It started with a song… and became much more.

It started with a song...The original ‘Make Music Matter’ began with a song produced by Darcy Ataman. With support from the Canadian International Development Agency, he brought together several popular recording artists to write and record a music single and an accompanying video to raise awareness of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.  The song was presented to global leaders during the opening ceremonies of the XVI International Aids Conference held in Toronto in 2006.

The proceeds from the sale of the song supported various projects in Africa. The follow-up to the original effort was a documentary by the same name. This film followed artists involved in the original project on a trip to Africa to see the people and projects impacted by the funds raised. The documentary aired on the Canadian broadcaster CityTV in 2007 and was seen in approximately 30,000 homes.  It aired several more times, reaching an even larger audience.

Following the initial success of the first song, MMM created a second documentary and its first full-length album, both entitled ‘Rwanda: Rises Up!’, released in June 2010.  This time the documentary followed Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat, Sarah Slean, Damhnait Doyle, Tim Edwards of Crash Parallel and legendary producer David Bottrill (Tool, Silverchair, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins) as they traveled to Rwanda to set up MMM’s newest endeavor: the Music Enrichment Program.

The documentary looks at Rwanda’s recovery from the devastation of genocide and offers viewers a firsthand glimpse at how the power of hope is changing lives for the better.  The broadcast premiere of ‘Rwanda: Rises Up!’ reached 200,000 households. The accompanying album is MMM’s most ambitious yet, fusing the sounds of local Rwandan artists with the talents of Ian D’Sa of Billy Talent, Cone McCaslin of Sum 41, Classified and the Trews. It is an inspiring work of art, and marks the first time many Rwandan artists were paid for their talents.

The Music Enrichment Program kicked off in the fall of 2009. Over 70 youth from across Rwanda participated in the pilot project. Local educators guided the interactive training and health education sessions while local and visiting artists facilitated the creation of music. Songs were recorded and disseminated to local communities and used as outreach tools on local radio and elsewhere, spreading positive health messages and breaking the cycle of stigma.

The program evolved into the Healing in Harmony music therapy program. Participants are survivors of sexual violence and other traumatized populations. Working with local psychologists and music producers, they write, record, and professionally produce songs about their emotions and experiences. Within this process it helps give back the survivors their sense of identity as it starts the healing individually and as a community.