I never imagined participating in a desert venture such as Run the Sahara. Now that I've done it 4 times I can truly say I'm addicted. I've wonderful memories each time of living with new host Saharawi refugee families and making friends from around the world.
What I didn't anticipate was how important this race event would become for the survival of our Studio-Live music project. In 2010, 25 runners raised more than £22,000 for it. With those funds we purchased out first round of high quality music equipment and began sound engineering training in the refugee camps. The project largely targets the youth to develop their creative potential. It is providing them with skills to enable them to reach global audiences through music. By facilitating the growth of a local and professional music industry we hope to help generate livelihoods for the impoverished, aid- dependent refugees.
Nearly 4 years onwards, I am thrilled to say that more than 20 young Saharawis have participated in our training workshops. In a space of 18 months we delivered 5 training workshops with top professionals in their field. We now have 6 students, 3 female and 3 male with intermediate skills. They are showing great ability and commitment to becoming professional sound technicians. To top that off we recently secured a space for the project and set up a recording studio in the smallest refugee camp of Boujdour. Although we've had to invest to refurbish it, it's fast becoming an important community hub for young musicians to gather and record. In the UK we are forming an important link with the London School of Music to get pedagogical support and set up an accreditation system for the training and knowledge being provided. This is a truly exciting development!
In my 22 years of visiting the refugee camps in the harsh, barren desert corner of SW Algeria, I have come across an abundance of music talent. Music has always been hugely important to the Saharawis to express their cultural identity and plight. That is amply evident when you spend time in the camps.
The powerful female vocals, compelling, trance -like rhythms and sweet magical sounds of their four stringed tidinit have enchanted me for years. What greatly dismays me is how little of their music is heard outside the camps and how little, in general, is known of the Saharawis and their long term refugee plight. It's even harder to believe when you know that the situation affects close to 200,000 people and has been going on for nearly 40 years.
I do believe Studio-Live can help change this situation. Your support will ensure we can carry on our work at this critical juncture in the development of the project. It will help us expand the work to all five camps which will be essential to have real impact. The target this year is to raise at least £20,000 so we can get more equipment, instruments and provide more technical and industry business training.
I am setting my personal target higher than ever to achieve this. I hope I can count on you to do whatever you can to help me reach it. I also wish you to know that i am running in memory of my dear friend Peter Bonnici. He designed our elegant Studio-Live logo and was a fervent believer in Sandblast. He always planned to go to the camps. As this was not to happen on his terms I decided to take him on a run through the desert instead.