Music Challenging Stereotypes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By John Oryang When Kelvin and his friends filmed their own version of a US pop song, they never knew it would be such a hit.

Kelvin Batumike knew youth faced a bleak future in his hometown of Goma, DRC. So in 2013, he and his friends founded Kivu Youth Entertainment as an alternative to joining militia groups.

"The eastern part of our country has been affected by conflict and most of the time the vulnerable are the youth. We have grown up in a climate of conflict and that is how other friends and I got the idea to start Kivu Youth Entertainment," Mr Batumike, Director of Kivu Youth Entertainment, told Peace News Network.

"We recruit a lot of young, talented, artists and cultural performers who are in Goma, to allow the youth do something else other than participating in the conflicts,” he said.

The group organizes concerts and partner the Amani festival, but it was their version of Happy, by Pharrell Williams that earned them YouTube fame.

"Happy from Goma is something that has helped in changing the image of the eastern part of our country, that has faced a lot of conflict. Happy from Goma is a campaign to show that there is something else apart from the conflict and also trying to show the world something else other than the refugee camps and child soldiers."

They also did a Swahili version of the song, and Kelvin believes multi-media skills can help his peers.

"Art is a way of transmitting a message or changing mentality of people and I think it is something going to contribute in changing the image of our country," Mr Batumike said.

"In the future, I want Kivu Youth to become a big center - well established, with equipment - and give help where the community needs. We would also like to be seen as reference in the production of multi-media and arts," he said.