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Nous Sommes Ensemble - Producing a Song for Peace

It was the most fun and fulfilling thing I accomplished in the Congo – producing my first song for peace. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a French-speaking country where I worked for six months, the most common phrase was "nous sommes ensemble" – "we are together." And we are. We share this world, and will enjoy peace and prosperity together or suffer together – the choice is ours. Although the effects are so disproportionate that those of us in the north may believe all is well, eventually pollution, poverty and conflict will touch us all, wherever we live. We're in this together.

The words for the song came quickly, in the middle of the night. I sat up and jotted them down, then revised them on the early morning flight to Beni, in the heart of the Ebola epidemic that has been ravaging the Congo since August 2018. When I wrote it, the second-largest Ebola epidemic to date showed no signs of abating, so I wove that into the song - we will vanquish Ebola together, preventing it from spreading throughout the region and world, or we will die together. I dedicate the Ebola version of the song to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I dedicate the international version to peace everywhere, especially in Francophone nations, because the words are in French. (Please contact me to request the international, accoustic, or a capella versions.)

After writing the words, I worked with a local arranger and the male soloist, Nzanu Del, to compose the melody. Based on Congolese Rumba, with major and minor chords emphasising the positive or negative futures we face, the music took shape. I met most of the musicians for the first time at the studio - the marvellous Merveille Musavuli, the female soloist, the sound engineer and trumpet player Yeremia Vindu, the singer/songwriter for the rap interlude, Alain Sivihwa, the percussionist Aspirine, and guitar player Mandela Maliro, whom I met in Rwanda. During three days in a two-room studio under the shadow of Nyiragongo volcano, the tracks came together. While an older woman cooked over a fire in the courtyard, a younger woman washed laundry, and children (and sometimes a rooster) sang along, it layered into a cohesive whole. By the time we finished I was singing the chorus in the car, in the house, and at the market, thrilled with the dimension that music added to the poetry. This gift for the Congo won't fade with time or run out with the sharing, so feel free to share it wherever peace is needed or proclaimed.

Once the music was recorded, imagery excited my imagination. I longed to transform them into a video myself, but within days I left the country, so I am working remotely with a local videographer to realise the vision. Meanwhile, I posted a video of the energy in the studio on Instagram, and a reflections on peace in the Congo on my nascent podcast, Peace Diaries. Josias didn't stop dancing for days! Joy, energy, and inspiration flowed with perspiration in the humid room.

I'm still smiling as I write these memories. I loved that experience, I love the song, and I loved working with Congolese artists I otherwise wouldn't have known. And the gift, sharable and imperishable, lives on.

 

 

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Nous Sommes Ensemble (Version Ebola), CryPeace.mp3

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Nous Sommes Ensemble (Version Ebola)

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