(Photo credit: Platon. Singers participating in the Healing in Harmony programme)

This blog post was first published on the HIF/ELRHA blog.

Local songs with a global voice: Resilience through Music Therapy in Eastern Congo

By Frances Hill, Effective Partnerships Manager, Elrha, and mentor to the Healing in Harmony project through Elrha’s Journey to Scale initiative.

Few of us reading this blog will have any idea of the scale of violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to USAID 27% of all women have experience sexual violence in DRC. Much of this violence is sexual in nature but has ‘nothing to do with sex’, to quote Dr Denis Mukwege, Founder of the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, with whom the HIF is working. At the Panzi Hospital women are physically reconstructed by the incredibly talented surgeons of which Dr Mukwege is a pioneer, and then psychotherapeutically ‘reconstructed’ at Maison Dorcas. The Healing in Harmony programme (HiH) the HIF is supporting, is a part of this process. It works with survivors of sexualised violence, through adapting expressive music therapy models where girls and women share their experiences and work through their trauma by writing songs and creating music. This is the only humanitarian programme known of globally that currently provides this enhanced music therapy.

Late last year I visited the DRC where I witnessed the extraordinary resilience of girls and women who had been subjected to the most horrific attacks. I spent time in many of the sessions that Make Music Matter and the Maison Dorcas team had worked on to enable these survivors to work through their experiences.

Having visited the same country 32 years ago – then known as Zaïre – I had been struck by the music – it was everywhere, rhythms falling out of every place we visited, and it was incredibly infectious. Discos with eggboxes plastered to the walls covered in tinfoil and women swaying in the most hypnotic way. I was therefore primed that music could work some way to heal the pain these women had experienced.

In the first session I sat in on the women were coming to the end of their therapy. They were vibrant, energetic and so musical. They were singing and dancing and appeared to embody resilience. What really struck me was how the Healing in Harmony model worked. After the end-of-therapy session, I observed a two hour session for those at the start of their journey. The girls and women walked uncertainly into the studio and sat down. Some tended to their babies, others were uncomfortably pregnant in the heat, some were still in pain from surgery, and others appeared disengaged.

After the warm up, Lead Psychotherapist, Justin, was asking the women to speak of their experiences. There were many silences but gradually they started to speak and as they did, others in the group appeared to identify with these experiences. This brought them together as a new group. More music was introduced, different rhythms – and the stories kept coming. Note books were handed out to encourage them to write down their feelings if they were not able to vocalise them.


As the session progressed and more of the women started to vocalise their experiences, several that appeared strong at the start, bowed their heads and wiped their tears; those that appeared disengaged started to talk. All the time the music was playing in the background. Music Producer, Jojo, measuring the appropriate level, Justin listening to their experiences. It was extraordinary to watch.

It was a very different level of energy to that which I saw at the start of the session 2 hours previously. Most women were engaging with their neighbours. They had all come together in that short space of time, and through the use of music, empathy and collaboration the majority left smiling or laughing, with a more confident demeanour.


This project has demonstrated it is making a real difference to real people in a relatively short space of time, thanks to the talent, skills and commitment of those at Panzi, Maison Dorcas and Make Music Matter. Based on preliminary data from the pilot study, as of May 2018, over 1700 women have participated in the Healing in Harmony music therapy programme at Maison Dorcas and the aftercare facility at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC with partners Panzi Foundation. After Healing in Harmony’s three month cycle, participants have been found to be twice as likely to have an improvement in their anxiety scores, with 80% more likely to have an improvement in their PTSD scores than women who did not participate in the programme. The programme is thoroughly committed to an evidence based approach to ensure the best possible care for the women it aims to help.

Further evidence of the programme’s success is also clear from the demand – there has been a threefold increase in those wishing to participate in the programme. This is remarkable, because to participate in psychotherapy programmes usually carries a stigma, however these women appear proud to participate and sing in front of hundreds of people which is having the beneficial effect of more women changing their health-seeking behaviour to undergo this element of their healing process.

Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Fund (the HIF), with support from the Dutch MFA, has funded the Healing in Harmony project from its inception. The programme is now being scaled out; It is working in Mulamba very successfully, a hospital 2.5 hours out of Bukavu, reached by difficult roads and located in a highly volatile area. The programme has secured partnerships with World Vision DRC and IMA Health to bring the Healing in Harmony model out to other programmes working on psychotherapeutic healing elsewhere in the DRC.

The HiH model will be working in Beni, North Kivu with World Vision and in Katana, South Kivu with IMA Health as well as two other, yet to be identified, centres in South Kivu.

The appetite for this kind of therapy is gaining real traction and is testament not just to the Healing in Harmony model, but the Congolese/Zaïreois desire to let music work to build resilience for its people.

Thanks to a unique partnership with Warner Brothers Canada and Make Music Matter, that brings the women’s voices and their songs to the world, these songs are now available for download, with more due for release in August 2018:



Thank you to Frances Hill, Effective Partnerships Manager, Elrha, and mentor to the Healing in Harmony project through Elrha’s Journey to Scale initiative, for sharing this blog post which was first published on the HIF/ELRHA blog.

[Click here to download the press release]


First two releases available digitally today:
Stream / download Kesho ni siku mupya (Tomorrow Is A New Day) HERE
Stream / download Mon corps n’est pas une arme (My Body Is Not A Weapon) HERE
Friday, January 12, 2018
Warner Music Canada is proud to announce that they have partnered with Make Music Matter to bring to the world original recordings written and produced by people scarred by conflict, AIDS/HIV and violence against women through their Healing in Harmony music therapy program. The first two releases, Kesho ni siku mupya (Tomorrow Is A New Day) and Mon corps n’est pas une arme (My Body Is Not A Weapon), were recorded in the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda and will be released under Make Music Matter’s own Samothrace Records label. Both albums are available worldwide for streaming and downloads beginning today, January 12, 2018. Five more albums are to be released in the coming months.
Make Music Matter was started by Canadian video and music producer Darcy Ataman who co-wrote and produced “Song For Africa” which featured a number of high-profile Canadian artists and was premiered in 2006 at the XVI International Aids Conference in Toronto. A graduate from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Ataman has led efforts to build a primary school in the Masai Mara, Kenya, supported two HIV clinics in Kenya and founded a scholarship program in Africa’s biggest slum before creating the Healing in Harmony music therapy program. With established programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Darcy will lead further expansions in Turkey and Iraq. He continues to centre his focus on HIV survivors, former child soldiers and child-headed households in Rwanda and has partnered with Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege and Panzi Foundation in the DRC, focusing on women who have been sexually violated through war.
“Where you suffer is geography, how we heal is universal,” says Darcy Ataman. “Teaming with Warner Music Canada creates a global platform for our artists and helps to connect us to our shared humanity through the transformative power of music.”
In making the announcement, Warner Music Canada President Steve Kane says “We’ve always believed in the therapeutic nature of music. Make Music Matter has taken this idea and put it in to concrete action. Warner Music Canada is proud to play a part in bringing these powerful voices to the global community.”
Kesho ni siku mupya (Tomorrow Is A New Day) tracklisting:
Esther “Kesho ni siku mupya”
Patrick “Main dans la main”
Solange & Obeni “Maisha ni punition”
Neema & Kethia & Bahati “Nime kosa Amani”
Sandra & Bayura “Prassana aseme”
Gisele & Fadhili & Faradja “Safari yangu”
Zezi & Tuliya & Zawadi & Gisele “Sita coka”
Prince Kwamiso “Songa mbele”
Mon corps n’est pas une arme (My Body Is Not A Weapon) tracklisting:
Young Dorcas & Timbuktu “Mon corps n’est pas une arme”
Denise & Timbuktu “Nda fanya je”
Young Tricotage & Timbuktu “Njo tu maisha”
Vannerie & Timbuktu “Sina matunzo”
About Make Music Matter:
Make Music Matter’s unique brand of music therapy is centered on the belief that music can be an integral part of a community-driven, holistic healing model. Participants in the program are survivors of sexual violence and other traumatized populations.
The team travels into conflict areas around the world , working in tandem with local trained psychologists and music producers. Participants 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.
Many of the recorded songs get played on local radio stations which then helps empower the artists in their recovery and also sends a message to others in the community that they are not alone.

2016 has been an incredible year for Make Music Matter!

Check out the highlights and find out more about what lies ahead in this year’s Annual Report.

Make Music Matter 2016 Annual Report

Download the PDF

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Denis Mukwege


What follows is a statement from Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder of the Panzi Hospital and Foundations, in his capacity as the Medical Director. The statement was read by Dr. Mukwege during a press conference at the hospital. The original French language statement is also available below.

On December 31, 2014, the staff of Reference Panzi General Hospital went on strike and took the initiative to organize a peaceful demonstration outside the building of the Directorate General of Taxes (DGI) to denounce the following:

1. The discrimination against the Hospital.

Panzi Hospital is a medical facility integrated within the health system of the Democratic Republic of Congo and holds status as a General Reference Hospital. Its employees are therefore agents of the State and, like other personnel of general reference hospitals in the DRC, income taxes on their base salaries are withheld at the source by the Finance Ministry.

Among nearly 500 General Reference Hospitals in the DRC, Panzi Hospital is the only one that has been subjected to a special income tax, a levy on the premium income they receive from the hospital. The employees complain that their hospital is the victim of a blatant discrimination by the DGI and call for tax fairness.

2. Violation of Human Rights

The Management of Panzi General Hospital of Reference is extremely concerned about this situation which leads to various violations of human rights: the right to health for the patients, including the right to life for those in need of medicines and other healthcare supplies; but also violation of the right of its employees to receive payment for their work, given that the funds seized were intended to pay the wages of employees and purchase medicine.

3. Dysfunction of the judiciary system.

The Panzi General Reference Hospital has filed a lawsuit at the Bukavu Court of Appeals against the DGI, the DRC, and the BCDC (Commercial Bank of Congo), ongoing since November 4, 2014, in connection with the abovementioned violations. The case, originally scheduled for November 18, 2014, was repeatedly postponed due first to a strike of judges, and then the death of a judge on the eve of the hearing date. The hearing has been postponed indefinitely since then.

Despite the lack of judicial decision on these matters, the DGI took action and seized Panzi General Reference Hospital’s account. With the complicity of the BCDC Bank, the DGI transferred Panzi funds to its account. This was in violation of section 127 of the Congolese Code of Civil Procedure which lists items that are not subject to seizure, including wages.

4. Irregular tax procedures.

Tax procedures have been violated by the DGI:

– In less than ten days, the DGI initiated an official tax order and two demands for payment and collection without the six month deadline provided by law;

– The DGI has not given Panzi General Reference Hospital an opportunity to contest and mount an administrative appeal.

There is an extreme urgency to act in the interest of the patients, towards whom we have the responsibility to provide the best health care services, and the Panzi staff, who are unable to receive their wages.

The Panzi Hospital Management contacted various authorities about this matter but received no satisfactory response up to this day. It remains open for all constructive dialogue with them in order to resolve this crisis.

The Panzi staff aspires towards justice in recognition of the procedural flaws that make this taxation discriminatory, and still hopes to ensure the proper operation and continuity of services provided by our public health facility.

Denis Mukwege

Medical Director.


En date du 31 décembre 2014, le personnel de l’Hôpital Général de Référence de Panzi est entré en grève et a pris l’initiative d’organiser une manifestation pacifique devant le bâtiment de la Direction Générale des Impôts (DGI) en vue de dénoncer ce qui suit :

1. La discrimination dont leur Hôpital est victime.

En effet, l’Hôpital de Panzi est une structure intégrée dans le système sanitaire de la République Démocratique du Congo (RDC) et possède le statut d’Hôpital Général de Référence (HGR). De ce fait, ses employés sont des agents de l’Etat à part entière, à l’instar du personnel d’autres HGR de la RDC qui sont soumis à un régime fiscal de prélèvement à la source par le Ministère des Finances.

Parmi près de 500 HGR que compte la RDC, l’Hôpital de Panzi est le seul soumis à une mesure fiscale particulière qui est l’impôt sur le revenu professionnel. Les agents dénoncent le fait que leur Hôpital soit victime d’une discrimination flagrante de la part de la DGI et réclament une équité fiscale.

2. Violation des droits de l’Homme.

La Direction de l’HGR/Panzi est extrêmement préoccupée par cette situation qui entraîne par voie de conséquence diverses violations des droits humains : droit à la santé pour les malades, dont le droit à la vie est mis en péril à défaut d’approvisionnement en médicaments et autres fournitures nécessaires pour prodiguer des soins, mais aussi violation du droit de ses agents à percevoir leur rémunération pour leur travail presté, étant donné que le montant saisi par la DGI était destiné à la paie des agents et à l‘approvisionnement de l’hôpital en médicaments.

3. Dysfonctionnement de l’appareil judiciaire.

L’HGR/Panzi a assigné en justice devant la Cour d’Appel de Bukavu la DGI, la Banque commerciale du Congo (BCDC), et l’Etat congolais depuis le 04 Novembre 2014 en rapport avec ces violations sus évoquées. L’affaire fixée initialement le 18 Novembre 2014 a été successivement reportée suite d’une part

à la grève des magistrats, et d’autre part suite au décès d’un magistrat de la Cour à la veille de la date d’audience. Cette dernière a été renvoyée sine die.

Malgré l’absence de décision judiciaire liée à ces dysfonctionnements, la DGI a procédé à la saisie effective du compte de l’HGR de Panzi, en violation de l’article 127 du Code de procédure civile congolais qui énumère une liste de biens qui ne sont pas susceptibles de saisie, qui inclut le salaire.

4. Vices de procédures fiscales.

La procédure fiscale prévue par les dispositions légales a été violée par la DGI :

– En moins de dix jours, elle a activé une taxation d’office, deux avis de mise en recouvrement et les commandements ; sans respect des délais de six mois prévus par la loi.

– Elle n’a pas accordé à l’HGR/Panzi la possibilité de jouir de droit d’opposition et de recours administratif.

Il y a une urgence extrême à agir, dans l’intérêt des malades dont nous avons la responsabilité d’apporter les meilleurs services de santé, et pour le personnel de Panzi, qui n’a pas pu percevoir sa rémunération.

La Direction de l’HGR/Panzi a contacté les différentes autorités impliquées sans obtenir une réponse satisfaisante à ce jour et demeure encline à entamer un dialogue constructif avec ces dernières pour sortir de cette crise.

Le personnel de Panzi aspire à voir la justice reconnaître les vices de procédure qui rendent cette imposition discriminatoire et garde l’espoir d’assurer le bon fonctionnement et la continuité des services fournis par notre structure sanitaire publique.

Original post: August 9, 2012

On Monday, July 30th, musicians and fans alike came together to support Make Music Matter at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Formerly Song for Africa, Make Music Matter is a registered charity that utilizes the power of music to educate and ultimately eradicate some of the world’s most deplorable issues in developing nations. A Night to Make Music Matter was produced by the Event Production & Management students of Metalworks Institute under the guidance of Event Management instructor Don Quarles, and the event raised over $3,400 for Make Music Matter. more