- This is a dream of a person who premiered, for the first time in the country’s history, Beethoven Symphony no.9 “Choral in Swahili” in May 2016, Hekima Albin Raymond. It was the first time such work was performed in the world in Swahili.
He would like the world to remember him as a person, who in his life, always wished for peace around the world. Someone who could not, in his mind, be able to differentiate men and women by colour but who strived to bring them together through art.
This is a dream of a person who premiered, for the first time in the country’s history, Beethoven Symphony no.9 “Choral in Swahili” in May 2016, Hekima Albin Raymond. It was the first time such work was performed in the world in Swahili.
The award-winning artist describes the moment as the “highest moment in my life.”
Raymond who won the award of Social Change through the Arts by the US Department of State was born in 1980 in Moshi, Tanzania. Who could imagine the parents with no musical background could bring up a child whose love to music would mean all there is in his life?
Raymond has turned out to be an inspiration to all who love what he calls ‘classical music’ on the land known as ‘the desert of classical music.’
The first born in a family of five attended a chain of schools as his parents moved from region to region across the country. His late father used to work for the then Income Tax Department now Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).
Raymond’s father, like many talented people’s parents, was not so convinced with the career that his son was up to. He wanted his son to establish a career that would offer him security and advised him to take up a degree course.
The 37-year-old young man heeded his father’s advice and enrolled for a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Management degree programme at Sokoine University of Agriculture where he graduated in 2006.
Upon completion of his higher studies, Raymond worked with the country’s National Environment Management Council (NEMC) for about eight years before he retired. “I felt too old already,” says Raymond with a chuckle.
Raymond recalls very clearly his first exposure to his musical journey. “It was when I paid a visit to a friend’s home and found his friend’s keyboard there. That first touch of the keyboard led to a constant cry to my father to purchase one for me – The Kawai.”
Inspired by great maestros
He started playing the keyboard with his father, playing songs he heard on cassette without a teacher. He experimented folk songs like “The Mushrooms” and other bands around East Africa on the keyboard.
“My father would later come to say ‘I was his first teacher even though he knew better than me,” says Raymond. On Sundays, his father would make him play music for him until he-the father- fell asleep on the couch.
Raymond is doing classical music, mostly symphonic orchestra music. He draws his inspiration from the great maestros. These have inspired him with their best presentation of music.
“People like Hebert Von Karajan who conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, and many others,” says Raymond of the people he admires.
His music career grew to a professional discipline though he lacked instructive music teaching background. This, he says, was due to the fact that there were very few teachers when he was growing up.
“So I was mostly working on a few instructions from one or two teachers who had an idea about music and this made me spend a great deal of time self-teaching.”
Raymond says it was very difficult to find a highly trained and professional musician by the time he was ‘coming up’ and that even now that ‘he has grown’ there’s little or no difference at all.
“Most talented children are unable to express their passion through music. I have made lots of discoveries from voice teaching, to piano playing to conducting. I am currently on a mission to exchange knowledge and expertise with top musicians around the world,” he says.
From the time he started doing his ‘classical music,’ Raymond has been able to form the first symphony orchestra in Tanzania by uniting the country’s musicians and others from countries like Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. They are currently about 70 to 80 musicians.
Raymond was last year nominated by BBC among 50 most inspiring people in the world. “I was happy to know that my work inspires so many people. It meant a lot to me,” Raymond says.
Raymond’s passion for music is not about making money but making the world a better place to live. He has now started mentoring youngsters and young musicians who turn up to him for guidance. Raymond and his colleagues in the industry are the only ones who represent the country in the map of classical music arena via the Dar choral society.
All big cities, Raymond says, have a performing orchestra. This is all over the world . Dar es Salaam had none until Raymond revived the Dar choral society.
“Most of the musicians in the country do not perform live music. They use CD background instead. For us, classical musicians, every note is played as it’s written and the audience loves the high discipline that goes with the music making,” he adds.
Raymond, who is currently the director of both the Dar chamber orchestra and the choral society, finds it hard to define his own legacy now as he is still alive.
“My good friend Walter Bgoya of Mkuki na Nyota once told me that my legacy is done and printed and that it will be upon the world to decide what my actual legacy would be once I am gone.”
Raymond’s biggest challenge is how the country will attain the world’s classic musical standards like the rest of the developed world.
“I am lucky, though, that I have started a personal programme that will contribute to making this happen in the near future,” he says.
Recently he was trained by Benjamin Zander in Manchester in the UK who is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra (not to be confused with the Boston Symphony Orchestra) is a semi-professional orchestra based in Boston, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1979.
Their concerts take place at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall and at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre. Currently, the orchestra is conducted by Benjamin Zander. Each concert is preceded by a talk, which explains the musical ideas and structure of the pieces about to be performed.
“These skills, will be transcended to the young musicians and thus achieving the target of dotting the universal classical music map with our country’s marks,” Raymond notes.