Changing lives through music in Zanzibar

ABRSM is helping bring music into the lives of people facing the challenges of disability and rural poverty in Tanzania.

A unique music school which preserves the musical heritage of Zanzibar has been awarded grants to help it work with remote communities and children with disability.

ABRSM’s International Sponsorship Fund supported the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) in 2020 but has this year provided extra funds so the academy can support performances in more remote communities and develop its work with 16 young people who, between them, have a range of disabilities.

DCMA has used music to transform the lives of children with mental and physical disability since it started providing free music lessons at a remote primary school almost a decade ago. The lessons have given children new social skills and self-esteem by helping them overcome the social stigmas attached to their disabilities.

Xandrija Edwins, ABRSM’s International Sponsorship manager, said: “DCMA is a fantastic organisation which really does transform lives by breaking down barriers to learning and performing music.

“The extra support we’re providing this year amounts to £3,000 and is very modest. However, we know will make a great difference to communities in Zanzibar by enabling the academy to help to reach even deeper.”

Children in Zanzibar have minimal access to music of any kind and the Dhow Countries Music Academy is the state’s only music school. It treats music as a catalyst for everything from education to youth empowerment and social change and places an emphasis on teaching traditional Zanzibar music styles and more global genres of music as well as contemporary styles like afro-fusion or jazz.

The rural outreach project will support music learning and performance in rural communities which suffer from poverty and high unemployment.

For the second year ABRSM’ Fund is also supporting DCMA’s women’s taraab group.

Originally an oral tradition, taraab is a particular style of Swahili music noted for its distinctive sound and poetry. The group’s opening concert was on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2020. Soon after, they created a new Women Band, comprised of both teachers and students. This new group fuses taraab music with other music such as Gogo, with a look to the future they melt together tradition with modernity.

Through these groups, DCMA has created job opportunities through live performances. Despite the academy being closed for 4 months of the year due to Covid, the women’s group have given 8 concerts, with participants ranging from 7 to 16 members of the group and played to audiences from 50-250 members.  

The ABRSM International Sponsorship Fund is now accepting applications for 2021. Apply via our website:

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