The Story of Our First Record, Kandote
Kandote (KAHN-doh-tey), our first record, is a collaborative record we made with our dear friends, the Barefoot Truth Children’s Choir of Kkindu Village, Uganda. While the record's colorful blend of both foreign and familiar sounds offers FLA fans something a little different than what they might be used to, it's actually the story behind the music that really sets this project apart; Kandote is a not-for-profit that puts resources directly back into the choir's education, through a product of their own hand—or rather, voice.
The concept for the project began in Fall 2011 when our friend, mentor, and fellow social concerns activist Kevin Dugan invited us to come to Uganda. Dugan, founder of the NGO Fields of Growth International (FoG), encouraged us to explore the musical potential of a young troupe of singers associated with the school run by FoG. After many donations from friends and family, grants from University of Notre Dame’s ISLA and CUSE, a brief passport scare, and plenty of medical errands, we packed our bags (not the lightest of which contained a hefty field-recording rig) and left for East Africa. The warm, witty, and ultra-hospitable trio of Maurice Sserunkuma, Andrew Musambi, and Sam Otoa received the two of us when we arrived on that balmy December evening. For the next two weeks, they were our guides, teachers, roommates, and translators. We are blessed to still call them our friends, especially Andrew, who has continued to facilitate our relationship with the choir long after we had to return home.
After a five-hour drive from Entebbe (and in a different geographical hemisphere), we arrived in Kkindu just before sundown. We were greeted with what felt like a feast in the home of the calm and perspicacious matron Auntie Margaret, who generously provided us with many feasts and many beds while the crew stayed in Kkindu. The following morning, we met the choir for the first time, greeted by a wave of surprising, humbling applause as we walked through the threshold into their practice room.
The choir, who go by the telling epithet “The Barefoot Truth Choir,” were an incredibly well-behaved, patient, and engaged group of youngsters, which made working with them nothing less than an honor and privilege. When we weren’t working, we were even more privileged to sit in on some of their regular rehearsals to observe (and eventually participate in) their song and dance renditions of (mostly) traditional Bagandan Folk music. Although we had come to Uganda with some loose ideas already in mind, this exposure came to influence virtually every aspect of the record. In fact, we felt so compelled by their powerful, uplifting sound that we incorporated one of our favorite numbers, “Amaholo” (the traditional title of which is “Amaholo Anji Mungu”) into the tracklist. Detex, one of the young adult choir directors, sings lead.
When we had collected about as much material as our computers could hold (including some video), we had to say our farewells and head back home, although a portion of our hearts now permanently resides in the Pearl of Africa. The remainder of the album was recorded and produced in Nicholas’s home studio in South Bend, Indiana, mostly throughout the summer of 2012.
Why Support this Project?
Kandote isn’t just a sonorous cross-cultural artistic experiment, it’s also a not-for-profit project designed to provide the choir with a source of revenue expressly dedicated to their education and musical training. With the exception of the 15% of online sales taken by Bandcamp to host our online store, every cent of sales and donations goes straight to the choir, whose commited time and hard work made this record a reality.
In September 2015, construction began on a music pavillion in Kkindu, to be named Kandote Music Hall. The hall will include an open air practice and performance venue, storage for equipment and uniforms, and separate changing rooms for boys and girls. It is the newest addition to the HOPEFUL School (where many of the original choir members were once students), and will give the ongoing group of performers a more distinguished, formal space to further their craft.
Prior to September 2015, all of the Kandote revenue was used to help pay school fees of the original 28 members of the choir. In this time, your album purchases funded over two and a half years of education for each one of these kids! Through continued dialogue with John Kakande, (Co-founder of the choir and Director of the HOPEFUL school), it became apparent to us all that providing long-term funding to the original 28 members of the choir would become increasingly difficult to administer, particularly as the children grew up and moved on to different schools both in and outside the village. As a result, we decided to expand the scope of funding to include a broader set of needs, from costumes and equipment to the Kandote Music Hall and beyond. As the choir evolves, we will continue to adapt in this way, always holding true to the original vision and mission for the project: to support and encourage youth engagement with the amazing art of music.
We ask that you listen to our album, consider buying it, and share it (very important!) with anyone you know who might be interested in the cause, the music, or both. If you are interested in donating to this project apart from an album purchase, you may do so by sending a check to the following address:
Frances Luke Accord
1316 E Washington
South Bend, IN 46617
Make checks payable to "Frances Luke Accord" with “Kandote” as the subject, and we will make sure 100% of your donation is sent to the choir.
For all your support, webale! (Luganda for “thank you.”)
- Brian & Nick
Facts and FAQ:
Kandote is Luganda for “and I dream”. The whole chorus in the song Kandote translates to “and I dream of being one, together, for we are one blood”.
The choir consisted of 28 kids between the ages of 8 and 15, with 4 choir directors and sometimes many, many percussionists (for some of our performances, the instrumental ensemble consisted of about two dozen players, which, we were told, was actually rather small).
Although English is the official national language of Uganda, very few people in the village spoke it fluently. Instead, they spoke the other major language of the country: Luganda. This made communication between us and the choir difficult at times. One of our guides, Andrew, along with the head of the village, John Kakande, served as our primary translators.
Wasswa and Kato (the title of the last song on the album) were twin boys that we were particularly fond of (to see pictures of them, click here). In the Southwest region of the country where we stayed, it is tradition that all twin boys are named Wasswa and Kato, with Wasswa being the older of the two.
Kkindu Village, where the choir was recorded, is in the Masaka region of Uganda, located about 3 and a half hours southwest of Kampala. The total population in the village is around 700.
Other contributors to the album: Christian Rougeau, violin, “In the Water,” “Kandote,” and “Wasswa and Kato.” Lucy Lavely and Tess Gunty, vocals, “Swing Low.” The other crowd heard in the third chorus of “Kandote” is Brian’s family.