Soweto’s Turn To Get Funk For Life

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Funk For Life, a concept created by Nils Landgren and Magnum Coltrane Price is a project aimed at raising public awareness about the acute and basic needs in urban slums/settings. Both Landgren and Price are Swedish jazz musicians and composers with long hstories of involvement in humanitarian work.

Since the formation of Médecins Sans Frontières Sweden in 1996 this pair of artists has been involved with the movement, taking part in the 1996 concert for Rwanda, the MSF Sweden’s 15th anniversary Being A Hero Is Easy concert and the Haiti Earthquake fundraiser concert.

Nils Landgren Funk Unit on their Funk For Life project outreach in Khayelitsha, South Africa (photo from Nils Landgren website)
Nils Landgren Funk Unit on their Funk For Life project outreach in Khayelitsha, South Africa (photo from Nils Landgren website)

Early in 2009, after having been involved in similar projects Nils Landgren & Magnum Coltrane Price contacted Dan Sermand at MSF-Sweden with an idea for a similar project. This project would provide kids in the slums/townships with musical instruments, giving them a chance to learn how to play and to develop their musical skills. Yamaha graciously agreed to provide the majority of the instruments to be distributed by the project and Air France – KLM graciously agreed to provide free tickets to the crew and extra cargo to ensure the delivery of the music instruments. Additional instruments are donated by music schools in Sweden as well as in the countries where the project works.

In January 2010 Nils Landgren launched the album Funk For Life with two concerts in Kenya. The first of these was in the National Museum in Nairobi, and the second in the slums of Kibera, the venues chosen so that the concerts could be specifically for the populations to be supported by the Funk For Life project. €25’000 of the proceeds from album sales as well as ticket sales from various concerts in Sweden and a German Funk For Life tour raised a total €60’000 for the project.

In 2013, it was South Africa’s turn to benefit from the project, when Funk For Life went to Khayelitsha to help MSF with work being done in parts of the township where residents live without clean water, electricity, sanitation, education or healthcare. Over and above the distribution of instruments and the related workshops held, Nils Landgren’s Funk Unit teamed up with Lira for a video and a series of short clips composed of interviews, discussions and stories with various township inhabitants, the artists and MSF volunteers.

Now in 2014, Nils Landgren Funk Unit are back in South Africa for a 20 years of democracy celebration at the Swedish Embassy, two gigs at The Orbit – Home of Jazz, and some more work with the Funk For Life Project. Over and above the workshops and donations of instruments, the Nils Landgren Funk Unit will produce another music video, this time with Concord Nkabinde which will again include a series of short clips composed of interviews, discussions and stories with various township inhabitants, the artists and MSF volunteers.

JazzE would like to wish all involved a succesful trip and to thank all involved for their efforts to improve the lives of people around the world.

Etienne Shardlow

Etienne Shardlow

Etienne is a proud lover of South African jazz, and host of the weekly JazzE Radio Show on Bakgat Radio. He works as an IT Service Management consultant and trainer.
Etienne Shardlow

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