Wednesday, November 17, 2004

 

Get out there and make some noise

This is so flippin' cool! What an awesome idea! Can't you just picture the looks on politicians' faces if such a train ever crossed America?

The Big Noise in Mozambique
Report by Pushpanath Krishnamurthy, Campaigner, Big Noise

"The hopes that have been raised by peace in our country are receding into a feeling of hopelessness. The Big Noise of the make trade fair campaign is rekindling this hope because the farmers have found a voice and we musicians are playing our role." Jeremiah Nguenha, Singer, Mozambique

We woke exhausted, hungry and with stone dry throats to the sound and rhythm of stomping feet. The colours and the dust that enveloped the crowd which had gathered for the concert shook us back to our senses. It felt incredible to have finally arrived in Cuamba - it was bound to feel good after travelling for 8 hours across Mozambique on what was the most memorable train journey of my life.

The train carried 500 people, from farmers and teachers to activists, all of whom laughed sang and danced furiously to the sound of Ali Faque - the singer dubbed the Salief Keita of Mozambique. He was simply unstoppable, walking up and down the carriages with a megaphone keeping up our spirits by entertaining us with songs in the local dialect.

The train stopped off at stations along the route to collect more Big Noise signatures and to get refreshments for the passengers who were beginning to flag in the blistering heat. Tons of sugar cane was chewed and gallons of soft drinks were drunk but nothing seemed to quench the thirst or hunger like the soul stirring songs of Ali Faque.

Our reception in Cuamba was staggering. Alliance partners had organised a human chain of breathtaking colour which we walked along to the football stadium where a large crowd had started to form.

As Massukos, Mozambique's number one band started to tune their instruments the crowd began to swell. Thousands of farmers - some of whom had walked up to 35 kilometres - began pushing to the front to get nearer to the stage. For a moment the stage was threatened by the sea of people who were all dancing frenetically but the indomitable 'Aro-Juvenil' (Youth Network) who were in charge of crowd management did a wonderful job and seemed to cast the crowd under a magical spell.

Finally the music of the Mozambique bush hit the blue African sky and echoed in the hills. The top five bands in the country - all well known for their social awareness and thoughtful songs - thrilled the 6000 crowd who danced along in colourful symmetry to the artists they so love. By this time the volunteers who had been collecting signatures for the petition couldn't collect any more because the atmosphere of the occasion had reached fever pitch and the energy and movement unleashed by the music had become overwhelming.

The event was a tremendous success - 2000 signatures were collected and the media talked about the event for days afterwards. The mayor of Cuamba who spoke from the stage said the event had put this small town on the map. Most important of all we thought as we staggered back exhausted to the train, the African farmers who need a decent price for their crops had been given a voice in a unique and memorable way as never before in Mozambique

Pushpanath Krishnumurthy, Oxfam
http://www.maketradefair.com/en/index.htm



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