Spirit of the West are one of the first “Celtic” bands I started to listen to 12 years ago. They haven’t released a lot of new material lately but they released a new charity single before the end of the year called “Bulembu.” I liked the song so much from the video on YouTube, I had to buy it on iTunes (which you can do here).
Singer John Mann talks about visiting Swaziland at Spinner here.
Proceeds from the sale of this single will be donated to Bulembu International, a Vancouver-based organization established to provide funding to help build and sustain the community of Bulembu, Swaziland.
Bulembu International bought an abandoned mining town and built it up into a safe haven for orphan children, many who suffer from HIV/AIDS and most who have lost their parents to the disease. Swaziland suffers the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world so this town has become a symbol of hope as much as a home for these children who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves.
In 2010, Bulembu International invited Spirit Of the West’s John Mann to visit the town and he left Africa with a real desire to help in some way. He composed the song “Bulembu” and enlisted the members of Spirit of the West to record the track to raise money to support the kids John fell in love with.
On a second trip to Bulembu, in the Spring of 2011, John returned with portable digital recorders in hand and captured the singing of the Bulembu Children’s Choir. He brought home the tapes and they were added to the Spirit of the West tracks previously recorded. The result is a heartwarming “Bulembu.”
“I initially traveled to Bulembu, Swaziland thinking there was something I would be able to do to help change the lives of the kids living there,” says John. “In the end, I left realizing that their resilience and joy gave me so much more in return. I love Bulembu, no ifs, ands, or buts. This song is about a love affair with the town and its people, but mostly it’s for the kids.”
The Bulembu Story:
The HIV/AIDS pandemic has swept across the country impacting nearly every family in Swaziland. Recent statistics estimate the number of Swazi citizens living with AIDS at 38% – the highest infection rate in the world. Because of this, Swaziland is the only developing country in the world experiencing negative population growth. The UN has gone as far as to estimate that at the current rate of death, the Swazi people will cease to exist by the year 2050.
This disease has decimated a generation of Swazis. The loss of so many young parents has undermined traditional family structures. The result — a country wide orphan crisis. There are currently an estimated 120,000 orphaned and vulnerable children in Swaziland (15% of the total population) who have limited or no access to formal social support and have been left to fend for themselves.