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Milele: Musicians with a Cause


Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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Gospel Singing Group Milele does more than sing worship praises. They use their international fame as musicians to work on humanitarian projects.

While at a Christian retreat, in Kenya in 1988, Christian Mungai, Harry Mwaura Kiiru, Kanjii Mbugua and Kaima Mwiti met and struck a friendship. Unbeknownst to them, ten years later in California, this friendship would lead to the birth of "Milele" (Swahili for Forever), a gospel singing group and set them on a journey of performing and ministering around the world.

When they met in Los Angeles ten years later, the quartet reestablished their friendship through their love of music. They got their break when Limit X, a popular gospel group, decided to produce Milele’s first album, Forever. This eclectic album introduced Milele into the market with songs like Refuge, Open your Heart, "Tucheze Ngoma" and the ever popular, "Sanjolama". On their return to Kenya in 2000, the group was surprised at the over thirty thousand fans that received them. The success of the Kenyan tour opened up new opportunities for them, but instead of focusing on the money, the group decided to go in a different direction.

Milele Homes Project
On a trip to Kenya in 2004, Milele realized how urgent the HIV/AIDS crisis had become. They put their careers on hold and traveled around Kenya on a fact finding mission. They visited AIDS orphanages such as SOS and Nyumbani Children’s Home, and realized the crucial role they played in providing basic and medical needs for these children.

Back in the States, despite a busy school and work schedule, the members of Milele continued to tour for a cause. They worked with organizations like World Vision, which helps eradicate poverty and ensure child safety, and Union Rescue Mission, which serves the poor and homeless, in a hope to create awareness and encourage people to get involved with these organizations.

Further research showed that at least 2.7 million kids were orphaned by AIDS. Milele hoped to provide homes and families for some of these kids generating the idea of Milele Homes Project. The gist of the project was to build homes, and provide these homes for free to couples willing and able to adopt the orphaned kids.

Milele Homes Project recently completed their first three bedroom house. More so, a few couples are going through a ten week period of vigorous screening processes conducted by Oasis Counseling Centre, at the end of which couples fit to adopt will be matched with children in need of a family.

Change Africa Campaign
As the Milele Homes Project grew, the group realized the potential that Africa had to rise above the recipient-donor relationship associated between Africa and the West. Milele came up with the campaign in the hopes of empowering the African to change Africa.

It was during this time, when one of the Milele members was introduced to Ken Mwarabu, a young man from Kibera slums, who was among the first to propel the fruits of the Change Africa Campaign.

With only fifty dollars, Ken and four other men provided enough food for a week to a hundred widows living in Kibera Slums. Moved by the selflessness of Ken’s actions, Milele has for the past two years raised money in Los Angeles that they have sent to Kibera. These funds are for both food and investment initiatives such as sewing machines.

Milele’s gospel tour in 2005 coincided with Kenya’s hunger crisis. A resulting Milele benefit concert in Nairobi at the beginning of 2006 raised over four tons of food. Shortly after this concert, artists in Kenya came together and with a project called "Jaza" Lorry that had the same concept, they raised twenty truck loads of food.

Even without Milele’s immediate involvement, the Change Africa Campaign was a movement in the right direction.

Music
Milele is currently on tour and they recently performed in Minnesota at Club 3 Degrees in downtown Minneapolis and at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills.

Milele has two new additions: Carol and Nimo retaining Milele’s status in the international gospel music scene.

Milele group members have continued to venture into other fields in their personal career. Kanjii, a worship pastor, has a recording studio, Kijiji Records and has produced Milele’s fourth album "Monday". The album, also produced by Kaima, is a reflection of the group as a whole, and hopes to pass the message; change now and not later.  Mwaura is also a worship pastor, while Christian and Kaima handle most of the day to day running of Milele’s initiatives.

Milele’s other albums are Level Up with songs like Turn it Around, "Faya" and "Open Your Eyes" and "Afrique", a compilation of African songs in Lingala, Kwaito, Zouk and Soukouss.

Visit Milele’s website here for tour dates and information on their humanitarian activities. You can also visit Mavuno Church here.

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About Helen Kinuthia

Helen blogs on the Minneapolis nightlife and entertainment scene. You can read her entries here.

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