A Spirit from the West

By: Theresia Whitfield

Perhaps it is the beginning of something spectacular for a few of the children from the Bulembu Christian Academy Choir. Perhaps they’ll become as famous as the man who recorded their voices to join his in song. Whatever comes of it, there is little doubt that John Mann will continue to leave an indelible mark in the world, and that he made a tremendous contribution in the lives of some of Bulembu’s children.

John with friend Dan.
John recently returned to Bulembu, his second trip, with his teenage daughter, Hattie, and some close friends, Dan and Kirsten. Their nearly week-long visit had them staying in the Bulembu Country Lodge, enjoying the pristine and peaceful scenery of the Swazi mountains and engaging in the lives of the littlest citizens at Bulembu Babies. They also spent some time visiting with residents of one of the villages outside Milanda and took part in an overnight safari at Mkhaya Game Reserve where they slept under the stars, enjoyed a game drive and feasted on proper African cuisine.

John performing for the children.
But no matter where he went, John Mann filled Swaziland with music. John is a founding member of the postmodern folk-rock band, Spirit of the West, which was inducted into the Western Canadian Music Associations Hall of Fame in 2008, and enjoys an eclectic and successful solo career as a singer, songwriter, actor and storyteller. John is known for writing beautiful melodies with emotionally honest lyrics. His passion for capturing intimate moments in life carried him to Bulembu and to the song he wrote that is about Bulembu.

Some of the children in the school choir who sang with John for his new song.
But the song would be incomplete without a few of the voices for whom the song was written. The children’s choir, led by Job Madembo, practiced and recorded their part in the Bulembu Christian Academy school library with John leading the way. The song will be appearing on an upcoming John Mann solo album.

Children listening intently to John playing.
The children reported having a great time, knowing they were recording a song for all the world to hear and joining John by becoming part of the rich tradition of being another voice for Bulembu.

Fitting the Pieces Together

Into the Wild


  1. brenda shaneyfelt
    July 11, 2011

    How FANTASTIC is this, Theresia……I have really missed being so connected with Bulembu…even before my being “out of touch” for a few weeks……thanks for this blog again….wow…..precious children and thankful for John Mann………Prayerfully, the Tenors can become just as supportive as previously with their concert fundraisers for Bulembu……..Thanks, T….

  2. mary abelow
    July 13, 2011

    This is really exciting! Music moves you, is therapeutic and unites people. It would be great to see life changing experiences come from this.

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