Lainna Fader


Can a Slumchella Music Fest Empower Kenya's Poor?

Kenyan activists are riffing off the popular music festival to protest Ethiopia’s largest infrastructure project to date.

Over the next two weekends, hundreds of thousands of music fans will flock to the palm tree-lined fields of the California desert for Coachella, one of the most popular music festivals in the world. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Kenya, a California-based nonprofit collective of artists-activists known as Village Beat is working to produce their own large-scale musical fest—one that borrows Coachella’s framework of unity through music—to protest Ethiopia’s largest infrastructure project to date, the Gilgel Gibe III dam. Dubbed Slumchella, the festival will debut in the next couple years—if its organizers can raise the funds.

Since 2009, filmmakers and VB founders Austin Peck and Anneliese Vandenberg have made several long trips to Kenya, volunteering with clinics and aid organizations and working under the credo of “art as action.” For three years, they’ve documented the story of Kenya’s forgotten street kids who spend their days wandering through town looking for enough food and money to survive with plastic bottles of glue attached to their lips to stave off hunger and numb their pain.

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