What is Ghetto Classics?

Ghetto Classics is a community based programme that aims to transform lives of over 650 children in Korogocho, Huruma, Dandora and Mukuru kwa Reuben, as well as students from Farasi Lane Primary School and Muthangari Primary School in Nairobi. The programme uses music education to provide the youth with opportunities to better themselves and their communities, equipping them with skills in live music performance as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty that many of them are born into. The programme also provides them with income generating opportunities and has been supported by proceeds from the Safaricom International Jazz Festival since 2014.

The main objectives of the program are:

  • To support St John primary school and Korogocho community as a whole with music knowledge and skills.
  • To create oneness and harmony between students, school systems/administration and the community by using music as a merging tool for larger social transformation.
  • To engage young people in sustainable projects and promote a fair and just society, where they are equitably engaged in social-economic development programs.
  • To bring people from all races, communities together to form a formidable foundation with the aim of making music a part of culture in the Korogocho community.

Based in a local primary school and church, we run both a brass band and string ensemble that train weekly, meeting for 3 hours every Sunday afternoon. We also work within the primary school structure, giving 10 – 12 year olds, in an adjacent primary school, weekly music tuition. For all these children, it is the first time in their lives that they are coming across any music education. The project deals in equipping students with music knowledge ranging from theoretical part of it to the actual music performance, they all converge to play in a tuti on weekends. Despite the hardship these children and young people face they always find the time to come and practice.

Tutors, who are ex students and members of Ghetto Classics, have undergone Grade 1-5 theory and practical exams execute the teaching. This is to ensure that pupils are able to read, play music and understand basic elements of a good performance. Exams are usually held at the end of every term and the students who perform best are rewarded and promoted to the school band and Safaricom Youth Orchestra.

In the 7 years that Ghetto Classics has been in existence it has achieved these objectives:

The Students

Some of the students who have actively participated in music program managed to secure places in Safaricom Youth Orchestra, which also supports them with basic needs like food, shelter, school fees and clothes.

  • Discovered hidden talents, of many students, who have also received recognition in the school for their achievements in music.
  • Majority of the students who are learning music have managed to improve in their academic grade and school mean score have really improved. 16 completed their KCPE this year with above average grades. 100 attended the PURES program at State House. This past year, we had 14 students finish high school and more than 50% of them achieved the grades to take them into tertiary education – an amazing accomplishment if you consider their background and means. 6 are currently in University while also giving back as tutors to Ghetto Classics.
  • Overall there has been an encouraging change in the behavior of the students with increased confidence and a positive outlook on life.
  • There has been a cultural exchange that has gone beyond the students but also involved the community at large – students who were involved in the project kept on sharing the information with the rest of the community members and the response was positive.

Ghetto Classics has managed to perform at major events which have been happening in Kenya for instance: during Pope’s visit to Kenya and Jamhuri Day at State house creating greater exposure for the students and Ghetto Classics as a whole.

The Tutors

There has been increased Tutors morale to continue with their music careers as they have seen the opportunity of being able to earn and income from their musical skills.

  • There is an increased sense of belonging and ownership of the community activities since they have been empowered with education and wide experience towards life, through music.
  • It has also created a sense of responsibility and leadership by giving back to their own society hence creating brighter future.
  • By the virtue that tutors have been teaching at St. John’s school during the week and on weekends lessons they were able to gain sponsorship from the Kenya Conservatoire and Art Of Music Foundation to do ABRSM exams.
  • With the help of Ghetto Classic, tutors have managed to access and own their own personal instruments. They have gone on to create their own band and perform at events in the community.

The Community

Music is one of the activities which is promoting peace in the community, because the youth are spending their free time learning and teaching music, but there have been greater benefits to society:

  • St John also began using music to advertise for their school and recruit students and the number of the pupils has risen from 700 to approximate 780. The mean score of the school has increased compared to the previous years (2014 mean score was 274, 2015 mean score was of 298.). St John school band came first during the Kenya music festivals in August 2015 and managed to bring back home Six Trophies. Despite its location the reputation and image of the school and community has improved greatly.
  • The Art of Music Foundation currently employs 10 people from within the Korogocho community who help to keep Ghetto Classics running.
  • Ghetto Classics has opened and attracted more stakeholders to support the program both locally and international e.g. Australia Music Society, Carnegie Hall Link Up, The Concordia Foundation and many more.

Through the Link Up programme Ghetto Classics has managed to expand its operation to other schools within our community and further afield. We have begun teaching the recorder to 300 new students from 6 different primary schools in Nairobi: Farasi Lane Primary School, Muthangari Primary School, Clare Community Centre (Dandora), St. Clare’s Primary School (Korogocho) Reuben Primary School (Mukuru kwa Reuben) and St. Johns Primary School (Korogocho) using the Carnegie Hall methodology and technical assistance with the end goal of having a concert featuring all the students with the National Youth Orchestra.