Radical Joy Revealed
December 30, 2015
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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places. We hope you'll enjoy these doorways into places that are both familiar and surprising, and we welcome your suggestions, stories, and photos. Click here to subscribe.

Melodika musicians
Members of Melodika, the musical group formed by Burundi refugees. Photo by Michael May/NPR

When the Burundian video artist Bertrand Ninteretse videotaped the killing by police of a man protesting political violence in the country, his name landed high on a police hit list. Like many from this small country in central Africa, Ninteretse, who calls himself Kaya Free, "the highest freedom," fled to neighboring Kigali, Rwanda.
 
Once there, he and his wife used social media to inform others in Burundi that they had a house open to anyone in need. Gradually the house became a gathering spot for musicians, all of whom had had to flee their homes so quickly that they had been forced to leave their instruments behind.
 
Now, musicians who would never have shared the same stage in their former lives began using pots and pans and empty beer bottles and, most especially, their own voices, to make music. A man who had won the Burundi equivalent of "American Idol", a jazz singer, a percussionist who used to play at weddings, guitarist who had performed at international hotels, and others eventually formed a group, Melodika. "It was about our voices only," says Kaya Free.
 
Their message, say these musicians, is one of unity and diversity. When they perform they might follow a love song with a traditional lament, which might, in turn lead to a song directed to family members back home, telling them they are safe.
 
"We started as friends," says one of the musicians, "but because of problems we became a family."
 
 

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