Seizing the moment for Africa

October 2012 – 541 words

The moment for action has arrived. Or rather for more action. With the successful entry of 22 projects in 18 countries into Sistema Europe throughout the first half of 2012, it is now time for another – and arguably much larger – challenge.  That challenge is Africa.  The method for meeting it will be the values, programmes and methodology of El Sistema, and the device for achieving it will be a new organization that launches today, Sistema Africa.

Over the last few years I have listened slowly but surely to a small but growing number of voices from around the continent – from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean to the heart of Africa and beyond – exploring ways to establish Sistema work in a substantial, effective, sustainable manner. During the last year virtual conversations have taken me to Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Kenya, and beyond. There is a thirst, and a tremendous sense of desire to make something positive happen, and build sustainable help for young people through the vehicle of  music. Of course much is already going on, and there are many people who have been fighting the battle for some time. One of the challenges – as in Europe – will be to see how the wonderful pattern of activity that already exists will come together with any new or continuing Sistema projects. And as with Sistema Europe the stress will be on being an organisation that brings people together, assists the spread of good ideas and practice, and is generally helpful in an open non territorial welcoming manner.

As the first stage in assisting that process, I am working with Gabriel Prokofiev, who is already well known in Europe for his radical new classical music projects and who very successfully worked in Caracas with the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra of Venezuela in February 2012. Gabriel is now looking at establishing Sistema work in Congo-Brazzaville where he has been recently, and will be returning. He and I have founded Sistema Africa to bring together the already existing and ongoing Sistema ongoing projects as well as any inspirational leaders who want to begin their own Sistema journey.

Initially Sistema Africa will exist simply as a Facebook Page – see for where this currently exists –  in order to become a friend, announce any work that you are doing, and network with your contacts to spread the word. I am sure that initiatives like Glen Thomas’ Sistema Global will also help the process. My gut feeling is that unlike in other places in the world where El Sistema is developing, the first priority will be to establish a linked conversation by people who share values, practice and common challenges. Linking together will I am sure be the number one priority. Later on the form of Sistema Africa will develop in ways that we can probably not imagine just now, but will be described by the journey it happens to take. As the Venezuelans say, the planning is the doing. At some point it will need to be a place where money can be raised and lobbying achieved. Let’s see where this takes us. For now welcome to anyone who wants to join this new bold audacious initiative, to anyone who wants to seize the moment for Africa.


4 thoughts on “Seizing the moment for Africa

  1. Sheelin

    Always interesting ideas Marshall I have a Zambian house decorated here right now, well half Irish..

  2. Matheu Kieswetter

    Hi Marshall! Let’s talk. I am a South African musician based in Scotland at the moment and working as the music director of the University of Strathclyde Chorus among other roles and complete my MMus Masters of Music in Conducting in a couple of months time. I am keen to make a contribution to radical change and development back home in South Africa and was tremendously inspired when I met Gustavo Dudamel last year at rehearsals for a concert he did here with Sistema Scotland. Check these links for my bio:

    e-mail me!

    Matheu Kieswetter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s