Every individual on the planet has the capacity to shine. By being open minded, free spirited and with a belief that anything is possible, we can shine and positively affect all those around us. One such individual, Grant Pierce, an Australian mining engineer and recognised long term philanthropist in Tanzania, has had a profound effect on 42 children from rural villages in Nzega. For the last eight years he has been assisting a small school called Isanga Primary. By 2003 a choir had emerged consisting of 42 children (between 11 and 18) from Lusu, Bujulu and Isanga primary schools.
The social messages in their songs, composed by primary teacher Peter Charles, cut deep. They speak of the importance of education, health, the evils of corruption, HIV/AIDS, and they call for action instead of mere rhetoric. Grant decided to bring a friend, Lee Buddle, a professional music producer in Australia, to Tanzania to record the choir. He then sent the CD to WOMAD in the UK on a wing and a prayer. Soon they had an invitation to perform there – the prestigious World of Music, Art and Dance in Reading! Ahead lay the task of obtaining 42 passports, visas, airfares, suitcases, toiletries and so on. Months of meticulous planning, unwavering belief in his dream, intense passion for the project, the generosity of friends and willing business associates saw him raise the thousands of dollars required for the trip.
In 2004, Grant Pierce, the choir, three teachers, and some support staff were on their way – from a remote village to a phenomenal myriad of new experiences. The first plane ride, modern showers, electricity at the flick of a switch, flush toilets and so much more flooded the children’s senses. At the WOMAD festival they walked onto the stage with specially designed golden gowns. It was a phenomenal success.
Two years later in March 2006, the choir found themselves at WOMADelaide and the cultural festival for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Grant had approached a number of the big stars performing at the festivals, requesting them to meet the children and give them a motivational talk. A number declined but reggae legend Jimmy Cliff and his agent Urs Guentert responded and Urs gave them an invitation to Switzerland.
They received much help. Barrick Gold Tanzania kindly provided its aircraft to transport the children from Nzega to Dar es Salaam. Without really having a game plan, Urs and his wife Iris, wrote hundred of letters to potential sponsors , made phone calls, sent emails and at the end of the day it was not UNICEF or UNDP that came to the party. In fact letters to them surprisingly went unanswered. It was friends and the likes of COOP, a large supermarket chain in Europe, which paid for the flight tickets and a massive advertising and marketing campaign. The Norvartis Foundation, of the giant pharmaceutical company, agreed to be one of the sponsors.
The choir packed their bags once again. They saw a mountainous country with fat cows grazing, wheat drying in the fields, corn green and tightly sown, miles and miles of forest and different shades of green like never before envisaged. A lady in the audience listening to the choir said: “ Ils sont magnifique.” In absolute awe the children took everything in like sponges, the landscape, the language. They sang, played, rode on speed boats, swam, tasted different flavoured ice creams and saw quaint orderly villages.
To crown it all they got to visit Austria and perform at the Stimmen Festival in Germany, alongside names such as Tracey Chapman, James Blunt and Taj Mahal, as always to highly appreciative crowds. The ‘Golden Pride Choir’ is now arguably the most internationally recognised East African musical act and is an excellent ambassador for Tanzania. The warmth of 42 voices in absolute unison have transcended all barriers and continue to tug at heart strings thousands of miles beyond their borders.
Who knows what may lay ahead?