During a journey to Kenya for the CTV documentary, “Nelly Furtado: The Road to Kisaruni,” the Canadian musician met face-to-face with girls starting down the path of higher learning -- and came away from the experience with her outlook on life changed.
While Nelly Furtado has been asked to travel to Africa before, the singer tells CTV.ca that when Artbound came calling, it was finally the right time to go.
Artbound, a non-profit organization volunteer arts organization associated with “Free the Children,” travelled with Furtado and a CTV crew for the opening of an all-girls secondary school in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya.
“I felt like my perspective was in the perfect place to be there and really experience it and engage,” says Furtado.
“There was a lot of joyful tears shed in Kenya. I’ve never felt such joy. We had this jam, everyone was dancing and singing all the African songs they learned, it was literally like bliss.”
In the Maasai Mara, fewer than five percent of girls attend high school, with even less attending university after.
Hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, Furtado is a world-wide superstar that has sold over 20 million records, known for her hits “I’m Like a Bird,” “Maneater,” and “Powerless.”
Like many musicians before her that have been inspired by the African continent, Furtado discovered the appeal of their indigenous music and plans to incorporate the Kenyan Boys Choir into future recordings.
“Going there and hearing the melodies and learning African songs was haunting,” says Furtado.
“I felt like I was hearing ancient tones and references, rhythms.”
Not only was Furtado inspired musically by the trip -- she also was inspired personally.
“You go to a small place in the middle of Kenya, and all these people are working together to make their community better, all these people grounded in this spiritual reality, love and goodness, hope and hard work -- you have hope for the world,” says Furtado.
“I feel like, ‘Humanity, we haven’t ruined ourselves.’ Half the world is still in touch with what it means to be human. You realize that if you can help the people who haven’t been given the opportunity, that you can help each other, and they can teach us too, a lot.”
Furtado also confronted some of her own misconceptions while on the trip.
“I didn’t realize there was such a juxtaposition of modern technology and the old ways. People preserving traditions, but at the same time, embracing new ones… the mothers in the communities, they’re paying for their aluminum roof with their cell phones, but still wearing traditional Maasai clothing, beading, performing traditional tasks at home.”
“Nelly Furtado: The Road to Kisaruni” airs Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7pm on CTV. Furtado will also perform at the 2011 We Day event on September 27 in Toronto. The event will also feature performances by City and Colour, Classified, Kardinal Offishal, Nikki Yanofsky and Shawn Desman.