Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Sweet choir o'mine: Children on song for new movie

By Meron Moges-Gerbi, CNN
August 8, 2013 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
The African Children's Choir is composed of children aged seven to 10, from various African countries. Currently touring the United States, the choir is the subject of new documentary film "Imba Means Sing," The African Children's Choir is composed of children aged seven to 10, from various African countries. Currently touring the United States, the choir is the subject of new documentary film "Imba Means Sing,"
HIDE CAPTION
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
African Children's Choir
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The African Children's Choir helps vulnerable children
  • The choir has toured the world, earning the children money and a better education
  • The troupe are the subject of new documentary "Imba Means Sing"
  • Past choir members have gone on to become lawyers, doctors and teachers

(CNN) -- Angel may be in a foreign country without her family, but the eight-year-old Ugandan certainly isn't shy. "I like being on camera," she says. "I like it because it makes me feel like I can be president."

Angel is a member of the African Children's Choir, which is currently touring the United States, and she's on camera because the choir is the subject of a remarkable new documentary "Imba Means Sing."

The film shares the experiences of Angel, Moses and the rest of the choir, in five countries over two years.

Armed with incredible smiles, these children make you believe they've got the whole world in their hands. Almost all the kids come from the slums of Kampala, Uganda, and by traveling with the choir most of these children are getting an opportunity not only for a great education but also to be the main bread winners in their families.

Read more: Street children become stage stars

I like being on camera ... it makes me feel like I can be president.
Angel, choir member

Moses, nine, says: "(The) tour will change my life because I get to study more so that I can become what I want to be when I grow up. I didn't have many clothes and I didn't have many pairs of shoes and now I have them."

The Grammy-nominated African Children's Choir was started in 1984 by human rights activist Ray Barnett. Barnett was called on to help the thousands of children who had been orphaned and abandoned following years of conflict.

Barnett says: "I felt a choir of African children, who were very underprivileged, could show the world the beauty, dignity and unlimited ability of the African child so they could see what their help could do." The choir has successfully accomplished this for 28 years worldwide.

As the director and visionary for the nonprofit, Barnett developed the team into an internationally acclaimed performing group while raising funds to help many destitute children. To date, more than 1,000 vulnerable children have been through the choir program.

Summer program helps children thrive
Dolls help children reconnect with roots
Teen wins 'Nobel Prize for Children'

Funds from the choir have provided the opportunity of education and hope for many thousands like them in some of Africa's most impoverished areas. Some of the graduates have gone on to become lawyers, doctors, teachers and even leaders in their countries.

Read more: 10 must-see African films

According to Julia Tracy, the group's international choir director, the experience has not only raised future leaders for their home countries but has left an indelible mark on every nation in which they perform. For 20 years, she has watched their powerful performances be a force of inspiration and unity for countless audiences. She notes that this is one of the group's strengths. They effortlessly create a relationship with the community and "spread a different worldview," she says.

The film's producer, Erin Levin, first met the kids at a fundraising event in Madison Square Garden. Reflecting on the experience, Levin says, "I had always done this good stuff but never really had a reason to except that it was what I was taught ... and it made me feel good and I loved it. But, meeting these kids put a face and a heart and a name to everything."

At first, the journey of making Imba was a struggle. Levin says when she first arrived in Uganda to assess the production of the film she didn't have anyone to talk to. The girls in particular were shy and reluctant to talk with her. Angel and Moses are the stars of the film. The two were natural choices as they didn't hesitate to speak with Levin's crew. Now three years into production, Levin says most of the children speak English and can read and write in the Ugandan Luganda language.

The children have been grateful to participate in the group and continue to marvel at their experience.

"Being in the choir means I will have my school fees paid, because if I go to school I can be whatever I want when I grow up," says a young girl called Patience. "I need that to become a lawyer."

Read more: Artists take epic Africa road trip

"The choir is going to change my life by giving us education," says choir member Kendrick.

But funding the movie has been a real struggle. So far Levin has raised $200,000. In addition to this, she still has to reach a goal of $400,000 -- of which she has only raised $200,000. Levin hopes the film will become a movement.

She says: "The issue it addresses is not just the African Children's Choir. It's much bigger than that. It's education. All the kids in the choir can't go to first or second grade. Then they tour the world and now their education is paid for through college so that is what we are shinning a light on."

Levin credits all her success to her crew: director Danielle Bernstein and director of photography Jason Maris. She is deservedly unabashed in how proud she is of their work. Her message to others: "Anyone can follow their dream and follow their heart. I am just a normal girl who believed in something and is going after it. And, I hope that people will see this and be inspired to do the same."

Imba Means Sing is due to premiere in 2014.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
Vintage helicopters, ziplines, private flying safaris offer new, spectacular views of wildlife and rugged terrain.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1504 GMT (2304 HKT)
Photojournalist Daniella Zalcman asked Uganda's religious leaders their views on homosexuality. Their answers might surprise you.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
In Africa, royalty is an endangered species. Meet the man on a mission to photograph the last remaining kings and queens.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1035 GMT (1835 HKT)
Getty photographer John Moore captured the spirit of those who survived the epidemic
October 3, 2014 -- Updated 1726 GMT (0126 HKT)
Nazis, bomb raids, and a mysterious man with a mustache. The search for the spinosaurus reads like a spy novel.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1423 GMT (2223 HKT)
Can a rat be a hero? It can if it saves lives. Meet the giant rats that sniff out landmines and TB
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
In Africa, royalty is an endangered species. Meet the man on a mission to photograph the last remaining kings and queens.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1110 GMT (1910 HKT)
Can state-of-the art schools in rural Africa rescue the environment? One charity is betting on it.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
To save the rhinos, one charity is moving them out of South Africa, where poaching is at an all time high.
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1542 GMT (2342 HKT)
mediterranean monk seal
Many of Africa's animals are facing extinction. Is it too late for them? Our interactive looks at the many challenges to survival.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1635 GMT (0035 HKT)
No one knows what causes "fairy circles" in Namibia's desert. A new study, however, may have solved the mystery.
April 3, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
A picture shows the Rwenzori mountain range on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo on March 8, 2014. At 5,109 metres (16,763 feet), Mount Stanley's jagged peak is the third highest mountain in Africa, topped only by Mount Kenya and Tanzania's iconic Kilimanjaro.
The 'African Alps' are melting, and it may be too late. Now may be your last chance to see the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1438 GMT (2238 HKT)
One company thinks so. They're investing in insect farms in Ghana and Kenya. Could bugs build an industry and curb malnutrition?
March 21, 2014 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Morocco is famous for its historic cities and rugged landscape. But it's becoming known as a surfer's paradise.
March 6, 2014 -- Updated 1027 GMT (1827 HKT)
A photographer took to an ultra-light aircraft to capture Botswana's savannah from above. The results are amazing.
May 27, 2014 -- Updated 1016 GMT (1816 HKT)
Makoko Floating School
A new wave of African architects are creating remarkable buildings in the continent, and beyond.
March 14, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
A huge spiral in the Sahara had Google Earth users baffled by what it could be. So what exactly is it?
Each week Inside Africa highlights the true diversity of the continent as seen through the mediums of art, music, travel and literature.
ADVERTISEMENT