By: Carol Sanders
Posted: 06/13/2011

Musician heading to Congo to help

They say music has charms to soothe the savage breast, but can it change a child who was raised to kill?

Winnipeg’s Darcy Ataman is going to the Democratic Republic of Congo where child soldiers are being rehabilitated to find a way to help.

Changing abnormal behaviour isn’t easy, but the music producer’s learned the dream of having a song on the radio can transcend everything, everywhere.

“Everyone wants to be a rock star,” said the 36 year old who founded the organization Song for Africa and leaves on his seventh trip to the continent June 20.

Ataman, who’s working with the University of Winnipeg’s Global College, is going to Congo with a researcher from Sen. Romeo Dallaire’s Child Soldiers Initiative that’s trying to put a stop to the use of kids for killing. more

Submitted by Lexa Pennington on Fri, 12/31/2010

Out of the Box NY“Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world…as in being able to remake ourselves” – Mahatma Gandhi

It’s New Years Eve.

This time of the year forces us to look back over the year…and this year the decade (the inevitable ‘Top Ten of the Ten’s of every possible subject will surely be played back to back).

For some 2010 was a year to never forget…for others a year they hope to quickly forget (hopefully with some ‘spirits’ tonight!).

For Millicent, 2010 could be the last year she lives in a house made out of cardboard.

2 years ago Song for Africa met Millicent in Kibera, Kenya, the 2nd largest slum in Africa.  While some homes were made of corrugated iron, Millicent’s was made of cardboard boxes.  She shared this home with her HIV positive ailing mother and her brother, her father passed away from AIDS in 2004.  With no electricity and no running water Millicent is amongst the poorest of the poor. more

The Youth Leadership in Human Rights Project is again underway for the 2010-2011 school year.  Having reached the mid-way point in this years’ program we are happy to report that it is continuing to grow and evolve.  In its first year the program saw three schools participating and last year we had eight schools who participated.  This year after much hype the MARL-Youth leadership is running at full capacity with twelve schools participating.  We are pleased to have attracted several new schools and to have a good overall representation of schools that reflect the various areas and communities in our city.

On December 7th, 2010 the programs second session was held at Elmwood High School.  The morning began with a candle ceremony to commemorate the December 6 massacre at the École Polythechnique in  Montréal.  This was followed by our guest speaker, Darcy Ataman, who created the project Song for Africa.  His talk created a buzz with students and generated discussions and questions afterwards.  As well, each school gave a presentation a Canadian leader and began to engage in discussions about the various ways that the schools can involve themselves in community projects.  We are looking forward to the next step in this program and to see what projects and initiative these future leaders will create.

Read the original article here.

By Kevin Young
Originally posted on March 10, 2010

For musician/producer Darcy Ataman, founder of Canadian Artists for African Aid Inc., a.k.a. “Song For Africa,” what began as his  “little contribution to the world” is now an ongoing mission to raise awareness about humanitarian issues in Africa and make a definable difference in some of the most poverty-stricken areas of Kenya and Rwanda.When Ataman enlisted Billy Talent, Big Sugar, Choclair and other acts to perform on “Song For Africa,” a song he’d written with Rob Wells, Luke McMaster and Simon Wilcox in 2006 to raise awareness about the African AIDS pandemic, he had no idea how far the concept would expand. Now, four years later, Sony Music Entertainment Canada will put out a digital-only album June 15 and a documentary will air on Citytv June 12 at 8 pm (EST), both entitled Rwanda Rising Up. more

By Rannie Turingan (aka Photojunkie)
Original post: August 15, 2006

Last night, we attended the Song for Africa Launch Party at the Drake Underground. The idea for the song was the brainchild of music producer Darcy Ataman (McMaster and James, Kalen Porter, Kyle Riabko) who gathered a variety of Canadian talent for the project. The idea was to raise awareness of the worldwide Aids pandemic and to call people into action.

Above is Choclair, one of the contributing artist to the track who spoke before the video for the song was screened.

The single can be bought on itunes as well as in stores across the country.

See the original article here.

By: Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press
Original post: 07/22/2011

Music restores hope to ex-child soldiers

Their bodies aren’t destroyed but the spirits of many child soldiers have deserted them.

“Their eyes are completely vacant,” said Darcy Ataman, a Winnipeg music producer who just got back from the Democratic Republic of Congo. His Song For Africa organization is working with Sen. Roméo Dallaire’s Child Soldiers Initiative to put a stop to the use of children for killing and get them making music instead.

To get into the conflict zone, they were accompanied by United Nations security from the moment they landed in Kigali, Rwanda, and transported to the centre for ex-child soldiers over the border into Congo.

The UN transit centre at Goma houses kids ranging in age from eight to 16.

“It looks like a concentration camp,” said Ataman, who was not allowed to photograph the children inside the fortress surrounded by brick walls topped with razor wire.

At first glance, the former warriors seemed like normal children, said Ataman. There were kids singing and dancing in the middle of the dirt compound. When he got closer, it occurred to him that they have raped and killed en masse with AK-47s bigger than their underdeveloped, malnourished bodies.

“Others were catatonic,” said Ataman, who’s worked with kids in some of the poorest places in Africa.

The child soldiers were different. “They’re not interacting and (they’re) hard to engage,” said Ataman.

As soldiers, they weren’t allowed to have possessions. Their leaders got them high and kept them loyal with doses of “brown-brown” — a combination of gunpowder and cocaine that “fries their brain to the extent that they’re prepared to kill.”

At the transit centre, they’re protected and can stay for three-month stints, he said. “It’s a lot more pleasant, except now they don’t have any power (over others),” Ataman said.

It’s a short space of time to try to re-program the kids to get them back into their villages, he said. “They don’t want them institutionalized.”

The camp’s walls are lined with murals explaining their right to play, go to school and have their basic needs met. The rehabilitation centre raises pet rabbits to help the child soldiers connect with another living being and to learn to be gentle.

They go to classes, get taken care of and get a chance to play and learn job skills. Art is used as therapy, said Ataman who marvelled at their greeting cards made out of banana leaves. “You can see how much talent there is.”

The camp also has a rudimentary music program. “Music was the only thing that got them involved,” he said.

In the fall, he’ll return with recording equipment and help the kids cut their tunes and become local rock stars. During his trip, the project won the support of camp officials. Local radio stations — the major medium in that part of the world — agreed to give the ex-soldiers’ songs airplay.

“I don’t know if you can ever get rid of your injuries,” he said of the youths’ emotional war wounds. “You can only try to get your hopes and dreams back. That would be amazing.”

Some kids who leave the safe haven see no future for themselves and return to their militia groups, he said. Ataman saw young people who had few skills or job opportunities hanging out in the poverty-stricken conflict zone.

The wealth from mining is leaving the country and not invested in its children. They’re Congo’s renewable resource whose potential is being squandered. “They’re extremely resilient and intelligent and the world’s missing out on that,” he said.

See original article here.