How did the project start?
The story of Voices Around the World
Back in 2010 we produced a new school musical called ‘Africa Rocks!’ which became quite successful. We were pretty amazed when we were contacted by a school in Namibia, Africa who wanted to order the music resources to stage the show – it seemed like selling ice cream to Eskimos! After a bit of thought, we replied and said they could let them have all the resources free of charge on one condition…that they let us come over and video and record their production!
And so, we went over and spent two amazing weeks working with the students and teachers in Otjikondo Village School in a remote area of Northern Namibia. What an experience! And what amazing voices the students have there! Well we didn’t just make a fabulous recording of them staging our show Africa Rocks, we also had great fun recording the students singing some of their favourite local folk songs.
Back home, the thought occurred to me to get some UK students singing and recording one of the Namibian folk songs and then mixing their voices together with the voices of the students from Otjikondo. It seemed like a great idea! Then a friend said ‘Hey Laurie ! Why just one other school…..you could get loads of schools recording a song together like this!’ This was the magic moment when the idea of The Voices Around the World Project was born!
If it were to be successful, I knew the project would need a ‘killer song’ to get it started. By chance, around this time, I met up with pop legend Howard Jones and he agreed to let me use one of his songs for the project. The song ‘Building Our Own Future,’ I knew would be a perfect fit for schools everywhere to learn, with a powerful melody line and message.
The next difficulty was wondering how we could contact schools to get them involved. Again, I found myself in the right place at the right time being in contact with a friend – Martin Skelton - who was running a successful educational publishing company. I was telling him about my problem of not being able to think of a way of contacting schools on a large scale about the music project. I remember sitting across the table from him and seeing his eyes light up and widen as I told him about my idea for the project and he became very excited! ‘Laurie, this is such a great and exciting idea! We have schools in 65 different countries, with whom we are in regular contact. They would love to hear about this project!’
The rest… as they say, is history and for the last 12 years, I have found myself working with a range of great people who freely give of their time to help with a range of areas for the project – recording vocal templates – writing new songs – writing music scores – studio engineering – arranging – video editing – PR and generally being sounding boards for new ideas. I loosely call them the Voices Around The World Team. An important member of the team is pictured with me here on the left – Oskar Dog!
All the individuals who step up to help with the project are simply great people! It never ceases to amaze, how willing and helpful people can be when they realise that something is being done for a good cause and adding lots of value, in this case, to the lives of young people around the world.
After the initial great success with Howard’s song – Building Our Own Future – the project seemed to progress under its own momentum, with schools frequently writing to ask when the next project would start. Since 2012, the family of schools taking part in the project has grown, with song/videos featuring the vocals of students from all around the world. On the occasions where we have been able to get into schools to see students working on the songs and recording the vocal parts, it is always really special to see the fun they have.
This short compilation video here, gives a quick look at the song/videos we have produced since 2012. The journey has been a very interesting and rewarding one, and even lead us into charity work with any profits from song or video downloads going to help a school for HIV orphaned students in Tanzania. Young people raising money for other young people in need!
In the summer of 2011, we were working on some great music and drama with the students and staff at Otjikondo School in Namibia. Everyone had a great time - especially the students, so when we were packing to leave it felt like we should be doing something together to keep the music going! We had recorded the students singing lots of local traditional songs. We had the idea that it would be really interesting to get some students in a school in UK to learn some of the songs and then we could blend African and UK students' voices on the final mix. We started work on this back in the UK and I am not sure who first said...'Why only two schools when we could be doing this with many schools?' The idea was born!
Next we had to find a great song and the pop legend Howard Jones kindly offered to let us use his amazing song 'Building Our Own future'. With the great support from our partner organisations, we got schools around the World involved, giving them free access to MP3 downloads of all the choir resources needed. Around 6 months later the first Voices Around The World global recording was released and suddenly 2000+ youngsters who had participated became 'mini popstars!.
After the initial success in releasing 'Building Our Own Future' we decided to continue and Howard again came forward with another amazing song - 'Unshakeable.' This was released in 2013, breaking records with nearly 4000 voices from 42 countries joining in the release!