges to establish the impact of deforestation on the park and the surrounding community, visiting tea plantations serving as buffer zones between the park and the community gardens, and visiting the Children’s hope in the gorilla project (CHIGO); while they visited CHIGO, the intention was more about understanding the children’s conservation related music.

The purpose of conducting several activities was to help the musicians understand issues of mountain gorilla conservation, human wildlife conflict management and community livelihood in and around the protected area. It is from this knowledge and experience gathered that the musicians would later compose a song on the conservation of the mountain gorilla and deforestation in Bwindi. And bang!, being the great musicians that they are, something was spontaneously composed and sweetly played and sang out when Tania and Lavinia met Richard and Myko in Ruhija, captivating the souls and minds of the entire team.

Richard, Tania, Lavinia and Myko doing their spontaneous composition. Photo by, Alice Mbayahi-IGCP

Facilitated by IGCP, the four musicians, on a colorful Wednesday evening met and without further to-do exploded into a soul touching session of making music, dancing and stealing the breath of the entire team that watched in amusement and admiration at their skill and the power of music in connecting people and communication. The musicians chatted the evening away, sharing experiences and ideas on the use of music for conservation.

It goes without saying that music is truly an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by, no matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music. Music brings people together and yes it did bring the Ugandan based artists Richard Kawesa and Myko Ouma together with Tania and Lavinia. Commenting on their meeting, Richard Kawesa expressed gratitude to IGCP for linking them up with Tania and Lavinia, and to the conservationists for finally taking on music to amplify the conservation agenda.

“I believe the journey WWF and IGCP have started will facilitate even more understanding of and support for conservation” Richard notes.

Sharing her understanding of conservation and music, Lavinia mentions that conservation is largely about finding a balance that we (people and the wildlife/habitat) all need each other and thus need to guard what we have aggressively! “We can’t accept to have naturally beautiful things like the mountain gorilla taken away., Since music is a language that everyone speaks, it is only wise and strategic that we use it to do something different- create awareness on the things that happen further outside our world but still affect us”, Tania says.

Asked about what inspires them to sing about conservation, Tania and Lavinia revealed that music is their passion and using it to speak about conservation is one creative way to reach people and educate them about something important and also complex but in an exciting way. While to Myko Ouma, there is no better way to serve than use his God given gift to sensitize people about critical issues like conservation.

“I love nature, I love the green cover, I love economically stable communities and this is what inspires me to preach conservation; to create awareness on the benefits of preserving nature and those derived from co-existence”, Richard adds.

Commenting on why the WWF Netherlands is using music to promote conservation, Bente van der Wilt and Myrna Matthea Geertruida Van Dongen said, conservation is a complex issue and sometimes deemed ‘boring’, and often difficult to effectively educate people about, so putting it across in a more appealing way, through the use of popular music celebrities could cause a re-awakening, trigger interest and also mobilize more support for conservation.

Note: Top feature photo was taken by,Bente van der Wilt.


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