MUSIC has always been a distinctive part of The Salvation Army’s expression of faith, and now young people attending the movement’s after-school club in Warsaw, Poland, have released a hip-hop video in an exclusive collaboration with a professional musician. The creative arts project, based in the Praga-Północ area, was supported and funded by the capital’s City Hall, as part of an initiative to develop children’s passions and give them a voice.
The Salvation Army’s Praga-Północ after-school club was already well known to the local authorities, having been awarded Warsaw’s ‘Best Charity Programme of the Year’ award in November 2020. The project supports around 20 school students in the area by providing a safe place to go and a range of homework support and fun activities. Prevailing COVID-19 regulations meant that the participants worked on the project in small groups of up to five at a time.
The first phase of the project was for the young people to meet with Mateusz Wilkoń – a specialist in hip-hop, rap, beatbox and street art, who works professionally in Warsaw. During these meetings, the participants developed the lyrics with Mateusz, who was keen to incorporate their own experiences, hopes and dreams.
‘It’s not my first time working with The Salvation Army,’ says Mateusz, ‘but I think they are amazing. Their projects are always about something “more”. The young people involved in this music initiative wanted to sing about social problems, human lives and God.’
The resulting text – in a mix of Polish and English – speaks of the ‘dead people’ seen on the streets of Warsaw. ‘People who just hurry from place to place, concentrating on their phones rather than what they see around them,’ explains Praga-Północ corps officer Captain Oleg Samoilenko, who oversees the programme along with Tetyana Ouerghi, Coordinator of Children’s Activities. ‘When the intention is on getting from one place to another – without looking up, noticing and responding to the social needs either side of them – it can seem like people don’t care. It’s great that these young people do!’ The song lyrics devised by the young people are based loosely on the well-known Salvation Army motto ‘heart to God and hand to man’, and the piece is entitled Nawiedzone Ulice (‘Haunted Streets’).
Once the words were settled, the young people got to work on the performance and accompanying media. This included time in a recording studio, with Mateusz mixing and processing the vocals and instrumentation. Finally, a music video was filmed and produced in December 2020.
The young people were enthusiastic about the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity. One of the participants, Angelika, says: ‘I love that I can take part in this project. We want to share with people how important everybody’s life is, and to value it accordingly.’
Another, Sylwia, adds: ‘Singing is my biggest hobby … and I want to use it to praise God! I also want people to think about how important it is to be kind, and to treat everyone well.’