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World-Renowned Musician Visits St. Pat's (Thanks to Music Education Grant!)

Earlier this month, world-renowned multi-instrumentalist Siama Matuzungidi visited St. Patrick's School in Hudson, thanks to funding from a St. Croix Valley Foundation (SCVF) Music Education Grant.

Matuzungidi began his musical career in the ‘70s, touring the world with several popular soukous bands. Soukous, known as the “sound of happiness,” is a genre of dance music that originated (like Matuzungidi) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in the Republic of the Congo. A multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Matuzungidi plays mbira (thumb piano), lokole (tone drum), balafon (marimba), and beatboxes. Through his masterful rhythmic guitar playing, Matuzungidi became well-known in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before living in Kenya, Dubai, Japan, and eventually settling in Minneapolis.

Matuzungidi has found success all over the globe. As a McKnight Fellow for Performing Musicians and a Minnesota State Arts Board Grantee, he has introduced Minnesotans and Wisconsinites to soukous music. Alongside his wife and fellow bandmate Dallas, he has also earned a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council Grant to create an album and curriculum designed especially for children, called "The Land of Yangalele."

Thanks to an SCVF Music Education Grant, Matuzungidi was able to perform the album live for more than 100 students at St. Patrick’s School, delighting students from preschool to fourth grade (and staff of all ages).

Molly Ashwood, who successfully applied for the grant, knows Matuzungidi through her husband – a former bandmate. This concert, she says, has been in the works since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the concert, Ashwood and her fellow teachers introduced students to the collection of original songs in the style of Congolese Rumba and Traditional Congolese music. At the concert, students sang along, requested their favorite songs, and had lots of questions for Matuzungidi.

The Music Education Grant was established more than 20 years ago by a donation from Nyda Swanson. A retired music teacher, Swanson wished for students throughout the St. Croix Valley region to have enhanced music education experiences, like the concert in April. In 2024, Music Education Grants awarded $33,000 to schools throughout the region to power concerts and music-related field trips, purchase new instruments, and more.

In addition to being a composer and multi-instrumentalist, Matuzungidi also speaks several languages, including Kikongo, Lingala, Swahili, French, and English. Several songs featured words and phrases from Kikongo, Lingala, and Swahili, which Siama and Dallas introduced to students through stories about Siama’s childhood and early adult years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



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