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Malagasy girls thrill Coast public with drumming prowess

By Philip Mwakio | March 15th 2019

Girls from Madagascar known as Batucada Bloco Malagasy with their leader Jose Luis Guirao in Likoni, Mombasa County yesterday. The girls promote gender equality and child protection through beating drums. [Mkamburi Mwawasi/Standard].

They came, saw and conquered many with their prowess in playing different set of drums.

They are the Bloco Malagasy, a Batucada Group (Afro- Brazilian) percussion that consists of 200 girls and children who study at the Art and Music Centre in Southern part of Madagascar.

They are currently in Kenya on a 10-day cultural exchange programme that have seen them visit the idyllic Maasai Maara National Park, Nairobi and the Coast.

Mining firm, Base Titanium is sponsoring the groups tour at the Coast where they will hold cultural shows in Likoni and Kwale County where Base Titanium has interest in one of Kenya's largest mining ventures- the Kwale Mineral Sands.

''The groups visit to our country and in particular Kwale County is to help interact culturally as they drum up support for gender equality and child protection particularly the girl child. They use music as medium to pass the message that all children deserve equal treatment,'' Ms Mwanaidi Ali, a Community Awareness Supervisor with Base Titanium said.

On Thursday, the group held a performance alongside local cultural groups and schools at the Likoni Primary School, Likoni sub county.

The group leader, Mr Jose' Luis Guirao said that back home in Madagascar, they face serious early girl child pregnancies hence the need to empower girls by tapping into their natural talents.

''We saw music as one way of bringing these girls together and teaching them all the moral values on good living. Apart from music they get quality education at the centre and have become good ambassadors of their own country as they visit different parts of the world twice a year to showcase culture,' Guirao said.

He added that the project was founded in 2008 where volunteers from the NGO “Bel Avenir” (strong future) taught French lessons to a group of students.

''The project was initially set up by girls living close to the Tropic Cinema in the Tsimenatse neighbourhood. The following year, with its popularity, children from other neighbourhoods became interested and also took part,'' he said.

Guirao added that the group was created to provide alternative leisure for girls with high risk of social exclusion and teenage pregnancy.

The word “bloco” in Portuguese spoken in Brazil means “association” or “group”. The blocos are bands that play music and entertain in the streets during the traditional carnival.

He said that Bloco Malagasy plays at parades, carnivals and shows.

''The Bloco Malagasy integrates rhythms from Brasil, Europe and Madagascar, creating a unique and artistic experience of international quality,'' he said.

Among countries they have visited include Spain, Cambodia and the entire Madagascar.

In 2014, the girls completed their second tour in Asia and spent time in Thailand and Cambodia to promote human rights.

In July, the girls took part in street performances during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. In April of the same year, the percussionists returned to South Africa for a tour in Cape Town which promoted responsible tourism in the tourism hall at the World Travel Market Africa 2015.

In September of that year, the girls did a national tour to raise awareness for human rights with the animated film “Tongasoa and the vazaha” which was created by the sponsor of Bel Avenir.

''All of the tours aimed at raising awareness to the public abroad like Malagasy with regard to human rights, especially rights for women and children. These tours have also created an opportunity to encourage exchanges between children from different cultures and social backgrounds which in turn promotes tolerance, respect and peace,'' he said.

 Guirao says of their Kenyan tour, they were mesmerized by the sight of Maasai Moran agility in jumps and loved the scenic Sheldrick Falls within the Shimba Hills National Reserve in Kwale.

''The local delicacy here especially Nyama choma are tasteful. We love the people around here. They are just welcoming. We also appreciate Base Titanium for their valid support that has made it possible for our group to sample Kenyan Coast,'' he said.

The Bloco Malagasy currently consists of four levels: Bloco A, B and C where the levels of girls are ranked by the most advanced to beginners. The lower Bloco level was created in November in 2014 and welcomes children from 6-12 years and also has boys who play percussion.

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