The IFCD trains young musicians in Africa
In Chad, musical trainings help young artists rise onto the regional stage.
Only a few days after playing together in front of a captivated audience at the French Institute in N'Djamena, Chad, eight young artists from Cameroun, Congo, Gabon and Chad regrouped to record their first ever collective album, Unité. Today, the album’s ten songs, which have jazz, blues and afrobeat influences, can regularly be heard playing on local radio stations. The song Dounia, infused with Chad’s moulah style of music, has become a number one hit on the regional radio station Africa nᵒ 1.
This album, the first for most of these artists, is the result of months of hard work, cooperation and sharing of experiences within the context of a project funded by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD). The “Emerging Youth: Strengthening sub-regional cooperation and promoting young talents in the African music sector” initiative aims to provide young people from Chad and surrounding countries with the means to professionalize by strengthening their musical creativity and technical skills, all the while fostering cooperation. The eight youth who participated in the album’s creation were selected following a workshop held in 2012 as part of La Francophonie’s cultural activities in Chad, and following a training course in vocal technique led by Annie Flore Batchiellilys, a Franco-Gabonese artist.
Pierre Claver, cultural operator from Congo-Brazzaville explains: “We worked with young people who showed promise all along the musical supply chain: from training to support to creation, all the way to distribution. This experience has allowed them to grow, to surpass themselves, to use their individual talents towards a collective objective, and to reach markets beyond their respective countries.”
Among those eight artists, there was only one woman. We spoke to Geneviève Matibeye who, at 27, exudes passion and has been nicknamed “the nightingale” by her fans.
Geneviève, how did you get to where you are today?
I am an artist from Chad and my music combines both modern and classical styles: it’s “world music”. I sing in French as well as in my mother tongue, Ngambaye. I grew up surrounded by music. My dad was a pastor and my mom was a chorister, and I started singing at the age of 12 in my parish’s choir. Later, I became a professional chorister – on stage and in studio. Four years ago, I started my solo career.
What has been your involvement with this UNESCO funded project?
Thanks to IFCD, alongside seven other artists I benefited from a training course in vocal technique and the opportunity to record in studio. We were shouldered through the development of an original collective music piece. I had the honor of learning from Annie-Flore Batchiellilys, a very famous Franco-Gabonese singer that I have admired for a very long time. She is a regional icon. Beyond that, I also learned a lot from my fellow trainees, and we have established lasting ties.
On a professional level, what have you gained from this project?
I had the opportunity to work with artists who were incredibly open-minded and had formidable ideas to share. And thanks to the skills I gained and the networks I was able to build, I recently won a prize at the 2015 NdjamVi Festival in the World Music category. It’s a huge festival that takes place every year in Chad and that draws large crowds – it’s a real human tide! Winning the prize has served to confirm that all my efforts have not been in vain. It’s also given me the courage and the will to progress further.
Why do you think this project is important?
In our region, despite strong political will to encourage regional synergies, this rarely translates into practice. For me, artists have an important role to play in this regional integration. This project itself has played a federative role by bringing together people from across the region and helping us, through our album, pass a message of unity.
Chad is a country that faces a number of development challenges. How important is music in that context?
Music has a fundamental role to play in the country as well as in the region, given the difficult regional and local contexts. In Chad, music allows us to share information and sensitize the population, it favors social cohesion and it holds a central place in our cultural practices. Music also allows us to bring people together around a common interest, which is why it’s so important to encourage the development of a well-organized music industry in Africa that will generate revenue and create jobs – just like this project did.
Music also allows us to share our culture and promote diversity of cultural expressions. This was brought to light by the success of our collective album: people like listening to music that they can relate to.
What’s next for you professionally?
I am now working on the creation of my own album, using the skills and contacts I acquired through UNESCO’s project. I want to continue sharing my music and my culture, and help Chad’s music sector become internationally renowned. Too few women in Chad embark on a musical career, and many are still limited by society’s expectations of their role. As a young woman, I want to use my voice to overcome these traditional barriers by showing that young female artists can and should be represented on stage, as young professionals in their own right.