The town of Bulembu was once the site of a chrysolite (asbestos) mine with a population of 10,000. Eventually the mining company, as well as subsequent mining companies, went bankrupt and left Bulembu a ghost town with as few as 50 people remaining.
Simultaneous with this was a massive increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS in Swaziland. Statistics reveal that in ten years the infection rate grew by a staggering 900%. Nearly 40% of the population is now infected. This has left an entire generation of children orphaned and vulnerable.
In 2010, Spirit of the West’s John Mann visited Bulembu to see its workings first hand and experience what the town has become under the leadership of people with vision. He left a changed man. His head filled with memories of spending mornings holding babies, singing to them, of conversations with remarkable new friends, of the amazing environment that had been provided for children who would likely otherwise be abandoned, John was moved to do something more. He decided to write a song, a musical tribute, to the town and inhabitants of Bulembu. He asked his Spirit of the West band mates to join him in recording it. Spirit’s Vince Ditrich volunteered to produce the track, and with very little ado the team was off and running.
While tracking the song at The Armoury Studio in Vancouver John mentioned in passing that the ultimate achievement would be to get the kids of Bulembu to sing on the track. This was more easily said than done — they live thousands of miles away; the challenges that stand between the artistic wish and the technical achievement are often great.
Luckily John was due to return to Bulembu for a second time shortly after the recording session. A plan was devised that might just succeed in capturing the beautiful singing of the Bulembu Childrens’ Choir, which could then be brought back to Canada and blended into the final mixed version of the song.
To read an interview with John Mann, check out this link on the Spinner Website. If you’re not already convinced the single is going towards a worthy cause, the Spinner article should convince you otherwise.
Bulembu is available for purchase on iTunes.