IF you were to ask someone what their idea of development was, nine out of ten people would likely tell you it’s alleviating poverty, building schools and amenities for communities in need or improving people’s health and well-being. And they wouldn’t be wrong, well not completely. This week we started a different kind of development, correcting the machismo ideals of women being inferior to men - through music. With two resident musicians (Ollie and I) in Los Fuegos, the Dipilto community jumped at the chance for the opportunity to teach some of the youths an instrument (drums and guitar), and we were happy to oblige. However, when a crowd of teenagers – many of whom we recognised as the surly, sexist boys from our reforestation exploits – turned up, showing the typical signs of teenage angst and an overload of testosterone, eager anticipation about the class ahead turned to trepidation.
With two instructors, the group was split into those more interested in guitar and those who wanted to play drums. After the split, I was tasked with teaching two 17 year-old boys, Juan and Cesar, drums, while Ollie took the larger mixed group to learn some guitar. Although I had the smaller group, I definitely had the more difficult mission. Not only was I facing the challenge of teaching two non-English speakers with limited (but improving every day) Spanish, I also had the weight of a lifetime of machismo culture on my shoulders. Part of the Progressio ideal is gender empowerment and sometimes you have to be extrovert and challenge yourself in order to broaden the minds of others, so drumsticks in hand I set about teaching my two students. With every beat of the drum and strum of guitar, gender barriers were broken down piece by piece. By the end of the session boys and girls, were laughing and joking and eager for next week’s class, a success from all points of view. Our classes will continue, adding more instruments and hopefully more students to our repertoire and setting the example that not only can music transcend language barriers but cultural ones too.
Written by Natalie Deans