Dominic Arnall Visiting The Marc Bolan School Students

Dominic Arnall Visiting The Marc Bolan School Students

Jed Dmochowski Events Leave a Comment

In January 2011, Dominic Arnall visit the school, then held two rooms at the local University and agreed to take a one of the lessons. Below is the story of his visit:

I pulled up to the music school in Makeni, Sierra Leone on the back of a beaten up Honda, driven by one of the teachers, Amadu, with more than a hint of nerves. I had previously taught music in England, and in Rajasthan in India, but this was different again. Sierra Leone had been ravaged by a war that left many without families, homes, jobs and limbs. Many of the locals had been witness to atrocities I could only read about. I had no idea how they would respond to me coming over and trying to teach them Western music. One of my classes was also being watched by Gloria Jones, one of the finest soul singers the world has known, who had along with her son, set up the school in honour of her late partner Marc Bolan.

Dominic Arnall

I pulled up to the music school in Makeni, Sierra Leone on the back of a beaten up Honda, driven by one of the teachers, Amadu, with more than a hint of nerves. I had previously taught music in England, and in Rajasthan in India, but this was different again. Sierra Leone had been ravaged by a war that left many without families, homes, jobs and limbs. Many of the locals had been witness to atrocities I could only read about. I had no idea how they would respond to me coming over and trying to teach them Western music. One of my classes was also being watched by Gloria Jones, one of the finest soul singers the world has known, who had along with her son, set up the school in honour of her late partner Marc Bolan.

Almost immediately my fears were allayed. The kids were great, warm, and enthusiastic, with a real passion for music. Amadu had already achieved incredible things. The kids had only been playing for three months, and yet already had a good grounding on each of their instruments to a level that I had first thought they had been playing for at least a year. Due to the variation of instruments and voices in the room, I decided to do a group song, and began with ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash. The kids loved it. They listened carefully as I explained the background of the song, the story of a man’s triumph against adversity

They picked up the chords very quickly, and a lesson I thought would take two days had taken one. I decided to work on harmonies. The children had rich, full voices, and though it was challenging (they had never sung in harmony before) I wanted to push them as far as I could in the short time I was there. They absorbed the information like a sponge, and within two hours I had a group of children that had never sung in harmony before singing in four separate parts.

It was beautiful, and I was no longer quite as nervous about meeting Gloria, as I was immensely proud of what they had accomplished. On the second day Gloria came into class and introduced herself. My initial nerves were completely misguided, “Call me mom” she said with an incredible warmth and sincerity. The class gave the rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’ they had been practicing and a tear rolled down her cheek as she sat at the back of the class.

I was also witness to the other teachers in full swing. They were incredible. They had real passion and dedication to the project, and the kids hung on their every word. I left with a feeling of warmth, and pride to be a part of something so incredibly special. The class had the excited feeling one gets so very rarely, a feeling of: Something incredible is about to happen.

There are several reasons why this school is incredibly important. These children, ordinarily, would never have the chance to learn music like this. They are only too aware of this, and repay the opportunity tenfold with their dedication and commitment. If they are so willing to offer their dedication and commitment, would it not be a terrible crime that this gift was not met with our generosity? Many of the children are old enough to have been alive during the war, and even those who aren’t will certainly have felt its repercussions. Music allows people to lose themselves in creativity. It allows people to come together and share in a totally non-exclusive art form. It allows them the space to be themselves, irrespective of background or circumstance.

Sierra Leone is indeed different to the UK in many ways, but if this experience has taught me one thing it’s that when it comes to music, we all love to boogie.

The version of ‘Ring of Fire’ can be found at the bottom of the Fund Raising page, click here.

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