A song for Africa

June 2nd, 2011

Pupils from the Nottingham University Samworth Academy are on a mission to top the charts with their own charity single to raise vital funds for an educational project in a poverty-stricken South African township.

The professionally-produced song, Sing Sing, has being released on iTunes under the Academy’s own record label, Nu-Start.

The track and a pop video featuring the NUSA songsters and kids from Mamelodi, was officially launched by BBC East Midlands Today presenter Dominic Heale.

Sing, Sing was written and recorded by a group of students aged 14 and 15, with professional help from record producer Jorden Milnes and celebrates the work of the Mamelodi Trust. The Trust raises money for badly under-resourced schools in the squatter camps in the South African township of Mamelodi near Pretoria.

The NUSA pupils were commissioned to produce the single by The University of Nottingham’s Academy Project Unit, which coordinates a wide range of academic and social links between the school and University departments. The University has long-established links with South Africa through its School of Education which fundraises for Mamelodi and operates a graduate teacher placement scheme in the township.

One of the songwriters, 14-year-old Leanne Bradshaw, said: “The Trust showed us some footage of the conditions the people of Mamelodi live in and it was really hard to watch. We were conscious that we wanted to tell people about how much poverty there is in South Africa but also about the tremendous spirit of the people who live there.”

Diquan Kerr, another songwriter, added: “We hope that we can raise awareness of this issue and entertain people at the same time. If we can raise funds for Mamelodi, it will make a real difference.”

The track is already making waves both in Nottingham and in South Africa, where 100 children turned up to dance for the pop video which accompanies the song. Sing, Sing is now available for download on iTunes for just 79p and every penny will go to the Mamelodi Trust.

And all the money raised by the sale of downloads of the track by July 31 will be matched by the University’s Development Office.

The music and lyrics were composed by Year 10 students studying for a Music Technology qualification. Their inspiration for the track came from traditional African music famed for its evocative and compelling tunes and rhythm used by many famous stars like Shakira, Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon.

Mamelodi is a former black township with a population of about one million people on the north eastern outskirts of Pretoria. Many people in this area live in small brick built houses, but there are also huge makeshift settlements where people, many of whom are refugees from neighbouring Zimbabwe, have built their own shacks from corrugated iron and plastic sheets. Apartheid was responsible for starving the townships of decent quality education, allowing extreme poverty, high unemployment and a whole range of socio-economic problems which will take many years to eradicate.

Steve Bacon, from the Mamelodi Trust, said: “We were thrilled to hear about the NUSA single and were so impressed when we heard it for the first time. The Mamelodi Trust is delighted to be working with the students at Nottingham University Samworth Academy on this project which will make a real difference for the schools in Mamelodi. We are sure that the track will be a huge success.”

NUSA head teacher Dave Harris said: “I know I am biased, but I honestly think this is one of the most catchy songs I have ever heard. To me it sums up everything wonderful about our young people and is a measure of the amazing journey we’ve all been on at NUSA. Sing Sing is not just part of the students’ work, but a real tribute to the passion and enthusiasm of our pupils and staff. I certainly will have this as a favourite on my iPod.”

NUSA’s Project Director at the University, Professor Di Birch, said: “Sing Sing is part of a wider Academy Unit project where primary school children in Bilborough learn about South African language and culture, and children in the first year at NUSA learn about South African history and politics. Staff from Mamelodi schools visit us to share their experience, and this year for the first time, teachers from NUSA and Brocklewood Junior School are going to Mamelodi.”

“It is typical of the generosity of spirit of NUSA staff and pupils that they have taken on the challenge of using their own musical talents to support the Mamelodi project by producing a charity single. Little did I think, when NUSA pupils were being taught to sing in Zulu by South African teacher Thandi last summer, that I would now be able to listen to the pupils’ own uplifting take on the sounds and rhythms of South Africa.

“Having Sing Sing as the anthem for these international activities is fantastic, and I am sure it will also raise a lot of money for the Mamelodi Trust.

The track can be downloaded at iTunes at: http://tiny.cc/SingSing.

For more information go to: www.nustartrecords.com.

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