Song for Africa

Karla Hayward
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Damhnait Doyles trip to the Dark Continent was an enlightening experience

Damhnait Doyle speaks with children in Kenya during her recent visit, not long after children (top) watched a performance through a school window. A documentary was shot during the trip. Submitted photo

Youve long known Damhnait Doyle as a talented songstress, mischievous on-stage temptress and awesome wordsmith. Now, you can add one achievement more to her impressive list: humanitarian.

Doyle recently returned from a documentary-making excursion to Africa as part of her work with the Canadian Music Industry-driven AIDS fundraising group, Song for Africa.

I think the biggest problem for people in North America is, when something tugs at your heart strings and you decide to give, you never really know where that money goes. I think thats part of the problem with charity fatigue and giving fatigue. Basically, this documentary is about going to see where the proceeds from Song for Africa are being spent, says Doyle.

Along with 10 others, Doyle split her time there with two programs. The first was Free the Children, who, according to its website, is the largest network of children helping children through education in the world, with more than one million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries.

Doyle says the impact the group has had is awe-inspiring. If you ask these people what Free the Children brought to their community, they just start crying. Basically, the only solution to the AIDS pandemic is education. And thats something children in the rural areas have not been afforded, especially the young girls. Its the girls job in the family to go collect water. Sometimes thats about 20 miles away. It would take them all day to walk there and back. Some of the girls werent getting any education at all. So what (Free the Children has) done is build rain collectors at the schools they build. The destination for the water is now the schools. Now theres a whole generation of girls who wouldnt have gotten an education who are, based on this one simple idea. Its just unbelievable.

The second part of Doyles trip was with CARE Canada. She travelled to whats recognized as the second-largest slum in Africa.

Basically, there are a million people living in 13 square kilometres, on top of a garbage dump, Doyle says. I was scared about the prospect of going in because I honestly didnt know what to expect and I didnt expect to see much joy or beauty. But these people are so beautiful and hopeful. They really taught me so much as an individual about how you can live with nothing and have so much more than some people in North America have.

While she remains dedicated to her work with Song for Africa, Doyles also busy here at home in Canada. Along with Kim Stockwood and Tara McLean, her band mates from Shaye, shes about to hit the airwaves on the E! network with a reality show all about their lives entitled simply, Shaye.

Its one of those things the three of us have been saying for years. We just thought we were so hilarious. Oh my God, we need a TV show. Its a great case of be careful what you wish for: it was offered to us and all of a sudden we had camera crews following us around 24/7 for, like, a year. Id be in the kitchen making a cup of tea and thinking, I really thought I was more interesting than this. But, seeing the episodes and the rough cuts coming in now and I think its inspirational as opposed to sensational; its more of a documentary in that sense. Im really glad that we have a record of that time in our lives.

Doyle also directed the latest Shaye video, premiering this fall, and has a brand new solo CD of cover songs coming out.

Its not standard, straight-up cover songs. We took all these old tunes and really brought down the keys and brought down tempo and its like one of those records that you put on when youre having friends over for dinner. Its a record that I made to fill a void in my record collection for those types of events. We do things like Bob Marley and Gimmie Gimmie a Man after Midnight, by ABBA, but it sounds nothing like ABBA. We do I Want You to Want Me by Cheap Trick on a little toy piano.

Doyles working title for the record is, Lights Down Low.

Safely back in her Toronto home-away-from-home, Doyle is uplifted and inspired by her travels and ready to infuse the experience into her many other projects. I took nothing but good from this trip. Nothing but lessons about how I want to live my life day to day. I just want to take their joy and their sentiment and bring it over here. We could do with such a dose.

For more about Doyle, go to

Organizations: Canadian Music Industry, CARE Canada, Cheap Trick

Geographic location: Africa, North America, Canada Toronto

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