REHEARSAL: Young people joined a weekly online rehearsal for the virtual choir project. Picture: Centre for Multicultural Youth

REHEARSAL: Young people joined a weekly online rehearsal for the virtual choir project. Picture: Centre for Multicultural Youth

Virtual choir project Awa connects across cultures

Virtual choir project Awa connects across cultures

Community
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The Centre For Multicultural Youth in Ballarat launched the Awa project in May and invited young people and their families from across the region to participate as vocalists, musicians, dancers or artists.

A virtual choir project is bringing Ballarat, Horsham and Nhill's multicultural community together throughout the coronavirus pandemic and sharing Ghanaian culture.

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REHEARSAL: Young people joined a weekly online rehearsal for the virtual choir project. Picture: Centre for Multicultural Youth

REHEARSAL: Young people joined a weekly online rehearsal for the virtual choir project. Picture: Centre for Multicultural Youth

The Centre For Multicultural Youth in Ballarat launched the Awa project in May and invited young people and their families from across the region to participate as vocalists, musicians, dancers or artists.

Musical director Stella Savy from Coco Sounds created videos for seven vocal parts and percussion.

More than 50 people participated in four online rehearsal sessions and have now submitted videos of their musical contribution.

The clips will be edited together to create a virtual choir YouTube clip, also featuring videos of dancers and Ghanaian artwork.

The final performance video will be launched in late July with a special online 'red carpet' event.

Seeing projects like Awa happening where it shows the multicultural community in a positive light is really important. - Karissa Cribbes, Awa youth mentor

Centre for Multicultural Youth team leader Shiree Pilkinton said the project was a fun way to ensure the community remained connected during lockdown.

Karissa Cribbes was one of five youth mentors for the project and facilitated the creation of West African Adinkra symbols that will be used as artwork in the video.

She said she joined the project to stay engaged with community during lockdown and had learnt about Ghaniaian culture by researching the symbols.

"Some of my friends are Ghanaian, so it is nice to be able to learn about the culture as well as singing," she said.

"It has been a good learning opportunity as well as social connection."

Awa is a traditional Ghanaian children's song that means 'excited to hug you'.

A youth group in Ghana has also been involved in the project and submitted videos for the virtual choir.

Ms Pilkinton said one of the aims of the project was to engage people from different communities, particularly in Horsham and Nhill.

Centre For Multicultural Youth had begun offering programs there only weeks before COVID-19 hit.

"It was another good opportunity to come together through COVID. Every week there was something online," she said.

Ms Pilkinton said many young people with migrant and refugee backgrounds had struggled throughout the coronavirus pandemic with finances due to loss of casual work, racism, home schooling and mental health issues.

"The financial stress meant in many cases families were moving in together to try and make ends meet so there were houses that were really overcrowded," she said.

"If you are trying to do home schooling in that environment where there is literally no space to do anything and perhaps there is one laptop for five children to use or no laptop at all or no wifi, it is difficult.

"Then parents were becoming frustrated because they felt they didn't have the skills or the language to be able to support their young people with their schooling."

Ms Cribbes said being exposed to constant negative news and Black Lives Matter related issues caused additional stress for her and her friends.

"Seeing projects like Awa happening where it shows the multicultural community in a positive light is really important," she said.

"We really hope that through projects like this those barriers are broken down and the respect and understanding of other cultures is increased," Ms Pilkinton said.

The story Virtual choir project Awa connects across cultures first appeared on The Wimmera Mail-Times.

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