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Culture, Creativity, Community: Why Music Matters

The Choir of Pembroke College, led by Director of Music Anna Lapwood, is currently in Zambia on the 2017 Choir tour.

A major part of the choir tour – and the campaign to raise funds for it – has been an emphasis on musical education and cultural exchange.  The choir are working in association with the Estelle Trust and the Muze Trust to offer notation workshops to communities in Mukuni village.  Both charities are focused on education and providing opportunities for children in Zambia. To understand why this is a useful and valuable thing to offer, one needs to understand a little about the many roles music can play in a community like Mukuni village.

The Muze Trust is a charity that believes in the importance of music, as well as the provision of sanitation, medication, and sustainable food sources.  It works in Zambia to complement the work of other charitable organisations, and specifically supports music-making in urban and rural communities.  The rich musical tradition in Zambia, and the work of music leaders, is not currently supported by equally strong school curricula.  The Ngoma Dolce Academy, which is the first full-time music school in Lusaka, is a vital first step, but unfortunately can’t teach every Zambian for whom music is an important part of life.  Notation workshops like those that Pembroke’s choir are offering provide opportunities to preserve music for future generations; something of particular importance when a music leader passes on without someone to take on the position.

If you would like to learn more about song and oral traditions you may find this article by the British Library interesting. Music can carry the memories and core values of a community; they may have a vital place in ceremonies, or a more modern purpose of challenging injustice or offering political commentary (here is a list of some of the roles music plays in Zambian community life).  B

y taking part in the workshops in Mukuni village the choir will not only be able to help preserve such traditions, but also to experience for themselves different ways of making music, therefore developing their own musical education. The hope is that this tour will be the foundation of an ongoing cultural exchange and relationship between Pembroke’s choir and the communities in Zambia. The choir are also experiencing many of the amazing experiences and sights Zambia has to offer.  Below is a photo gallery from their first week, including a greeting by the Mother’s Union in Livingstone, and a sunset safari.

You can read in more detail about the Choir’s schedule on our Hubbub page, or visit for more information about the Choir.