My Personal Flashback to Sawubona Music Jam (2008 – 2010)

IBM launched Sawubona Music Jam in 2008 as a Social Responsibility Project, which ran until 2010, with the aim to raise donation funds for South Africa.

After initial plans to bring musical interaction into the Second Life platform never really took off (check out my song “Second Love” in the welcome section), it settled down to be a “normal” Social Media Web 2.0 site hosted on NING.

While I had personally been quite disappointed from the official overall results of the project (if there had been any substancial – by some reason the project simply omitted to harvest the ready fruits grown on that platform), still it had been my greatest time as a hobbyist musican to interact with people from Africa and other countries, to create some art far beyond the stereotypes of classical love songs, but to write songs and poems on topics that deal with existential problems of real people in real trouble, simply because they have different political opinions, are victims of racism or seek for personal freedom in a society that will not grant freedom for them.

Most of the songs of Sawubona Musicjam were written to feature Hans-Dieter Huober’s lyrics originally written in 1989/90 after the end of Apartheid, when he travelled to South Africa and felt to be one of the first white to visit Soweto township. He appeared to have met many lovely people there who got reflected well in his poems, so putting this into music had been a real pleasure to me.

When later a Poems Contest had been added, poets especially from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa entered with really fresh and inspiring stuff, including the (International Literature Festival Berlin (ILB)seleted) contest winner Niran Okewole, as well as Kenya’s human rights activist and writer Philo Ikonya. For me, it seemed to be even more important to bring such touching words into music.

Some Examples: “Hope Springs and Flows” is Philo’s poem which I submitted as music right at the time when she got arrested after demonstrating for humand rights, so when she left prison she could listen to her poem of hope and freedom as a song.

Possibly even more Ann Kamoni’s poem “She Only Dares” struck me. Describing the personal impact of forced marriage in the slums of Nairobi, I felt I needed to write a really bitter sing over it. While many might disagree, I personally consider it to be one of my best music writings I ever did and recorded. But possibly, it is not even as unpleasant as it ought to be.

The biggest surprize was was brought to me by Otiago Guguyu, having translated my own poem “The End” into Swahili. I convinced him to read his version in a voice chat at a cyber cafĂ©, so I could record and include him into the song (which was performed on on old scrap guitar, battered old bass guitar lent from a friend, and two paper-covered flower pots to act as percussion).

Similar surprize enlightened me, when Lucky Thobela managed to record the voice of Ouma Mbelengwa at her house, so I could feature her in her own song, i.e. bring her voice back into a poem about her and her husband Peter written in 1989/90. Lucky’s own song “Rainbow Scatterings” will be represented on the playlist as my remix version.

One of my major personal aims for Sawubona Musicjam had been to cooperate with as many people as possible, so I experimented to adopt many different music styles to appear “compatible” to everybody ready to join forces – of course with variable success. As a result, you might find this playlist would not qualify to be found on any conventional music album, since each song aims at least partly to other target audiences. As an example, you will find two version of Ouma Part II significantly different over the same notes.

Here is the excerpt of my Sawubona Musicjam contributions: