Children who are forced to rape and murder in the wars of Africa can and must be redeemed. That's what Uganda musician Samite hopes to convey in his latest CD. It's called Embalasasa. Producer Derek Rath recently spoke with Samite, and has this report.

(Soundbite of music)

DEREK RATH reporting:

Ugandan music is less known than that of Africa's musical giants to the west and the south. Few recordings have been made there since Idi Amin's dictatorship in the 1970's, when he became known as the butcher of Africa. However, one Ugandan musician, Samite, who now resides in America, is living proof that Uganda has a lot of music to offer.

Mr. SAMITE (Musician): Uganda is a very big country and has, you know, at least 40 different tribes, and each tribe has their own music. But if you were to generalize, I would say the music is warm and gentle compared to music from West Africa like, you know, Ghana, Nigeria, and that comes from the way we talk.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SAMITE: When people get together, they actually respond like, you know, if was to pretend, I would say, (foreign language spoken). So, people just keep talking back and forth. It's very musical.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Uganda, like many African nations, has been racked with war and disease for decades, creating a deadly legacy for future generations. Embalasasa, the beguiling title track of Samite's new CD, acts as a metaphor for the plight of his country.

Mr. SAMITE: Embalasasa is this lizard. It was very beautiful. It had all these colors. When you saw it, you just wanted to touch it, but at the same time, you know, we were told if you touch it, it's poisonous, and you would die the moment you touch it. You know, I'm relating that to what is happening right now with sex, which is supposed to be a beautiful thing. It's very poisonous right now in some countries, like in Uganda, where many people are dying of AIDS.

(Soundbite of music)

RATH: Samite's gentle lyricism is put to a good service for a cause he strongly believes in. He's using his music as a weapon of healing, especially for the rehabilitation of child soldiers and refugees, many of whom are forgotten, orphaned, and infected with HIV. He's formed Musicians for World Harmony, and this CD was, in fact, recorded between trips to Uganda with the intent of helping the children see a better world through music.

Mr. SAMITE: When these children are trying to get away and become normal again, people think all they need is food, but I believe and we believe, in Musicians for World Harmony, that music has a very big part to play in bringing them back, you know, to normal.

What happens when there's a war? In any war situation, music is what goes away first. Even the birds stop singing, so bringing music back into these kid's lives, even the refugee's lives, it helps them to feel normal again and begin the healing process.

(Soundbite of song, “Not Alone”)

RATH: Songs like this one, called Not Alone, cut to the core of Samite's mission.

(Soundbite of song, “Not Alone”)

Mr. SAMITE: When you talk to these children, first of all, they are very closed in the beginning, and I use the flue to open them up. These young girls I was talking to and playing some music to them, eventually, they opened up and talked to me, and they said could we trust you? I said, yeah. Can we be tested for AIDS, and don't tell anybody who tested us? You know are (unintelligible).

And it ended up being…I had like 130 girls that needed testing,when I was only actually talking to three, but the translator said, Samite, there are 130 of them. These are only like 16-year-olds, but they want to be tested for AIDS because they've been, you know, abused--raped multiple times. So, these are some of the experiences you hear from the kids.

(Soundbite of song, “Not Alone”)

RATH: Despite the seriousness of the cause, Samite finds optimism for the future in the aspirations of the children themselves, as long as the child soldiers aren't written off.

Mr. SAMITE: That would be a problem if we ignored--look in the other direction and say, hey, those are moderate. But if we realize what we've done and turn around and try to bring them back into, you know, into our society and give them a chance to, you know, make a future for themselves, I think they will be really good people, and they will prevent future war.

(Soundbite of song, “Nalubale”)

Mr. RATH: This song, Nalubale, the name for Lake Victoria in the local Ligenda(ph) language, paints a joyful image of idealic times, Samite hopes, will return soon.

(Soundbite of song, “Nalubale”)

For NPR News in Los Angeles, this is Derek Rath.

BRAND: And you can hear the full-length songs from Samite's new CD. Go to our web site,

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