Spirit of Uganda exudes joy March 13

Posted by John Mark Rafacz on March 12, 2012 

You don't have to search long to find an article about what's wrong in many parts of Africa. Disease, drought, hunger and violence plague many parts of the continent. But Africa is also brimming with countless examples of the human spirit transcending the most dire of circumstances. One of those life-affirming tales out of Africa comes to Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium at 7:30 Tuesday evening.

Spirit of Uganda, a music and dance tour produced by Dallas-based Empower African Children, makes its Center for the Performing Arts premiere March 13. Spirit of Uganda features 22 performers ranging in age from 11 to 22. Most of the young artists are orphans. Others come from vulnerable backgrounds. All of them are incredibly talented and eager to share vibrant samples of the traditional music and dance from their lush East African homeland.

Spirit of Uganda Artistic Director Peter Kasule, who grew up in Uganda and lost both of his parents by age 13, serves as master of ceremonies during the performance. Kasule guides the audience, and the performers, on a tour of Uganda's varied ethnic groups and cultural traditions. Standing drums, energetic dance and call-and-response vocals feature prominently.

The Spirit of Uganda tour helps to raise awareness about the country's more than 2 million orphans and its AIDS crisis. The tour also generates revenue that goes toward scholarships for the young people Empower African Children serves.

Hear my interview with Empower African Children Founder and President Alexis Hefley. The YouTube interview includes a sample of one of Spirit of Uganda's songs.

Read my in-depth article about Spirit of Uganda.

Tickets are still available for the March 13 performance.

Uganda has been front and center in social media in recent days because of the viral video Kony 2012. Joseph Kony, head of a rebel militia, has been linked to the deaths of thousands of Ugandans in recent decades. Several of the Spirit of Uganda troupe members say they have had a parent killed by Kony's forces. Spirit of Uganda CEO Frank Roby writes about the Kony phenomenon.

A Spirit of Uganda performance, a New York Times reporter writes, is all about "invigorating the stage with that elusive thing called joy."




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