2012-02-02 / Community

Dennen, friends stage benefit concert for African famine relief

The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Brunswick resident John Dennen, a native of South Africa, has organized a concert to benefit famine and drought relief in the Horn of Africa.

Dennen, who will perform, has enlisted a number of other local musicians for the show, which is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Orion Performing Arts Center at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham.

“When the United Nations issued in mid-December its ‘humanitarian appeal’ to raise $1.5 billion worldwide to feed and shelter up to 4 million Somalis — many of whom have fled that war-torn country into the equally droughtaffected countries of Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda — Dennen instinctively knew just what to do,” a release announcing the concert states. “He’d organize a benefit concert, featuring some of Midcoast Maine’s talented songwriters and musicians, to raise money for the relief effort.”

Featured performers include Dennen, Jud Caswell, David Bullard and the Sound- WaVz Jazz Band.

Dennen, who acquired his musical chops 45 years ago playing with black musicians during South Africa’s apartheid era, plans to perform a set featuring “Memory Boxes,” the song he wrote for AIDS orphans in his native country.

“A lot of the music I write tends to be social commentary,” Dennen said in the release. “ Growing up in apartheid South Africa, as a young musician the only music we listened to was white British or American performers. We were taught that black people had no culture. When I left school and went into the real world I wanted to play with the best musicians around. Guess who they were? I quickly learned that all this stuff poured into my head about ‘black people’ was totally absurd.”

Dennen continues to line up other musicians for the Somali relief benefit concert. He figures each act will perform a 20-minute set.

“It will be eclectic and acoustic,” Dennen said in the release. “These musicians are all professionals. It’s how they earn their living. When I asked them if they’d do this as a benefit, they all said, ‘Of course.’ I really think it’s fantastic, because it means every bit of the money we raise will be going to the Somali relief effort.”

More than 10 million people are affected in the droughtstricken countries.

“There’s strength in numbers,” Dennen said, noting that all of the relief money raised by the benefit concert will be spent on food and other essential supplies for the Somali refugees. “Every $1,000 we raise will buy one metric ton of food; $1,000 will buy a lot of food in Africa.”

For information about the “Horn of Africa Famine and Refugee Relief Fund,” go online to www.rotary.org.


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