The Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA), Zanzibar’s one and only music school, has launched a major crowdfunding campaign on September 19, 2019, to keep its doors open and the music flowing in its historic hallways of the Old Customs House in Zanzibar.
The academy has reached a critical crossroads: The DCMA seeks $70,000 USD to cover a gap in funding through the end of 2019. Without these crucial funds, the soulful sounds that flow through the hallways of this iconic institution that make these islands sing — may cease.
“We [have started] to face a very challenging financial moment,” said Alessia Lombardo, managing director of the DCMA. “From now to the next six months, we are not sure that we can guarantee the salaries to our teachers and staff.”
For 17 years, the DCMA has worked tirelessly to promote and protect Zanzibar’s rich heritage and traditions through music. The DCMA has received support from a wide range of international donors, private sponsors, and friends over the years, but only a small percentage of the students who study with the DCMA can afford basic tuition of $13 USD per month.
Zanzibar, the birthplace of legendary taarab singers Siti Binti Saad and Bi. Kidude, is home to unique musical genres that emerged through cultural exchange and collaboration along the Swahili Coast for hundreds of years. Today, at least 80 students learn traditional instruments like drums, qanun and oud, as gatekeepers of culture and tradition.
Neema Surri, a violin player at the DCMA, has been studying the violin since the age of 9. “I know many young people who would like to study music but they can’t afford the minimal tuition fee because they are poor and unemployed,” Surri said.
Offering certificate and diploma courses, students study with 19 master teachers from Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania, and DCMA students go on to perform on world stages as world-class bands and solo artists. Zanzibar’s Siti Amina, a former DCMA student and current DCMA teacher, recently returned from a tour in South Africa with her critically acclaimed “Siti and the Band.”
Over 15,000 visitors have passed through the academy’s iconic building to enjoy live performances, workshops and classes and interact with passionate DCMA musicians who represent the future of Zanzibar culture and heritage. Drawing from a rich history of Indian, Arab and African exchange, the school celebrates the influence of “dhow countries,” drawing inspiration from a mix of Swahili Coast cultures that converged along the shores of the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
The DCMA recognizes that music empowers and unites people across cultures — and it also employs talented youth seeking alternatives in a struggling economy with limited job opportunities. Many of DCMA students go on to perform with Sauti za Busara, East Africa’s largest and friendliest music festival, which takes place in Stone Town, every February.
As Zanzibar’s tourism sector grows, the DCMA believes that music plays an essential role in the celebration, preservation and promotion of Swahili culture, heritage and history. Zanzibar is far more than its beaches and luxury hotels — it’s a place bursting with talent that stems from an epic history of cultural connection and collaboration.
To learn more about how to support the DCMA visit the campaign page. The DCMA is using the hashtags #FollowTheMusic #DCMANeedsYou and #zanzibarmusic on all social media platforms.
For more information:
DCMA website: www.zanzibarmusic.org
Campaign: “Help us keep Zanzibar’s only music academy open”:
Alessia Lombardo, managing director
Old Customs House, Mizingani Rd.
P.O. Box 4055
Stone Town, 71000
Tanzania, United Republic of
+255 777 416 529
For EzyPesa contributions: +255 777 416 529 (DCMA office)