Making Melodies in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp

December 14, 2012

At the border of Kenya and Somalia, in the heart of the world’s largest refugee settlement, Dadaab, one man has become an independent music producer, empowering fellow refugees to make music about their lives.

“The Music Producer” is the story of Omwot Omwot Ogul, full-time music producer, part-time handyman, who lives in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee settlement.

After fleeing his homeland, the Gambela region in Ethiopia, in 2004, Omwot found himself in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. He subsequently moved to the capital, Nairobi, where he discovered his love of music. Five years later, Omwot was forced to uproot once again. This time, he relocated to the Dadaab camp, home to nearly 500,000 refugees.

Now an independent music producer, an unlikely profession in this isolated corner of sub-Saharan Africa, Omwot empowers his fellow refugees to make music about their lives and helps them record that music. On the side, he works as a handyman, repairing and charging phones for people in the camp, using a solar panel he built and installed.

“The Music Producer” was shot by Ramah Hawkins, a Nairobi-based filmmaker who spent several months in the settlement collaborating with our Kenyan and refugee staff and film students there. The short film is part of Dadaab Stories, a web-native, multi-media documentary project charting everyday life in the Dadaab refugee camp, which is located in eastern Kenya, on the border of Somalia. Using videos, poetry and music, Dadaab Stories provides a platform for refugees to tell their own stories to the world in their own voices.

Supported by the Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund and the Ford Foundation, this project aims to increase public understanding of refugee lives, forge a deeper connection between the refugee community and the outside world, offer a platform for creative expression and document the history of the refugee experience.

Personal stories are the central part of the project – a record of the extraordinary experiences of the refugees in Dadaab, and a powerful advocacy platform for ongoing international attention to the region. But the project does not focus exclusively on the darker aspects of life in the camps. Dadaab is a living place and the people in it live their lives and dreams just like anywhere else.

We hope you enjoy this special preview from Dadaab Stories. If it inspires you with a spirit of generosity this holiday season, we thank you for supporting our work, projecting hope and making change for refugees and other displaced communities: