back to the bluefields sound system

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Yesterday afternoon we had the chance to catch up again with the Bluefields Sound System. We have been visiting the youth and community music project for ten years, watching the project develop. Now we are able to add practical support, helping to fund their new manager, Michael Britton Allen, who took over the reins last year.

Since moving to the Multimedia Centre opened by the Sandinista government a few years ago they have made a lot of progress. They are given a space free by the government, but are independently run, and have to find their own funding. Two years ago our last delegation took the decision to do a small amount of fund-raising for the Sound System. After discussions over e-mail and skype, they decided the best use of the money would be to provide support for the manager, helping the BSS to open more regularly and develop their project work.

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Last year they organised one of their most ambitious projects, at the time of Bluefields’ famous Maypole festival. They worked with young people from one of the city’s most lively communities, Beholden. The young people produced a new version of a traditional Maypole song, and performed it with a band from New Mexico, brought to Bluefields by the Sound System as part of an international link. Some of the young people then toured, performing in Pearl Lagoon and Orinoco.

The funding will help the Sound System develop its core work:

  • a community recording studio
  • a multimedia skills centre, including teaching graphic design, video production etc
  • a school of music
  • a committee which focuses on cultural preservation

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Since our last visit they have been busy building partnerships. They recently joined up with the government’s Secretario de Juventud to work with young people developing skills through running courses. They have also partnered with FADCANIC, a development organisation on the coast, creating social projects dealing with cultural identity. More recently they have joined the Violence Prevention Committee, working in schools and with youths at risk.

Young people make use of the BSS, individually and collectively. They can book studio time, and out of the 75 young people who use the BSS monthly, the majority do so for recording. They have a list of 13 producers who work with the young people, 9 of whom do so on a regular basis. Courses usually attract between 8 to 12 for each one, but this will expand to 20 when they start using facilities provided by the government elsewhere in the building. One of their current goals is to increase the participation of women and girls in the project – they will be holding a women only session this month.

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As well as development work, they are also trying to generate income, to make the project more sustainable. They offer services and space to other local groups, who can take advantage of their expertise and facilities.

During our discussions in the afternoon spent with Michael, and the project’s coordinator, Zander Scott, they told us how the funding would help them increase the hours they are open, and also free up time for other activities. They are particularly keen to develop the links with similar organisations in Wales. One of their ideas is to jointly produce a cd and video with Welsh language artists, something they have successfully done with other countries. In addition, they are interested in developing an exchange between Wales and the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.



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