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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge
Beena Valembia
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Describe the atmosphere and live music at a local pub, restaurant, festival, church or temple, club night.... inspire other people to check it out!

Musician: Beena Valembia

Location: London

Instruments: voice

Music: Indian

Listen  Listen (5'00) to Beena Valembia perform one of her parodies

Listen  Listen (3'36) to Beena Valembia talk about her music and perform live at a London restaurant

'A lot of artists just perform the same songs from the film industry: I prefer to tell jokes and perform my own parodies'

How I came to this music:

I was born in Tanzania, though I've been living in this country for 21 years now. My grandparents come from India. I started learning to sing at my religious class as a 10 year old in Africa. I had a lot of support from my mother - she accompanied me and taught me how to play the harmonium. Now she's 75 and still accompanies me. I'm very proud of my mum!

Ever since I was a schoolgirl whenever I hear a 'nice' popular song I have the habit of making fun of it, playing around with the words. One of my favourites is a very popular Asian movie song that's requested a lot on Asian radio. In the film the hero and heroin are really in love, but they're separated. The song is called 'Aae ho meri zindagi mein tum pahad ban ker.' That means 'You have come into my life like the blossom arriving in spring', but I've changed it into 'You have come into my life like a mountain, breaking things around the house and causing trouble'. I almost always sing this song when I'm performing.

Where I play:

Beena Valembia I started performing at the age of 29. A good friend of mine from Kenya suggested I do it because I cracked him up. The first performance was at an Indian club in front of about 150 people and they really liked me! Normally I perform in halls or in houses for birthdays, wedding parties, anniversaries or in restaurants. I don't play in the clubs. I like good listeners, and if people are drinking I don't enjoy performing for them because they're not listening to me! My audiences are from Africa and Asia - mostly Africa. They understand the day to day themes of my songs and the double-meanings. At certain times of the year I organise Swahili nights, and at other times I'll be performing for a mainly Asian audience - so I cater for both. There's always an exchange of jokes between me and the audience. I love it. A lot of artists just perform the same songs from the film industry: I prefer to tell jokes and perform my own parodies'.

A favourite song:

This is a song I wrote myself. The words are Swahili, but the music is Indian. It's a love song - true love always hurts! She's in love and he's promised to love her and to marry her. She is so in love, she can't eat or sleep or even cook - her mind's not on it. The marriage hasn't happened, so she tells him: "You promised we'd marry, and we haven't. You'd better tell me now what you want to do. If you don't want to go ahead, let me know so that I can make my own arrangements and sort my life out."

Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story

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