The school and orchestra get their name from its founder Ntumba Malamba Camunga. Camunga means “a small thing that is born, grows and then shines”, the founder tells us. He believes the name is particularly appropriate for this school as “it started off as a small project, then it grew and now it is shining”
The school was created in 2011 with just five students. 10 years later there are now 450 students and some of them have even become teachers at the school.
Not all the students that attend the school have come from easy backgrounds and happy places.Ntumba Malamba Camunga explains that the school helps many children on the street, “children involved in delinquency, drugs and even prostitution.”
Kelson Bento Afonso is one student with a difficult past. He now considers the orchestra his home, family and place of comfort. But he has come a long way for that to be the case. Kelson admits that he would hang out with people who behaved badly, people who were also violent.
After going to a party with some of the school’s students, Kelson visited the school and met the director, Ntumba. He was welcomed with open arms. His motivation was the main group playing. He says that it moved him and he wanted to be like them.
Kelson’s progression was gradual. He first learnt the viola for three months, but then the teacher realised his real vocation was wind instruments.
However, it wasn’t just the straight and narrow for Kelson. He returned to bad habits. He took things that he shouldn’t have and fell ill because of it. When Ntumba realised Kelson had stopped coming to lessons, he went to his house to encourage him to come back. It worked and Kelson was able to start playing music again.
Making the effort
Some of the music school’s students have to travel very far to get to the lessons. This is the case for 13-year-old Delcio Macedo. He travels 56 kilometres just for the music. He is passionate about playing the violin. “Music is really in his soul”, his mother says.
Part of the orchestra’s operation is to fight malnutrition. As Ntumba says, “you can’t do much on an empty stomach.” The students can get food at the school.
The symphony orchestra is also community-driven and depends on donations. Once the students reach a level of proficiency with their instruments they become teachers there themselves. It’s what Ntumba describes as giving back what you take.
The Camunga Symphony Orchestra and the school go beyond the music, as Kelson aptly says the people you teach have to grow, “that’s the only way we can change the country.”