Staff, recent graduates and current students from the Reid School of Music are this week returning to Deeper Life Primary School in The Gambia to work with 120 children and their teachers on a new performance project.

The project is based around a new score for Dee Isaac’s Musical Hats, which has previously toured Scotland with the Scottish Ensemble (the UK’s only professional string orchestra).

The revised Musical Hats combines traditional western classical instruments with African traditional instruments, such as the kora, balafon and djembe.

This is the third time Dee and the group have visited Serrekunda, a market town in The Gambia, to work with Deeper Life on projects aimed at improving children’s literacy through music.

Music in the Community

Dee Isaacs is Programme Director of the BMus (Hons) programme at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and leads our award-winning work on Music in the Community.

She has studied African percussion and vocal styles in Mali, The Gambia, Uganda and Senegal, and first travelled to Serrekunda to work with Deeper Life in December 2013, supported by The Carnegie Trust.

The African collaborations take a similar format to the work the Music and Community team do in Scotland, often in partnership with Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, wherein workshops in primary schools culminate in outdoor performances, such as Watching (2015) and Conference of the Birds (2013).

Forthcoming projects in Scotland include Postcards from Our World, a collaboration with Leith Walk Primary School, Edinburgh, due to be staged in 2016.

The student experience

One of the team returning to The Gambia is recent BMus (Hons) graduate, Amanda MacLeod.

Amanda, a mezzo soprano, is former President of Edinburgh University Music Society (EUMS).

Two months before graduating from ECA in June 2015, she visited Deeper Life to take part in workshops with around 150 of the children, leading to an outdoor performance of Dee's adaptation of Helen Ward’s book, The Tin Forest.

She said of the visit:

"The most treasured experience that I have taken from my trip to The Gambia has been the exchange of cultures, and the welcoming attitude that we experienced from the very first steps we took in the country. It was an incredible way to end my four years as a student at Edinburgh”.

Other students and alumni involved in the project are Tim Matson (2015 BMus graduate) and Kirsty Renton (current PhD candidate).