Little Doves Choir: the Southern Sudanese child-musicians on the slippery ladder

The Little Doves starred during the celebration of the 2nd anniversary of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Juba in 2007

Little Doves choir artistes, popularly dubbed as the Ambassadors of Liberty and Literacy, are currently the hottest local artistes to watch out for across social, cultural, religious and political divides for better entertainment in the multi-lingual and multicultural Southern Sudan.

dove6The group is a complex combination of Sudanese children mostly below 15 years of age, founded on March 15, 2005, by David Pachong initially as choir for both Presbyterian and Episcopal congregations in Kampala, Uganda.

Emerging from a mere church choir to a full pledged entertainment faction in southern Sudan, The Little Doves are determined team of young Sudanese child-musicians championing Christianity, literacy, children’s rights, girl-child education, women emancipation, and the prospects of the entire nation building in their new country of the new century.

They came to the limelight late last year in Juba, following a literacy campaign they conducted in partnership with the Association of New Sudan United Students in Uganda (ANSUSU) which had then requested the group leadership to assist in spicing the campaign.

"Garang Adana Horiya" ( Garang has given us freedom) was their first debut album composed in tribute to the late Garang
Such a sparkling talent did not just come by its self; the group, comprising mainly boys and girls from the age bracket of 7 to 14, was taught and organized by David Pachong Mading, the group’s Chief Artiste and director, and John Penn de Ngong, the manager who also doubles as a song writer.

Their first debut album to hit the airwaves is Garang Adana Horiya (Garang has given us freedom) which is a tribute to the Sudanese liberation champion, the late Dr. John Garang De Mabior, and his fellow martyrs in the struggle for freedom. The album is a mix of contemporary beats set to blend in local gospel rhythm in both Arabic and English, which makes it appealing to the audience. Garang Adana Horriya was launched on December 29, 2006 by the SPLM Uganda Chapter chairman, in a function organized by the Sudanese Dinka Congregation, at Kabowa church in the Uganda capital of Kampala. It was immediately trailed by CPA, which made the group starred in the second anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement(CPA) in Juba.

the Little Doves are better known in Southern Sudan as Ambassadors of Liberty and Literacy
However, early September this year, the group’s manager, John Penn de Ngong, came to Nairobi with the aim of mobilizing resources for the Little Doves organization networked with other Southern Sudanese groups like the Black Jew Crew of former SPLA morale booster, Panchol Deng Ajang, Kijana Bebe and Black Jay. Ngong, a talent scout who wants to see other gifted young Sudanese prosper under the all-inclusive project called Y*Stars (Young Sudanese Talent and Recreation Scouts), has affiliated the groups to Sudan Christian Youth Ministries International (SCYMI), a young faith-based organization that was established last year by like-minded young southern Sudanese with a passion of serving their nation after the dawn of peace in southern Sudan following the signing of the CPA in Kenya two years ago. The diversified website to be launched soon will serve to advertise the products and projects of the different groups under one umbrella.

Their musical performance has created more demand for their music in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda
The group’s musical performance in several functions in Juba has created more demand for their music in Sudan, Kenya and Uganda. However, as fate would have it, the Little Doves music is not immune from music piracy that has plagued the whole continent, depriving the local artistes of reaping from their creative work. According to the groups manager, some cases of piracy—infringements of copyright—have been noticed in Sudan, Kenya and Australia. Some unscrupulous individuals have already duplicated music CDs and Tapes belonging to the Little Doves, Panchol Deng Ajang and others to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor local artistes who are exclusively responsible for the production and distribution of their music.

“It takes us a lot of time and resources to finally see the music in the street, but all our sweat of composing, recording and performing ends up in the pockets of pirates just in one day.” Mr. Ngong lamented that the music thieves, if not cracked down, will close down music industry in Sudan or Africa as a whole. He said he is investigating a case where one Sudanese is selling his groups’ music tapes like hot cake to the Sudanese communities in Kenya for both Panchol and Pachong for whom he is a manager.

The Little Doves pose for a picture in Juba with their Managers
Emphasizing that the major problem threatening their groups at the moment not solely being piracy, Mr. Ngong is moving around Nairobi, like his colleague David Pachong in Juba, lobbying for support from Good Samaritans for the gifted child-musicians who are in primary schools in Uganda. He said David Pachong and himself are students, making it hard to manage the children whose needs vary from school fees, music requirements to personal needs.

“It has cost us our own studies moving around hawking tapes and begging for funds to support the children. It’s a very taxing task but I’m proud we’ve shown the children the light,” Ngong said. He added that they are not focusing only on the over 20 boys and girls in the choir but also on about 200 orphans on their records and about 2000 on the streets of Southern Sudan.

The Choir involves and develops other areas of talents like football for boys and drama for girls. The only incentives I get, said the manager, is best performances of the lovely doves in all major ceremonies of Southern Sudan and the magnetic behavior of the Marekrek Cub Club in the football pitch of their schools.

The Little Doves are led in prayer by their manager John Penn de Ngong at the Tomb of the late Dr.John Garang
However, the future of the Choir looks bleak for a number of factors including lack of funds and unhealthy envy from detractors. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (GOSS) has sponsored the children for this year, but recently notified the management that it would not continue to support the children due to the policies of the ministry that deal with those studying inside Sudan, and the fact that ANSUSU, the association that has been handling the children’s fees, failed to properly account for the 2007’s budget.

The GOSS Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology has sponsored the Little Doves in 2007
Development of the Little Doves’ talents could not have been possible without the support from the Government of Southern Sudan. For that matter, Ngong was quick to give a special thank to individuals in the GOSS such as the President of GOSS, H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the Speaker, Hon. James Wani Igga, The Minister, Michael Milli Hussein and the Undersecretary, William Ater Machiek, of the Ministry of Education, the Minister John Luk Jok and Director Charles Both Diu of Culture, Youths and Sports, the SPLM Secretary for Administration and Finance, Gabriel Alaak Garang, Mama Rebecca Nyandeng, the Sudanese congregations in Uganda, plus all the government officials and individuals that have supported the children so far.

Nhial Wei Ayuen is a New Sudan Vision contributor from Nairobi