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(Soundbite of a choir vocalizing)

LIANE HANSEN, host:

Two dozen boys and girls, between the ages of seven and 11, are practicing in the rehearsal room of a concert hall in Salt Lake City. They're halfway through a year-long tour of more than 200 concerts that will take them to nearly every state in the nation. When the tour is over, they will return home to some of the poorest places in Africa, and to a new life, one that's very different from the one they left behind.

In this week's What's In a Song from the Western Folklife Center, we feature the African Children's Choir and its mission to rescue young lives by harnessing the power of music.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MALUGO PATIENCE(ph) (Member, African Children's Choir): My name is Malugo Patience. I'm nine years old from Uganda.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR and Ms PATIENCE: (Singing) Papa is out in the field. Mama is down at the well. Grandma's away at the market...

Mr. CHIMERA VICTOR (Chaperone, African Children's Choir): The song talks about how life is in Africa. It is the responsibility of a whole community to raise up a child. My name is Chimera Victor, 26 years old, and I'm currently a chaperon with the African Children's Choir.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) An old man comes along and tells them a story. Always makes them laugh, and he says, "When you're down by the river, watch out for those crocodiles!"

Mr. VICTOR: When I was growing up, anyone had the right to discipline you. It didn't have to be your parent or your relative. It just had to be someone who was an elder in the village, someone older than you in the village. If they found you doing something wrong, it was upon them to correct you and make sure you are doing the right thing. So that's how it goes. It takes a whole village to raise a child.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) It takes a whole village to raise a child...

Ms. PATIENCE: (Singing) Ina chukua kijiji kizima, kum lea m' toto(ph). That's the Swahili way of saying it takes a whole village to raise a child.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) Kum lea m' toto(ph)...

Mr. VICTOR: OK. This is how it works. The organization will go to the most needy places. We're talking about communities that have been hit by poverty and stricken by disease and war. And the children are brought in to a training academy where they are trained for maybe about four months before they join the choir. Then, they will tour for about between 12 to 15 months. Then afterwards, they will go back to the Music for Life Center where they will have their education.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) And who is raising their children...

Mr. VICTOR: In my case, I was living at on orphanage, and they carried out an audition, and I was chosen to join the choir. I went on tour when I was about nine years old. And when I was done with tour, I went back home, and Music for Life paid for my tuition fees all the way until university. I graduated in 2006, and I decided to come back and volunteer and work with the choir as a chaperone.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) In Africa, the old saying goes. It takes a whole village to raise a child...

Ms. PATIENCE: When I came in the choir, they taught us how to dance and to sing. I have learned to speak English. I have learned to tell people about the Gospel of God through singing. And I have learned how to read it.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) Leave them a dream. Tell them a tale. Teach them to read and hammer a nail...

Mr. VICTOR: This is what goes through my mind when I see the children sing. For example, Patience, I know that life ahead for them is good because I've gone through the program. And I know looking at myself now, I know there's hope. There's a future for them that lies ahead of them, and it's theirs for the taking.

(Soundbite of song "It Takes A Whole Village")

AFRICAN CHILDRENS CHOIR: (Singing) It takes a whole village...

HANSEN: What's In the Song is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis of the Western Folklife Center. To learn more about the African Children's Choir and to see pictures of Patience and Victor, visit our website at nprmusic.org. This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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