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DRC: An orchestra with a difference

The Democratic Republic of Congo is 113 times the size of Wales, or 117,242,900 times the size of the Prince of Wales, allowing a margin of error caused by sunday roast followed by jam roly-poly and custard.

About 68 million people live here. They drive on the right, have about 242 languages to choose from, have the 2nd largest rainforest in the world, the 7th most corrupt government in the world (Corruption Perception Index 2006) and some of the best music in the world (me).

There are African rhythms in Beethoven, I’m told, and there’s an orchestra in Kinshasa. But because we’re in DRC, it’s an orchestra with a difference. 

One musician sells bread by the side of the street. Another is a roadside barber. The cellist is a driver. Of the 300 people who make up the entire choir and orchestra, just two are in formal jobs. 

Can you imagine how much dedication and motivation these people must have? Learning an instrument is hard enough, but teaching yourself from scratch, pushing yourself to international standards, knowing you’ll never get paid for your skill?

It’s not like they all picked easy instruments either. Who decides to start with a bassoon?  How do you work out a trombone? Especially if you’ve never heard one?

I met a lovely lady here who is involved with the Kinshasa Symphony Orchestra. She’s been linking the Congolese musicians up with professional musicians elsewhere in the world using webcams and skype.

There’s a great film coming out on them soon – it’s showing in Berlin and Cannes this year and the trailer is online. The music makes my hair stand on end.

In other news, I’ve spent the last three days locked in a room with eight other people, developing a programme plan for a proposal we’re working on. It’s just been sent off for feedback by at least that many more.

Then the budget will take the same effort. And then we can begin writing. I’m really looking forward to the weekend so I can get outdoors and enjoy being in DRC!

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