Peacetones and Piga Makofi Popularize Music From Sierra Leone

Peacetones and Piga Makofi Collaborate to Popularize Music From Sierra Leone

Aakruti Jagmohan, media lab intern, Emerson College 2014

Peacetones is a non-profit organization whose goal is to create a fair trade music movement, empowering unknown musicians in developing nations with marketing and legal knowledge and access to online platforms to share their music globally. Recently the Development Director of Peacetones, Adam Berkowitz, was invited to be a guest on a radio show broadcasted from Emerson College on WECB, called Piga Makofi. Piga Makofi, which is “clap” in Swahili, is a two-hour radio show that explores music from a different African countries, in addition to broadcasting news and events that shed the continent in a positive light. This show was dedicated to Sierra Leone, a 27,699 sq mile sized country in West Africa, and also where PeaceTones hosted its first project.

Berkowitz spoke to Anita Kalaitzakis and Eunice Onowana, co-hosts of Piga Makofi, regarding Peacetones’ artists from Sierra Leone. Along with playing music from Sierra Leone, they spoke about the major issues the country is facing and how they are being approached on a daily basis.

Kalaitzakis said she believes that, “Peacetones’ mission addresses one of the goals Piga Makofi has, which is to show Africa through the positive milestones, events and news taking place, instead of the stereotypical images of death, disease and destruction defining the continent’s manifestation in the media.”

Peacetones began their work with a specific project with JayArr, a Sierra Leonean musician as well as a community engagement and social service advocate, back in October 2010. Peacetones and JayArr were introduced by a board member of Peacetones and soon their relationship built into the Sierra Leone-Peacetones project, designed to support artistic talent within Freetown, Sierra Leone. PeaceTones provided resources, including classes and equipment, to dedicated musicians who would not have otherwise had access to these means.

Many of JayArr’s musician friends learned about Peacetones and were inspired to produce a compilation album entitled, PeaceTones Sierra Leone-Songs from Freetown. Berkowitz believes the biggest highlight of this project was that, “90% of the proceeds of that album went towards computer literacy programs in Sierra Leone.”

Each of the projects that Peacetones engages in has a community serving aspect. Their project in Haiti benefited a maternity clinic; in Brazil they opened a recording studio that is open to the public to come in and express themselves; and their artist, Wanito, who won a contest that Peacetones held in Haiti in 2010, supports local schools as part of his community service.

“We go into countries, work with local partners to give two-day workshops on everything from ‘what is a contract?’ to the complexities of intellectual property rights, different ways you can make money off your music, publishing– all which is not easy…”, said Berkowitz when asked how PeaceTones’ establishes themselves in a country for a musical project. Local partners are key in both the implementation phases as well as later with the community giving.

Helping musicians who don’t have the ability to keep up with the new, digital age of selling music is something Peacetones and Berkowitz definitely aim to continue to address. One of their many goal is for their artists to be able generate a stream of income for their families.

Kalaitzakis, particularly, felt so fortunate for the opportunity to bring Berkowitz into the show on Sierra Leone. She was excited to shed light on a nonprofit that has so much in common with her show. Representing Peacetones on Piga Makofi was certainly a great way for both the radio show and the organization to promote themselves and their work.

Being featured on Piga Makofi is one of the many steps that Berkowitz took to promote Peacetones and its Sierra Leone project. “We [Piga Makofi and Peacetones] both work in the music industry and we both know that publicity is key!” said Berkowitz.

“For example”, he added, “We have an upcoming Kenya Project in Nairobi, in three different townships where we’re conducting workshops. So maybe somehow, some musician in Kenya will stumble across this when he googles Kenya music and he’ll know that peacetones is holding these workshops and maybe this is his opportunity to get his music out to the world and there we go!” PeaceTones’ movement continues! Visit www.peacetones.org to learn more.