Feature: South Sudanese displaced people heal trauma through music

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-21 22:36:43|Editor: yan
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JUBA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- A local music band formed by a group of displaced persons from South Sudan's Upper Nile region is offering comfort and healing amid traumatic experiences of war.

The band was formed in 2016 by Othow John Pagan, a 51-year-old teacher who fled fighting in his native Malakal town in December 2013 to a Protection of Civilians (PoC) site, where together with friends he teamed up to start a band that has won the hearts and minds of civilians thanks to riveting music.

An estimated 28,000 internally displaced persons sheltering in the Malakal PoC camp are either traumatized due to loss of family members, separation from their relatives or are poor and suffering amid prevailing economic hardship caused by the more than five years of conflict.

The conflict displaced about 4 million people from their homes, according to humanitarian agencies.

"When we came here we became idle without work, then we thought that we want to contribute to our community inside the PoC. We decided to create a small music band in 2016. We started 10 people in number with two guitars but our number has now increased to 32 people," Pagan told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday.

He revealed that life in the camp was full of challenges that forced many people to lose patience and ambition due to stress largely caused by conflict.

"Most of our songs are sang in Arabic and other local languages. At the time when we started we found that many people loved our music. In the PoC some people were committing suicide due to trauma, violence was rampant but through music we have helped reduce all these things," Pagan said.

The group that initially had only two guitars now boasts of a collection of instruments like drum kits, solar guitar with sound, rhythm guitar and bass guitar and loud speakers which they use when staging performances on a weekly basis.

"Our aim is to perform for the community free of charge because we know they don't have money. If anybody wants to have us perform at a function we only request for vehicle to transport our equipment," said Pagan.

Dak Olami Nyibong, 34, is a member of the band and has endured tough times after separation from his family members who are now refugees in neighboring Sudan.

The former government staff trainer in the then Upper Nile State Ministry of Labor and Public Service, has found solace and comfort through playing the guitar and in turn touched many people living through similar situation like him.

"Sometime when you are in the PoC and jobless it's difficult for you to get opportunities like these to learn how to play guitar," said Nyibong.

"Sometimes when we are doing performances during food distribution at the main square in the PoC, all those people who are traumatized and even those suffering alcoholic addiction get relief and support when they listen to songs of peace and love," he added.

Nyibong disclosed that the songs they perform arouse hope and console especially those who have lost their parents during the war.

"This music has helped mitigate levels of suicide among youth which was rising among those who had lost hope in the PoC," said Nyibong.

Bolis James Aban, 29, joined the band to search for tuition fees to enable him to resume his management studies at University of Juba which were interrupted by conflict.

Aban is living with his parents and siblings in Malakal PoC since 2014 and remains determined to make it against all odds.

"You may find someone here who is alone without family, siblings and without friends and without everything, but when they see music playing they come here to express their feelings," said Aban.

"If you come to see us play music you will find some children all over this place looking at what we are doing here, meaning that this thing gives them feelings," he said.

"There are some children who come here with local music instruments to learn from us when we are practicing," he added.