Children of Uganda Blaze a Path to Africa

One word to describe the Children of Uganda’s 2014 Tour of Light concert at Shepherd University is inspirational.

The Tour of Light concert, which took place in the Frank Center on Jan. 15 at 8 p.m., was a concert showcasing the unique cultures of Uganda, Africa through singing and dancing.

Children of Uganda (COU) is a non-profit organization that is set in the United States. According to the program that was given to the audience, “the mission of COU is to support and empower hundreds of orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda to lead successful and productive lives.”

The Tour of Light celebrated the lives of these children while offering a distinctive view into the culture of Uganda. The program also states that “COU is committed to preserving Uganda and East Africa’s vibrant musical and cultural heritage; and so, our students benefit from a rich curriculum and instruction in traditional singing, dancing, and drumming.”

One of the prominent aspects of the concert was the dancing. The young men and women of varied ages in the concert performed numerous dances that were fresh and exciting, especially for those people who are not accustomed to the culture of Uganda or Africa.

What was most impressive was their ability to combine dancing and playing instruments simultaneously. During the middle of one of the dances, the young men were dancing while holding an instrument that was shaped like a hollow gourd and used as drum.

The performance was similar to how marching bands handle drumming while moving but with much more mobility and more fast-paced, which made it enjoyable and fun to watch.

What was probably the most impressive about the dancing was how the choreography appropriately matched the tempo of the music. No matter how slow or fast the drums were beating, the dancers were matching the rhythm beat for beat. It demonstrates how much time and preparation went into the concert and shows how professional it was, even with the young children.

The COU concert also had a speaker from Uganda who explained to the audience the meaning behind some of the songs and dances. The speaker was even comical, often telling jokes. An example of his humor was when he discussed how in Uganda, the people carry items on their heads. Conversely, he commented on how Americans carry items on their backs or in their hands, often causing them back pain. He challenged the people in the audience to change their ways and start carrying things on their heads, including laptops and even their own car.

The highlight of the concert was when the speaker asked if any children in the audience would like to join the performers on stage for the last dance of the evening. Numerous children rushed to go onstage with a few adults tagging along.

The speaker was joined by a little girl from the audience who also led the dance. Halfway through the dance, the speaker asked the rest of the people in the audience to join in the dance in their seats. This demonstrated how people are willing to embrace other cultures.

The COU concert elicited many comments from the public. Katy Cousino, a Shepherd University student who graduated in December 2013, said that the drive of the kids was inspiring.

She also commented on how the children were able to perform, even when all of them have at least one parent who has suffered from HIV or AIDS.

“I can’t imagine being one of those kids,” Cousino said

Andrew Cowman, a Shepherd University student who graduated in Spring 2012, enjoyed watching the concert, stating that the children’s “energy was so dynamic.”

Overall, the experience of going to the Children of Uganda concert was very rewarding. There were many dances and instruments that I was not very familiar with, but I was able to enjoy watching everything because it was so new.

However, the speaker was hard to understand at times. When he said something that made the audience laugh, sometimes it was unclear what was funny. Also, the male performers seemed to be more energetic than the female performers. Every time the young men performed, they let out a certain level of energy that the young women did not really match, but they came really close.

Despite these minor critiques, the COU was gratifying and enjoyable to watch. The sold-out auditorium proved that. The Children of Uganda are inspirational because even though their family is suffering from AIDS and HIV, they rise above it all so they can perform and share their culture with the world.

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