The Voice Project - Singing Ugandan Child Soldiers Back Home
The Voice Project launches to support Ugandan women’s groups who are using music to bring the child soldiers home - Featuring Andrew Bird, Mike Mills, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Joseph Arthur, Joe Purdy, Dawes, SoKo & many more to come...
The Voice Project a US based non-profit supporting the women of Northern Uganda who have been using music effectively to bring soldiers home from Africa’s longest running war, the 24 year old conflict that has devastated the region of Northern Uganda, Congo, Southern Sudan and CAR.
Many soldiers fighting with Joseph Kony's LRA were abducted as children and forced to fight. Many were made to kill their own friends and family, and while many do eventually escape, they often hide in the bush ashamed and afraid to come home because of what they were made to do.
Women in the region, widows and rape survivors, have been banding together into groups to care for each other and the orphans left by the war. Often without the right to even own land, these women have been taking a lead role in the Peace and Reconciliation efforts, one of their main tools: using messages carried in songs spread on the radio and by word of mouth into the bush to let the soldiers know that they are forgiven and that they should come home. And it's working. Soldiers have been hearing the songs and coming home.
Considering the atrocities the women have been subjected to, this is clearly not only one of the greatest uses of music, but also one of the greatest acts of compassion, love, and forgiveness one can find. Co-Founder Hunter Heaney first heard of the women’s efforts and how they were using music to call the soldiers home while working at an IDP camp (Internally Displaced Persons) in the tiny village of Agoro on the Uganda/Sudan border in 2008. He learned the women’s songs from different groups in the region and when they asked him to teach them some, the first one to come to mind was Joe Purdy’s “Suitcase.” Heaney brought the story of how the women were using music home with him, telling friends like music producer Chris Holmes and filmmaker Anna Gabriel. Together they assembled a team of friends like Internet entrepreneurs Kelleigh Faldi and CC Lagator, Web Developer Jason Young, Nicole Grable from the NGO world, and music industry veterans like Jay Sweet, Andrea von Foerster and Ana Calderon, and together started The Voice Project to support the women.
The story was passed to Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros who offered to combine the record release party for his new band’s debut album Up From Below with the project to raise money for the ladies. The money was used to start a small farm in Gulu. The women celebrated and sent their thanks in song, a phone call to Heaney singing the Joe Purdy tune he had taught them nine months before, and a short video of them singing the chorus to Edward Sharpe’s “Home” which has been making its way around the Internet.
From there, the idea for the “cover chain” was born. Taking the lead from the women in Uganda, the friends decided to keep the chain going and have artists pass on the story of the women to other musicians by each covering another’s song, with The Voice Project team filming each link as a series of episodes that would eventually circle back around to the women in Uganda, posting each online and raising money along the way from sponsors, advertisers and donors to support the women, the peace movement, and rehabilitation programs for former child soldiers.
Episodes featuring Andrew Bird, Mike Mills, Dawes, Joseph Arthur, Tom Freund, Joe Purdy and SoKo have already been shot and posted, with upcoming links from Peter Gabriel, Devendra Banhart, The Submarines, Bedouin Clash and many more on the way. A number of non-profits have also been getting behind the project in hopes of raising awareness and support for the war-torn region, including Oxfam International, Witness, HOPE and others.