Darcy Ataman

Founder and CEO of Make Music Matter, music producer and guest lecturer at the University of Winnipeg.

Darcy Ataman is the founder of Make Music Matter Inc., and continues to serve as Chief Executive Officer. He is a producer of both music and film and a guest lecturer at the University of Winnipeg’s Global College, where he is a founder of the social media section of the Human Rights UniverCity summer intensive. After graduating from the University of Manitoba with a BA in Psychology, Darcy embarked on a creative journey that led him to live and work in New York and Philadelphia. He was mentored by recording engineer Shelly Yakus (U2, John Lennon, Tom Petty) and since worked with countless artists from Levon Helm to DJ Jazzy Jeff receiving several Juno nominations. These successes propelled him to spearhead and produce the original Song for Africa CD single for the opening ceremonies of the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto in 2006. The song went on to be the #2 selling CD single in Canada for August 2006, raising awareness and money for the AIDS pandemic in Africa. As a filmmaker, Darcy has produced three prime time documentaries in Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan respectively. Beyond the production of his documentaries and music projects, Darcy led efforts to build a primary school in the Masai Mara, supported two HIV clinics and created a scholarship program in Kibera–Africa’s largest slum. All of this was accomplished through Make Music Matter which currently works in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under its flagship Healing in Harmony music therapy program. This program is currently the focus of Darcy’s life and work after a dozen successful missions to conflict and post-conflict zones in Africa and beyond. Although a frequent traveler, Darcy continues to make Manitoba his home. Healing in Harmony Music Therapy Program Healing in Harmony was developed and piloted in 2009 by Darcy in Rwanda with a local partner, Uyisenga as brand new and broader form of music therapy and tool for advocacy. The program targeted youth from across the country that had been affected by the genocide. The impact to date has been extremely positive, producing many sustainable outcomes. Given this experience, Darcy then tailored and integrated this specialized and newly created brand of music therapy for survivors of sexual violence and other vulnerable women at the Panzi Hospital in the Eastern DRC along with Sakharov Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege, their care-givers and their children. In a humanitarian response setting, music is a versatile and effective tool that can be implemented under a wide range of circumstances for various reasons. Making and listening to music can address social and emotional needs that other forms of communication cannot. By writing, singing, and recording songs in a non-threatening environment, patients can open areas that have previously been sealed or compartmentalized by trauma. Further, when they come together to produce music, participants are shown that they are not alone. Music opens a channel of expression for those otherwise incapable of sharing their experience and expressing their pain. Not only is music a comfort throughout physical treatment and a starting point for therapeutic conversations, it is also a versatile teaching medium. Music engages everyone. Whether as an active participant or listener, the experience is beneficial and the message of a song has an impact wherever it is heard, reaching people beyond its creators. In areas such as the DRC where literacy rates are low, music is an effective way to inform and raise awareness. The performing of songs created through this program in communities and the playing of the songs on the radio help on many levels to heal the trauma caused by sexual violence, prevents stigmatization, educates the population about HIV, and advocates for the protection of human rights. As with the youth in Rwanda, many of the survivors have been dislocated or distanced from their communities. The music program helps to bind them together, give them a new appreciation of their rights, and ensure that they follow up with their treatment and after-care. The messages therefore will be lasting and will serve to advocate for an end to sexual violence as a weapon of war.