Zawadi Women’s Choir rehearsing for their first public appearance – membership of the choir is open to women from different ethnic backgrounds.
At one end of the hall they are preparing a banquet. At the other end the choir is warming up for their first public performance. Rachel Milne quickly gets rid of any nerves by making them laugh, “That sounds very nice,” says the musical director firmly asking them to start again with a bit more oomph, “You sound like nice Scottish ladies. Now try again.”
Meet Zawadi, the African women’s choir, rehearsing at Edinburgh City Mission in Pilrig Street just before the dinner for delegates attending the Centre of African Studies annual conference last week (30 April) when this year’s theme was Africa in Scotland, Scotland in Africa. (Sadly we missed the bit when Baroness Amos, special guest for the evening, got up to sing and dance with the choir.)
All in all it was quite a week for Agnes Holmes (seen here playing drums) who is not only the very active chair of the Africa Centre Scotland, but also a moving force behind the choir which formed just a few months ago with the aim of helping to raise awareness of the Africa Centre.
But, they stress, you don’t have to be African to join the choir: Zawadi is open to all women who love singing.
As Agnes explains:”It is about reducing isolation, nourishing well-being, making friendships and promoting African culture through music.”
That means a full diary for Agnes, who gave a presentation on “Africa Centre The Way Forward” during the conference, and for choir members whose second performance followed a week later during the Women’s Federation for World Peace Scotland event. Now, the choir is meeting to expand their repertoire with weekly rehearsals.
Anyone interested in joining is welcome to come to the next rehearsal in the Africa Centre, 45 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh. EH1 1NB on Sunday 17 May at 2pm. Telephone 0131 557 6145.
We will come back to meet Zawadi (which is Swahili for “gift”) again very soon, and next time we hope to produce a recording so you can hear them too. “It can be challenging,” says Agnes, “We have set ourselves the goal of learning songs in different African languages. But it is great fun.” Expect plenty of oomph!
Cecilia Driciru sings solo for In the Jungle (A wimoweh)