Safari in Kenya playing ukulele, Michela's dream

The engaging initiative of the Italian manager

16-01-2024 by Freddie del Curatolo

Strive to take life with a smile and at the same time give it to those who need it most. All in the wonder of African nature and possibly in the Kenyan savannah.
With this brief concept we could summarise the philosophy of Ukulele Safari, the initiative of Italian Michela Consiglio, who has been involved in safari tourism in Kenya for many years and has been passionate about the small and increasingly popular instrument for a few years.
From her desire to learn how to play and compose songs, and from the forced loneliness of the pandemic, Michela has created a new way of approaching Kenya, between nature excursions, fun, sharing and an eye to social issues.

Michela herself tells us how this adventure was born, which in a short time has already made proselytes, with groups of enthusiasts from all over the world.
"I've always wanted to learn to play the guitar,' she says, 'but unfortunately in my school, in Palermo, they only taught the cursed and horrible flute. Even as an adult, I tried several times to play the guitar, to learn by myself, and failed every time. So guitar stayed inside the cupboard for more than 10 years. One day on YouTube I stumbled upon a video of a girl playing this cute little 4-string 'guitar'. It was love at first listen. She was singing a song written only with the negative comments of her followers. The 'little guitar' was the ukulele. I found one in Nairobi and from the first day I was able to strum a few songs'.

While explaining her activity to us, Michela picks up the ukulele and offers us, with a look that is both amused and sympathetic at the same time, the little songs she has invented, which are often parodies of famous songs, treated with irony, exorcising the little inconveniences that can happen in this land.
"Go on, try have to play it too, it's not just a creative musical pastime, but a stress-relief therapy!" he exhorts, with contagious verve.
'Often dreams and desires are shelved and we remember them when it is too late,' Michela admits, 'But when is it too late? Is there a deadline for dreams? For me, the answer is NO. We often justify our laziness with a barrage of excuses: I'm old now, I don't have time, I don't have a musical ear. All bullshit!'.

So Michela started composing: one Sunday at home, after four days without electricity and internet, frustrated by the replies from the company's customer service, she decided to write a 'ukulele song' dedicated to Kenya Power & Lightning. From there many others that take their cues from everyday life, often venting impatience and annoyance or making fun of others' wrongdoings, to keep her anger at bay and turn it into a smile.
"After my sensational discovery, I started improvising songs dedicated to all those who disturbed me, every night I would play a song inspired by daily events, goodbye stress and welcome laughter. I immediately felt the need to share my discovery,' Michela confirms.

And how did the idea of the ukulele safari come about and what is it exactly?
"Since I have been in Kenya, I have always worked in the tourism industry, admiring this magnificent country and all the creatures that inhabit it. I wanted to combine two of my great passions, music and wildlife. Almost everyone laughed in my face, only one person, Gabriele Nowak, owner of Sunworld Safari for whom I work, told me 'go ahead, I support you'. The idea of the Ukulele Safari is precisely to create music inspired by daily events. During the day you do game drives, admire unforgettable African sunsets, animals in their natural habitat, and in the evening, with the help of a music teacher, you create songs'.

Then there is the social drift, another urgency of the soul that the vivacious Sicilian has always cultivated.
'While creating and promoting the safari, I discovered that many of the schools in Kenya teach music, but often have no instruments. A teacher at the Mwashoti school in the Tsavo area, told me how the lessons are conducted: "imagine the guitar, imagine the piano..." Many music teachers do not even know how to play an instrument, and music is so important for the development of a young and receptive mind".
So Michela, after talking to music teacher Boris Mogilevski, decided together with him to do an online concert and raise money to buy ukuleles for less fortunate children in Kenya.

"We donated 70 ukuleles between Nairobi, Tsavo and Maasai Mara. Especially with the sale of the ukulele "Tembo", which I designed with the help of an Italian luthier, we provide ukulele lessons to the teachers of the schools to which we donated the instruments,' explains the founder of the Project. 'Today, the ukulele safari supports what I call the Kenya Ukulele Project: for each participant we donate a ukulele, and during the safari we visit the schools and do workshops. For children, learning the ukulele from an early age can stimulate brain development and improve cognitive skills. Studies show that playing an instrument helps enhance skills such as memory, motor coordination and concentration. In addition, making music promotes creativity and self-confidence. In addition, children can enjoy learning simple chords and melodies without getting frustrated by the difficulty. This increases motivation to continue studying music".

For adults, too, playing the ukulele has numerous positive effects. A study by Harvard University's School of Medicine showed that playing an instrument reduces stress and anxiety. The repetitive movements required to pluck or point the strings stimulate the release of endorphins, which induce feelings of pleasure and well-being. Moreover, constant practice sharpens the motor skills of the hand and fingers, counteracting age-related conditions such as arthritis. Just as with children, playing also helps adults' memory, learning ability and mental flexibility. Finally, the ukulele is a social instrument: playing and making music in company improves mood and fosters interpersonal relationships. There are many groups and clubs of amateur ukulele players to meet and play together.

"My biggest wish," Michela reveals, "is to set up a Ukulele club in Nairobi, not for experienced musicians, but for those who, like me, want to have fun, relax, spend time with real people, away from mobile phones and daily monotony.
The ukulele safari has taken off in Kenya, there is already a big group booked for next March and the itineraries are attractive, with the organisation of a real expert, not just an amateur musician. The next step will be to create a weekend ukulele safari for the residents.

"My message to everyone is: no matter where life has taken you, no matter your age or social status, the important thing is to pursue your dreams and never give up."
To find out more about Ukulele Safari, you can visit:
or on Instagram @ukulelesafari

TAGS: ukulelesafarisavana

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