The Voice Project Vol. 1 To Fund FM Radio Peace Broadcasts in DR Congo
With the release of its first collection of recordings as a digital album, The Voice Project has begun making the audio recordings available of its "Cover Chain" video episodes, recorded over the last three years in support of music-based peace efforts in Eastern and Central Africa.
As explained in a short video narrated by Peter Gabriel, the proceeds from the album sales will be used to support The Voice Project's Amplify Peace efforts to work with local FM radio broadcasters to transmit "Come Home" songs and messages of peace and reconciliation in the current combat zones such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The broadcasts have been extremely effective at encouraging safe surrenders of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) fighters, many of whom were abducted as children and forced to fight, lied to by commanders that they would be never be welcome in their home communities if they ever tried to surrender.
The project started when co-founder Hunter Heaney sat down with a group of women and rape survivors in the small town of Kitgum, in Northern Uganda. They were singing peace songs to forgive those soldiers who had wronged them. "They explained to me how many who fought would escape, but hide in the bush afraid to come home, and the songs were passed by word of mouth and on the radio to let them know they were forgiven, that they could come back."
Heaney traveled around recording these women's songs and documenting this phenomenon of how music and FM radio was helping to end the war, responsible for bringing home thousands of former combatants and child soldiers. "Most villages we went to, the protocol was always the same, that they'd sing us their "Dwog Paco" or "Come Home" songs, and then we had to teach them some of "ours." My go-to songs were always Joe Purdy's "Suitcase" and Ed Sharpe's "Home." Upon return to the US, both artists offered to help, and when a video of the women singing the Purdy and Edward Sharpe songs was sent from Uganda in thanks for funding sent over raised at an Edward Sharpe record release benefit party for the women, the idea of the cover chains was born.
Together with a group of Friends including Anna Gabriel (filmmaker and Daughter of Peter), musician Chris Holmes, and web designer Jason Young, they created The Voice Project and Gabriel started filming episodes with artists around the world. "We decided to take our cue from the women, how they use music so effectively, passed from one to another to spread a message through song. With that premise, we had artists pick who to pass the torch to."
In recording these songs, The Voice Project tried to connect with the musicians in their homes or private spaces on the road to explore around this theme of Home.
"The Project has developed organically as it's the artists who decide who they will cover next and we never know where it will lead us next," said Gabriel "We would take the audio files ourselves just to listen to and loved them because they were so raw and unadorned, like beloved rare demos or cassette tape recordings you would make at home and pass around. I think fans of the project have had the same idea because we've gotten a lot of requests to make them available." Awareness and funds donated at the website have been used to broadcast these peace messages in the current combat theatre and continue to bring home soldiers and the collaboration between the Gulu Widows Choir and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros which appears on the album gained airplay in Uganda as well. The proceeds from album sales will do the same, to even further broaden the reach, deep into the jungle, of the voices of peace and the "Dwog Paco" songs.