I recently had an opportunity to speak with a group of eight disabled musicians from Zimbabwe who were touring the U.S. Their group is called Liyana, which means ‘it’s raining.’ Click here to listen to the podcast of the interview, as well as to some of their music.
And at Liyana’s Website, you can watch a trailer for an HBO documentary that’s currently being made about Liyana and the challenges they’ve faced. The lead singer and songwriter Prudence, for example, was abandoned by her mother—whose mother had recommended she simply starve Prudence to death instead. On their U.S. tour, Liyana performed on stages including Los Angeles’ House of Blues and New York’s Apollo Theater. They were celebrated for their courage and incredible talent, for their determination and hard work in chasing their vision.
Seeing Liyana provoked me to wonder: if they can do this, against such odds, what should the rest of us be able to do? (Though of course, we don’t all have such remarkable musical talent!) It reminded me of when my brother competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii: a nonstop 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike-ride up a steaming volcano, finishing with a marathon. Watching these competitors run by, I was stunned when I saw that among the fastest of them were athletes with prosthetic legs. In addition, a father, Dick Hoyt, competed along with his paralyzed son, Rick.
Meeting the members of Liyana at their performance in upstate New York, I found that they each radiated joy, love, and gratitude. Prudence introduced the song she’d written for the HBO film, and added that as disabled people “of course we’re treated that way, but we shall have hope.” The song’s plaintive opening cry, “iThemba,” which means hope, makes you stop in your tracks and remember that hope is there in a person, in a dream, and—when you listen to Liyana—in a song we all want to hear.