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Music duo heads to Uganda

Nicole Michels | Sunday, December 4, 2011


This winter break, Notre Dame seniors Nick Gunty and Brian Powers will have the opportunity to combine social justice with their passion for songwriting.

After they finish their final exams, the two will head to Khindu, Uganda, to record an album with the local Barefoot Truth Children’s Choir and the group, “Percussion Discussion.”

“This project is about producing music with a message,” Powers said. “The songs that we write are going to be about what they’re going through in Uganda… The great thing about this project is that it has the potential to reach a large amount of people.

The musical duo named itself the “The Frances Luke Accord.” Gunty and Powers said they plan to pursue musical careers after graduation.

Kevin Dugan, manager of youth and community programs for the Athletic Department,approached the duo about going to Uganda after its performance at last December’s Stand for Sudan Peace Rally. 

Dugan is also the founder and director of Fields of Growth International, an organization that introduces lacrosse and human development to poverty-stricken communities. Fields of Growth helped launch lacrosse in Uganda’s capital, Kampala.

“The goal of this album is that once we start to sell it, all the profits will be sent back to the children to help build schools, [to] better the communities and to fund the projects undertaken by Fields of Growth,” Gunty said.

Gunty said the group plans to go to Khindu with several songs already composed, but intends to write a large portion of the music once there. They will also collaborate with the choir on songs the children already know and perform. 

“What we’re writing about is going to be heavily focused on the lives of those children,” Gunty said.  “We want this album to be about those children and their lives, the joys and the hardships ¾ everything about their experience.”

Powers said he is excited by the challenge of synthesizing two very different styles of music. The Frances Luke Accord typically produces folk music, but will now be working with the styles and beats of African music.

“We’ve never had an African aspect, so that’s going to be the big challenge ¾ incorporating our folky kind of music with African musical styles,” Powers said.

Gunty said he is excited and motivated by the idea of working with an African children’s choir.

“It will be artistically engaging to work with these kids and to come up with a project, collaborating with people in such a completely different culture with its own sense of music and art,” he said.

Powers said he expects communication with the children to be a more basic challenge.

“One of the issues will be communicating with the kids who will definitely have a very low level of English proficiency,” he said. “I expect that we will be working with them on pronunciation of words in some of our songs.”

While in Uganda, Gunty and Powers will also work with Percussion Discussion, a very prominent Ugandan musical group whose music was featured in the movie, “The Last King of Scotland.”

The Frances Luke Accord will perform with Percussion Discussion at the National Theater in Kampala.

Powers and Gunty said they are excited to make music with both groups and to help get the message out about the social and economic problems prevalent in Uganda.  

“This album is about sharing cultures, and intrinsic to that is learning about how they lives their lives, getting to know them personally,” Gunty said. “I see it as an opportunity to learn more about their situation and to spread that awareness.”