Music Team to Bring Healing to Burundi

Bujumbura is the capital of Burundi and sits on the banks of giant Lake Tanganyika in central Africa. (see map; photo courtesy SteveRwanda)

Alumnus Matthew Langford is returning to Burundi this summer to bring hope and comfort to the citizens of this African country that has been torn by violence since declaring its independence more than 50 years ago.

Langford visited Burundi, known for its Royal Drummers, in 2011 with Tirzah International, a non-profit organization based in The Woodlands, Texas. During this trip, Langford met Apollinaire Habonimana, a self-taught Burundian musician who hoped to start a school.

“It hit me hard when I realized that there was no formal music education available in Burundi,” Langford said.

Langford, who graduated in May, and Roberto Carrera '10, both of whom earned their Bachelors of Music degrees in Trumpet Performance, leave July 17 along with PBA junior Colin Aliapoulios and his friend Michael Tavani. They plan to teach and assist in classes at the Shemeza Music School in Burundi’s capital city, Bujumbura. They also will help lead worship at Life Center Church and work at the church’s Sound of Hope Outreach.

“The more we have worked together on this, the more I have been able to see that it was God who put us together,” Langford said. “Each one of us has specific gifts and abilities that will complement each other very well.”

Planning for the trip took off a year after Langford learned that his friend, Habonimana, had funding to start the music school. The Shemeza Music School has 50 students – children and adults who learn piano, guitar, saxophone, music theory, and sound and light engineering.

This is the first trip to Burundi for the other men and they are excited about the trip.

“I do look forward to going for the first time and learning first-hand what God may have in store for me and the rest of us,” Carrera said.

“Music has so much healing power,” Aliapoulios said. “Music will be able to wrap itself around these people and bring joy and hope and love to them.”

Langford suggested his companions read “This Voice in My Heart” by Gilbert Tuhabonye to prepare for the trip. The book tells the story of a Christian and long-distance runner who survived the genocide that took place between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes in Burundi and Rwanda in the early 1990s.

“The joy of making music together with someone isn’t something that is easily explained,” Langford said. “There is a reason why, in one of the poorest countries in the world, over 50 people are taking time out of their weeks to learn and enjoy making music together.”

Upon his return from Burundi, Langford will begin studies for a Master of Music degree in Music Education at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY.  Carrera recently completed his second year of studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.