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Music for peace and reconciliation in Timor-Leste

Plan Timor-Leste is working with local bands to offer music training and studio recording facilities to young people from different backgrounds, enabling them to express themselves and help break down barriers between different communities.
Plan Timor-Leste is working with local bands to offer music training and studio recording facilities to young people from different backgrounds, enabling them to express themselves and help break down barriers between different communities.
August 23, 2011

At first glance, Alfeu Amandio Soares doesn't look much like a rock star, in his straight black jeans and plain grey shirt. But get him talking about the young musicians he works with in Timor-Leste, and he quickly becomes as animated as he is on stage with his band.

"No other NGO has ever done anything like this before," he says of the project. "That's why I wanted to work with Plan."

Once a month, with Plan's support, Alfeu and his band Rai Nain pile their microphones, mixer, laptop and speakers into the back of a taxi and head to the poor districts outside the capital Dili to teach a different group of young people how to make and record their own music.

Bridging boundaries for the next generation

Independent since 2002, Timor-Leste remains challenged by poverty and the potential of social conflict. But a love of music is shared across the country. The music project aims to give young people a focus, allow them to express themselves, and bridge some of the young nation's divides for the next generation.

"We want to make the youth voice heard by the people" through music, explains Janio Aldorado, Plan Timor-Leste's Youth Participation Manager. "Why? We know that youth in Timor-Leste, especially in the districts, are too shy to say what they want and feel. We also want some youth to act as leaders to encourage other youth and show confidence and inspire other kids."

Plan kick-started the project by flying over Australian group Original Tone in 2008 to fine-tune the expertise of the members of Rai Nain and set them up with the mobile studio equipment to take their show on the road.

A role model

Three years later, sat in his cramped, bright yellow living room, surrounded by traditional and modern music-making equipment, Alfeu remembers his own humble beginnings, playing on a guitar made by his mother from old tin cans.

He hopes to give other young people more of a musical head-start. "The young people in Timor-Leste have real musical talent. They're quick learners and I wanted to share my experience with them," he says.

The children like electric guitars, Alfeu explains, but the project also aims to encourage young people to take pride in local musical traditions. After all, the name Rai Nain means to honor the musical heritage of the country.

Looking forwards

Three years into the expanding project, there is a limit to how many people Alfeu can reach directly. Rai Nain are now training radio staff and youth journalists to run their own workshops, and help more young people come together in harmony across their new country.

Learn more about Plan's work in Timor-Leste.

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